Ivory Tower Welfare

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The word “education” seems to have such a magical quality to it that even the most avowedly conservative politicians are reluctant to question those who deliver it to the public. Put the word “higher” in front of the word “education” and watch these lawmakers turn absolutely reverential in their approach to college and university presidents and administrators.

For example, currently the most demonized conservative Republicans in the United States Congress are vowing to defund the Left and deprive radical groups of federal subsidies. But many of these same officials voted for a key vehicle for bestowing government largesse on the academic left—the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.

Ironically, some of the congressional Republicans’ greatest adversaries may be the biggest beneficiaries of this and other college slush funds. For instance, “Gold Star Mother for Peace” Cindy Sheehan is hitting the campus lecture circuit at $5,000 per night.

At that, her talk is a bargain. “We paid George Mitchell $40,000 for a speech,” notes Mike Adams, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. One could argue that former U. S. Senate Majority Leader Mitchell was overpaid when he was paid that amount annually in his early days as an elected official.

Indeed, the Tar Heel state provides an instructive case study of college corporate welfare in action. “Student Congress started early this year with its elaborate giveaways to undeserving liberal groups,” notes Kris Wampler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Congress allocated over $12,000 in student fees to the Campus Y, a student organization whose ‘social justice’ emphasis is not meant to include the views of campus conservatives and libertarians.”

“The money—down from the original $20,000 requested by the group—was spent on a concert featuring Edwin McCain that is designed to raise awareness about poverty.” You’ve got to hand it to Campus Y: The group is certainly doing everything it can to stave off its own indigence.

For his part, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser outlined an ambitious agenda in his “state of the university” address. As recounted by UNC-Chapel Hill senior Andrew Hogan in the Carolina Review, Moeser’s list of things to do includes:

• A junket to Asia.

• A subsidy of tens of thousands of dollars to a conglomerate.

• A task force on tuition increases.

“Furthermore the synopses of his travels to Singapore and Bangkok to meet with other university presidents and chancellors raise some questions,” Hogan, a political science major, points out. “Why did the Chancellor travel internationally while he could have been holding meetings and discussions throughout North Carolina to inform the state’s citizens of the great opportunities awaiting future Carolina students?”

“The chancellor did note that he had traveled to many communities within the state and that ‘our university is deeply engaged in the issues that matter most to North Carolinians…’” Well, at least he can cross the Orient Express off of his ‘to do’ list. Still to come, a sweetheart deal for the Dole Food Company.

“Recently in North Carolina, corporate welfare is a practice that has received much support within circles that traditionally have not favored the interests of businesses and corporations,” Hogan writes. “A Democratic governor and progressive leaning university leaders strongly supporting giveaways to private corporations at the expense of taxpayers shows a lack of principle and backbone.”

“Dole Food Co. could locate its research campus to North Carolina without the government giving away the citizen’s tax dollars,” Hogan argues.

The young man makes a point that is hard to dispute. Hogan does show that Moeser tacitly acknowledges that these appendages of an academic empire do come at a cost.

“Later in Moeser’s speech, he addressed the enormous problem of tuition increases,” Hogan reports. “But he only dedicated one short paragraph to the problem in the entire 68-paragraph address.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.