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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is the (Boston) College Experience Influenced by Politically-Motivated Organizations?

In the wake of reports claiming that college faculties are over-run with liberal ideologues, a recent feature in the Boston Phoenix argues that private, politically-motivated foundations are "influencing the college experience" by funding various university programs and departments.

Boston College was dragged into the discussion:
If you are a Boston College student and have attended any of the public lectures presented by BC’s Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion, did you know that those words you heard were paid for by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, one of the handful of conservative powerhouses at the heart of what some call the "vast right-wing conspiracy"? In the early 1990s, the Bradley Foundation spent more than a half-million dollars paying the American Spectator Educational Foundation to chase the Bill Clinton/Paula Jones story.
The article noted that colleges "are loath to make public the terms of a donation, or even the fact of it." The Phoenix contacted Boston College (along with most other major Boston-area universities), but the school was unwilling or unable to provide a list of private foundations that currently provide grant money to it, or whether conditions are attached to such grants.

The Phoenix undertook the very scientific task of compiling data from "most foundations’ most-recent available annual reports to the Internal Revenue Service" and reported that of the $911,464 received by Boston College, $560,000 were from "liberal" foundations and $351,464 from "conservative" foundations.

Are diverse opinions really suppressed at BC and other universities due to funding derived from politically-motivated foundations? Where is BC in the spectrum of universities, from the most liberal to the most conservative (if such a spectrum exists), and is that a function of bias in privately funded programs/departments/professorships?
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Comments on "Is the (Boston) College Experience Influenced by Politically-Motivated Organizations?"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/04/2005 08:49:00 PM) : 

Funny but I don’t think there is even such a thing as the "BC Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion."

The full list of BC research centers and institutes reveals no such institute:

http://www.bc.edu/research/researchcenters/



Where Boston College falls on any given conservative-to-liberal spectrum depends on the context.

To those on the Right, including conservative Catholics, BC is overly liberal, as evidenced in your previous posts about the Cardinal Newman Society and subsequent discussions about BC's Jesuit identity. They will point to a number of metrics to support their claim: theologians at odds with the magisterum, pro-abortion speakers, GLBT student groups like Allies, and 100% of faculty political donations going to John Kerry who garnered 80% of the BC student vote, among them.

To those on the Left, including many in academe, BC is a conservative outpost. Supporting this claim: notable conservatives on the BC faculty (particularly in the Philosophy and Political Science departments), the BC administration's track record on GLBT issues, student publications like the Observer, religiously-determined restrictions on student health services, and persistent perceptions of racial and socioeconomic homogeneity, among them.

 

Blogger BC Eagle said ... (10/04/2005 09:17:00 PM) : 

My search for the "Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion" was almost as fruitless; I concluded that it does exist; however, it is not a true research institute, but a group that sponsors the occasional "speaker series."

It is somewhat amusing that GLBT issues at BC are cited by those on both sides of the aisle as evidence of BC's political persuasion.

I think that point brings out something I should have brought up in my original post - that the problem with the Phoenix's coverage (and many related debates) is that it views an educational institution as a monolith. Such a view undermines the ensuing debate. Even as the Phoenix's numbers show, for nearly every "liberal" dollar, a matching "conservative" dollar was donated to BC. For every conservative on BC's faculty, theres Alan Wolfe..

 

Anonymous AHL said ... (10/04/2005 09:42:00 PM) : 

I assume these conservatives have a name? Why is it that the liberal has a well-known name but not the conservatives?

I agree that BC is probably near the middle of the spectrum but appears too far to the left or right depending on where the observer is.

However, it's probably saying something about American higher education in general that among most American universities, BC is conservative, but among the public at large, BC is in the middle. Thus, the group of American universities as a whole is shifted largely to the left, something the Phoenix (a left-leaning publication) fails to take note of.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/04/2005 11:48:00 PM) : 

Kreeft is as much of a well-known name as Wolfe (though there are faculty who are much further to the Right and Left, respectively)

But what does "BC is conservative / liberal" actually mean?

Objectively (or trying to be), I would say it's impossible to make such broad generalizations about a fairly large and complex institution. I think this is what BC Eagle was getting at.

Nonetheless, I do think it's possible to make some comparaisons. For instance, it's safe to say that on the whole BC's students, faculty and Jesuits tend to be more liberal, while BC's higher administration, trustees, and non-Jesuit preists tend to be more conservative.

I think this is one reason issues like GLBT can be used to support either claim.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10/04/2005 11:50:00 PM) : 

Where did you find info on this "Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion?"

Seems odd that BC would have such a thing when it already has a Center for Religion and American Public Life, which would seem to cover the same ground.

 

Anonymous AHL said ... (10/05/2005 08:11:00 AM) : 

BCEagle said: "My search for the "Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion" was almost as fruitless"

If it's not a true Institute, BC shouldn't be using that word to name it. Perhaps a letter to one of the VPs would clear this up?

 

Blogger BC Eagle said ... (10/06/2005 01:19:00 PM) : 

If you run a search query at www.google.com for "Boston College Institute for the Study of Politics and Religion" you will see exactly what I saw. For example, there is a listing for an upcoming installment of the "Bradley Lecture Series" on 10/21/05 ("The Triumph and Decline of the European Nation-State"), as well as previously sponsored lectures (coverage at the BC Chronicle - http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/
chronicle/v12/f5/aroundcampus.html)

 

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