Academics Show Their Love for Obama With Donations
Around the State
But what a lion's share.
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, says the political skew within the academic community should be of little surprise. "Voting patterns among people in higher education are so colossally one-sided it's almost ridiculous," he says.
How one-sided are we talking? According to Federal Election Commission data, college faculty, administrators, and others in higher education have donated more than $5.3 million to Obama and Mitt Romney so far in the 2012 presidential race.
About 81 percent of those donations have gone to Obama. The Center for Responsible Politics reports that the president has received approximately $4.3 million from higher-education employees since the beginning of 2011.
These numbers are not the result of a handful of outliers skewing the results.
Look at the top 10-ranked universities according to US News and World Report. Here, according to federal statistics, are the percentages of donations at each school that were given to the Democrats and President Obama: Princeton, 81 percent; Harvard, 87 percent; Yale, 94 percent; Stanford, 84 percent; Penn, 86 percent; Cal Tech, 94 percent; MIT, 93 percent; Duke, 81 percent; Columbia, 78 percent; Chicago, 96 percent.
Nor are these patterns unique to elite institutions. Employees at the University of Oklahoma, ranked a humble 108th and located in a solidly Republican state, gave 93 percent of their political donations to President Obama.
There is one notable exception: Full Sail University. Full Sail is a for-profit institution run by one of Romney's major donors. Its employees donated $204,500 to political campaigns. Some 93 percent of that money went toward Republican candidates.
Obviously, academics are free to donate to whomever they wish.
But there are two troubling aspects to this off-the-charts, one-party love fest in Higher Ed World.
First, if universities are going to lack balance in the perspectives represented on campus, they should be open and honest to prospective students and tuition-supportive parents about that imbalance. Like Christian colleges, they should declare their focus and priorities up front rather than pretending that they are inclusive of all views.
Second, where is the diversity across institutions? If the process by which we train, hire, and tenure academics is intellectually open and healthy, shouldn't we expect at least some universities to offer a relatively even divide of political views and maybe even some to be lopsided toward the Republicans? We don't see this at all.
Is higher education held hostage by an ideological cartel? We strive for diversity and balance throughout our society; then, why shouldn't higher education as a whole have greater ideological diversity if it's going to contribute to the intellectual progress of the country? I'm not the first to ask this question, I know.
Leaving Obama and Romney out of this for a minute: Higher-education employees gave $12.2 million to candidates for federal office and super-PACs over all. Seventy-two percent of that money went to Democrats, and 28 percent to Republicans.
A key difference between campaign contributions in 2008 and 2012 comes thanks to the rise of super-PACs, organizations that can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions, and individuals. In 2010, a Washington, D.C., circuit court ruled that as long as political action committees do not directly donate to a candidate's campaign or party, donors are allowed to contribute unlimited sums to the organizations.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.