University News

Campaign donations among faculty, students demonstrate liberal bent

Total U. contributions to candidates lag behind peer schools’ student bodies, faculty members

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Campaign donations from Brown faculty members, administration and students heavily leaned toward Democratic candidates, with more campaign donations supporting Hillary Clinton  than Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. University professors, administrators, staff members and students donated a total of $21,138 between April and December.

Professors and administrators gave a total of $5,354 to Clinton, while Sanders received $2,073. Professors and administrators donated no money to Republican candidates. The average donation per faculty member or administrator was $796. Clinton received 18 donations, with an average of $297 per donation, while Sanders received 25 donations, with an average of $83 per donation. In comparison to other top universities like Stanford University, Harvard, Yale and Columbia, faculty members and administrators donated much less overall, according to data from the FEC. But Brown affiliates followed similar trends to other elite institutions with faculty members donating overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates, especially Clinton.

Faculty exclusively support Democratic candidates

In 2015, Professor of Classics and Philosophy Mary Louise Gill gave 13 gifts to Sanders ranging from $10 to $100, totaling in $698. Gill said she has supported Sanders since the first day of his campaign because she prefers his approach to that of Clinton’s. She chose to donate multiple times instead of all at once. “Sanders’ campaign is entirely funded by small donations from ordinary people like me who don’t have money to give all at once,” Gill said. “I gave when he did something amazing, like when he had a good debate, when he nearly won Iowa and did win New Hampshire,” she added.

Gill pointed out that older people tend to support Clinton while younger people tend to support Sanders. But Gill emphasized that “all ages have their own views,” after noting that feminist leaders such as Gloria Steinem have chided young women for not supporting Clinton. Feminism means that women can make their own political choices regardless of opinion polls or other people’s views, Gill said.

Dean of the College Maud Mandel donated $1,000 to Clinton. When asked why she chose to donate, Mandel said, “I gave that donation as a private citizen,” citing that as dean of the college, she did not feel it would be approopriate to comment on her donation.

Though President Christina Paxson P’19 did not donate to any presidential candidate in 2015, she does have a history of giving to Democratic organizations and candidates. In 2008, she gave $250 to Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, and in 2014 she gave $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. Most recently in 2015, she donated $1,000 to the campaign of U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-RI.

The average donation amounts made by University affiliates follow national patterns, in which Sanders raises money mostly through small contributions, said Adjunct Lecturer in International and Public Affairs Richard Arenberg.

“People in higher education see more substance on the Democratic side,” Gill said of the overall donations trends. Mandel and Arenberg noted that the relatively small sample size of Brown donors makes it difficult to draw any conclusions.

Similar patterns at top universities

In comparison to peer institutions, Brown faculty donations followed similar trends of leaning toward Democratic candidates, but total donations were much less. Faculty and administration at Brown donated a total of $7,443, whereas Harvard faculty and administrators donated roughly $131,000, Yale donated over $111,000, Columbia faculty members raised $97,350, and Stanford faculty donated $156,000, according to the Yale Daily News.

At Stanford, 77 donors contributed a total of $127,000 to Clinton. Sanders raised only $5,600 from 24 people affiliated with the Palo Alto-based university. Only 12 Stanford faculty members gave to a Republican.

At Yale, 59 faculty members donated $96,000 to Clinton, while 19 faculty members donated $5,700 to Sanders.

Similarly, at Columbia, Clinton donations accounted for $75,000 of the $96,000 raised overall by faculty members and administrators. Sanders received donations from 21 faculty members, while Republicans received donations from only eight.

Harvard demonstrated the most significant pro-Clinton support of these four universities. Harvard faculty members gave only $3,290 to Sanders, significantly less than the $118,000 donated to Clinton, but also much less than the nearly $9,000 donated to Republican candidates Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former candidate Jeb Bush. Only at Harvard and Stanford did donations to Republican candidates outpace donations to Sanders.

Gill attributed Brown faculty’s relative inactivity to the fact that these are wealthier institutions where faculty and staff are paid more. Arenberg noted that these are larger institutions, and it is not strange that there are large Democratic and Republican followings at these schools.

“It’s early in the process,” Arenberg said. “By the time of election day, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were Brown faculty who donated to Republicans.” But Arenberg expects that donations will continue to lean Democratic, he added.

Students donate more to Clinton

Seven students donated a total of $8,490 to Clinton, with an average total donation per student of $1,213. Three students donated to Sanders for a total of $270 and average total donation per student of$90.

Two students donated the maximum an individual can donate in one election period of $2,700 ­— one to Clinton and one to Rubio — the only Republican donation among Brown affiliates.

Austin Rose ’19, a member of the Republican Club who supports Rubio, was surprised by the large donation made to Rubio, who usually attracts smaller donations. “I tend to think of Rubio as someone who is much more populist and kind of middle-of-the-road, moderate Republican,” Rose said.

Nicolas Schank ’16 donated five times to Sanders for a total of $105. Though he initially supported Clinton, once he learned more about Sanders through an “Ask Me Anything” event on Reddit, Schank switched to Sanders. He cited Sanders’ lack of super PACs  as one reason he found it important to donate. Donating regularly, as Schank does every month, is valuable for campaigns because it creates a consistent flow of money so the candidates “know how much money they have at a given time,” he said.

Schank was unsurprised that Sanders, who usually receives smaller donations, did not receive more donations. “Within the Sanders voting community, it’s definitely more important to be volunteering and doing other things than just donating,” Schank said. “Some strong supporters may not be donating, but may be involved in deep ways.”

Donations reflect political atmosphere

None of the students interviewed were surprised by the strong Democratic leanings by student or faculty member donations.

“If you look at Brown University’s history, even among Ivy League schools, Brown is far and above the most liberal in terms of faculty,” Rose said. “There’s the obvious issue of how much does that bleed into the culture here in that there is no representation of conservative viewpoints.”

Some students and faculty members agree that faculty members should strive to keep political beliefs separate from the classroom. “Faculty should represent a wide range of approaches, sources and questions to any topic,” Mandel said.

Gill tries not to talk about political issues in the classroom because she believes it would be inappropriate to do so.

Schank was not concerned that professors and administration leaned heavily Democratic. “I wouldn’t find it problematic if they donated to Republicans,” Schank said.

Faculty members do not have to remove their political beliefs from the classroom, since “people should be able to say whatever they want to say,” Rose said. But faculty should give an even-handed representation, he added. Rose stated that he has experienced instances in which the classroom drifts to the left, and no effort is made by the professor to bring it back to the center, whereas when the class drifts to the right, an effort is made.

“The issue becomes when everyone is saying what they want to say, and it’s all the same. Then we’re just missing diversity on campus,” Rose said. “It’s not that the expression itself is bad.”

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  1. Nice Job. Brown’s dearth of professors with moderate and conservative opinions is one that should concern many. I fear that a cadre of leftist professors from the History, American Studies, and Ethnic Studies departments and their allies have seized control of the university. The 160 million dollar initiative to improve “diversity” will further entrench their hegemony. For those Orwell fans this is gonna be interesting. Let me get my popcorn.

  2. Donald Higdon says:

    I don’t suppose the diversity initiative will include finding a token conservative professor or two. DGH ’58

  3. ShadrachSmith says:

    The best choice

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