Heterodox Academy was founded at a time during which issues of free speech and censorship were playing out on college campuses nationwide. While we appreciated the issues being brought to the table, many of us also marveled at the hostile and exclusionary methods used to bring them into focus. As it turns out, so did many alumni who have since decreased their support to many universities where these protests and requests for censorship were taking place.
In a recent New York Times article “College Students Protest, Alumni’s Fondness Fades and Checks Shrink,” Anemona Hartocollis writes about the backlash from alumni as “an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions of the last academic year.” More than just a reaction, this is a repudiation of the tactics used by students and of the capitulation by administrators.
From the piece:
Alumni from a range of generations say they are baffled by today’s college culture. Among their laments: Students are too wrapped up in racial and identity politics. They are allowed to take too many frivolous courses. They have repudiated the heroes and traditions of the past by judging them by today’s standards rather than in the context of their times. Fraternities are being unfairly maligned, and men are being demonized by sexual assault investigations. And university administrations have been too meek in addressing protesters whose messages have seemed to fly in the face of free speech.
While the article focuses specifically on Amherst College, it also mentions Princeton, Yale, and Claremont McKenna— all schools that had protests that made the national news. How far has fundraising fallen? Hartocollis reports:
Among about 35 small, selective liberal arts colleges belonging to the fund-raising organization Staff, or Sharing the Annual Fund Fundamentals, that recently reported their initial annual fund results for the 2016 fiscal year, 29 percent were behind 2015 in dollars, and 64 percent were behind in donors, according to a steering committee member, Scott Kleinheksel of Claremont McKenna College in California.
Important to note are the limited avenues alumni have to truly make their voices heard. Letters to the editor of the alumni magazine and campus paper are but small opportunities in context of how much a monetary gift actually means to the school.
Whether this is a temporary drop as a response to trending topics and issues or indicative of a larger, more permanent state of fundraising is yet to be seen. But as we get further away from the initial burst of protests last fall, other stakeholders are beginning to make their voices felt. Alumni in particular—whether they are now on the right or the left—generally endorse free speech and free inquiry quite strongly. They may play an increasingly strong role as we enter the second year of student protests.