96% of JCU employees’ major political donations were made to Democratic causes

The+donations+made+to+Republican+campaigns+or+organizations+by+those+who+listed+their+employment+as+John+Carroll+University+totaled+only+80%2C+while+donations+to+Democratic+organizations+or+campaigns+totaled+approximately+1%2C593.+

Josh Appel on Unsplash

The donations made to Republican campaigns or organizations by those who listed their employment as John Carroll University totaled only 80, while donations to Democratic organizations or campaigns totaled approximately 1,593.

By Sophia Maltese, John Carroll University

506 out of 527 donations from those who listed their employer as John Carroll University were made to Democratic causes in this calendar year. The donations to Democratic organizations or campaigns totaled approximately $11,593 while the donations made to Republican campaigns or organizations totaled only $280.

Data on campaign donations is publicly available on the Federal Elections Commission website. It is important to note that the FEC site makes “best efforts” to report the employment and other personal information “for donors whose contributions exceed $200 in a calendar year.” Therefore, the list of those who donated and are also employed by John Carroll is likely not complete. 

Still, using the FEC site, students can search their professors, neighbors and classmates to see if they donated and to whom.

Often, political science professors pride themselves on being objective and fair in moderating classroom discussions. Yet their hesitation to reveal their political ideology is undermined when students have access to a massive database detailing their substantial political donations.

Chris Wardlow ‘20, a political science major who worked on Republican Matt Dolan’s 2020 campaign for the Ohio State Senate, said, “I mean from the perspective of the Political Science Department, among certain professors there was definitely bias in the way they taught certain subjects or how they responded to different student participation, but I don’t necessarily think it negatively affected my education. I don’t think the biases ever turned into misinformation or anything like that.” 

Wardlow continued, “Most of the professors, if they were going to make a biased political statement, at the very least would warn the class that it was their own opinion and not to take it as information that was part of the course. In my experience, I think my classes were pretty fairly taught.”

Nevertheless, the FEC’s website forces students to consider statements made in the classroom differently, and it also demonstrates a trend in higher education: heavily Democrat teaching staff.

Colin Swearingen, professor in the Political Science Department, said, “It’s not a surprise that employees of a college or university donate more to Democratic candidates than to Republican candidates.  This is pretty consistent with other research on the industry.  Without seeing a breakdown of staff versus faculty donations, it’s hard to make inferences regarding academic diversity.  In the Political Science Department (the only department on which I’m qualified to comment), I am unaware of any student being penalized academically for their political beliefs or comments made during a class or assignment.” 

While research says that more professors lean left than the average sample of citizens, there is barely any evidence that it hinders academic diversity.

According to Inside Higher Ed, “Yes, professors lean left (although with some caveats). But much of the research says conservative students and faculty members are not only surviving but thriving in academe — free of indoctrination if not the periodic frustrations.” The respected research in this conversation does not support the idea that hiring discrimination is to blame for the imbalance of faculty ideology. In fact, most of this research is performed by conservative scholars.

A book mentioned by Inside Higher Ed entitled “Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives,” reports that “conservative female students, for example, said they felt judged by peers who were shocked at their desire for a family and not just a career. And some students said they felt marginalized. But the students said that attending the colleges they did was a positive experience and helped shape their — conservative —political identities. The students said they wouldn’t want to change institutions.”

Both Swearingen and Wardlow underscored the need for undergraduates to be exposed to diverse viewpoints. Swearingen continued, “Based on the nature of our classes, our department has difficult conversations regarding a variety of issues that face our nation and world, both politically and socially.  I strongly believe that students should engage in these discussions and understand that those with different backgrounds and experiences contribute mightily to the education of all involved.

Though the partisan imbalance of higher education may not profoundly impact the experience of conservative students and faculty, the disproportion remains obvious. One study found that “colleges and universities had a six to one ratio of liberal to conservative professors.”

Where does this discrepancy come from? As stated previously, research does not support that the partisan imbalance is due to hiring discrimination. Then why is the partisan composition of higher learning institutions so heavily weighted to one side?

In his essay “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” Friedrich Hayek states that most intellectuals are drawn towards utopian visions. Hayek also said, “The intellectual, by his whole disposition, is uninterested in technical details or practical difficulties. What appeal to him are broad visions, the spacious comprehension of the social order as a whole which a planned system promises.”

While Hayek’s assertion may seem bold, almost no other theories have emerged to explain the ideological imbalance of higher education. Current research shows that professors lean to the left, but it also shows that students are aware and often accepting of that reality.

This story was originally published on The Carroll News on November 11, 2020.