Right Turn in Academe?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

A writer from The New Yorker actually noticed a political bias in academe: She claims it tilts right.

Photo by karen horton

Photo by karen horton

Actually, Jane Mayer’s article, “How a Handful of Wealthy Reactionaries Tugged Academe to the Right,” which appeared in The Chronicle Review, contains a lot of interesting information. The Chronicle Review is published by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

She lays out, in great detail, the amount of money that some conservative foundations have spent on grants to universities and conservative groups. What she doesn’t show much of is what happened after the largesse was given.

Her strongest arguments are twofold: The conservative outposts conservative scholars have staked out in universities and the growth of the Federalist Society. Yet and still, for all of their achievements, institutions such as The James Madison Institute at Princeton and the Alexander Hamilton Institute at Hamilton College provide havens for serious scholars in the midst of politically correct academic jungles but the latter still rule.

Moreover, despite its extensive network and training, Federalist Society members and graduates are still a minority among law school grads, not to mention in the legal profession itself. As to the influence of donations to the Ivory Tower, Mayer does not show what happens to the funds after the checks are banked.

As veteran researcher and writer Martin Morse Wooster has often documented, they are frequently subverted from the original intent of the donor. Academia never did have much use for original intent.

One of the most famous examples occurred in the 1990s, and goes unmentioned by Mayer. When Yale alumni Lee Bass made a donation to Yale to finance the study and teaching of Western Civilization in 1991, the university failed to do so. Bass withdrew the grant in 1995.

Photo by karen horton