Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Smart University Giving

February 15, 2013 12:53 am 0 comments

Logo for the Diller Programs in Jewish Studies at the University of California-Berkeley.

With a flurry of good will and generosity, the Helen Diller Family Fund gave $5 million for Jewish studies in 1999 to the University of California at Berkeley to bring an Israeli professor to the university each year. The intent was partially to balance the anti-Israel invective that permeates that university. As Diller herself put it, “With the protesting and this and that, we need to get a real strong Jewish studies program in there. Hopefully, it will be enlightening to have a visiting professor.” The appointing committee promised that visiting scholars’ political beliefs would not be considered, while Diller indicated her confidence in the committee.

But the Helen Diller Family Programs in Jewish Studies from the start went awry. The university used the funds to hire Oren Yiftachel, a viciously anti-Zionist professor who holds that “Israel has created a colonial setting, held through violent control and a softening illusion of a nation-state and democratic citizenship.” This left the donor displeased and frustrated; in the words of Moment magazine’s Liel Liebowitz, “having given the endowment, there was nothing she could do but wince.”

As Martin Kramer noted in a review of the Diller case, “academic administrators can be pretty sharp dealers on their own turf.” Having served as an academic administrator, Kramer reveals the drill: “You take the money, you cut the donor’s strings by invoking academic freedom, and you turn the resources to what you think is worthy.” He draws an important conclusion from this sorry tale: “Outside money is wasted in an attempt to cut across the political grain of a department, program, or center. It works best at reinforcing a priority that the professors have already set for themselves.”

Indeed, Diller’s experience is part of a larger pattern; donors to universities wish to support a specific academic study or program, only to find its wishes hijacked and the funds used for something quite different, or even exactly contrary to their wishes. Lee Bass gave $20 million to Yale University in 1991; when he expressed dismay at their use, his funds handed back to him along with a lecture on how the university “never” accepts a gift with conditions. The Robertson family wanted to take control of the giant $558 million Robertson Foundation at Princeton University out of frustration that the university had applied the money to purposes other than set out by the foundation.

When universities defy donor wishes by insisting that academic freedom requires donors not to have more than advisory control over the use of their funds, donors wishing to fund higher education that “cut across the political grain” have reason to expect their wishes will be ignored.

The Solution

To escape this predicament, National Review started its short-lived “National Review Collegiate Giving Clubs” in 2010 with the intent to support teaching that is pro-American, pro-free markets, and pro-Judeo-Christian tradition. In a similar spirit, Anne D. Neal and Michael B. Poliakoff of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni published in 2011 the second edition of their helpful Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving focused on making the right choices when giving money to universities, offering such sound advice as “be selective,” “define your goals,” “look under the hood,” “select the best,” and “find a faculty friend.”

These initiatives however, accept the existing donor-university relationship and the inevitability that donors will have little say over the disposition of their funds. I should like to challenge this assumption and propose an alternative: rather than endow institutions, as is presently the case, donors should offer to pay the operating expenses for individual scholars.

In this scenario, the donor chooses a scholar whose work and outlook reflects his own interests and views, then offers to pay for the scholar’s salary and associated expenses (such as research assistants). The pairing made, donor and scholar form a team. The donor then offers the scholar’s expenses-paid services to a university. As long as the scholar teaches at that university, the donor (or his estate) covers the scholar’s expenses. When the scholar leaves, retires, is incapacitated or dies, the funds paying for him evaporate.

This approach guarantees that the donor’s funds remain permanently under his control or that of his estate, eliminating the problem of donors funding what they do not wish to support. In particular, this method permits conservative or pro-Israel donors to fund professors of their choosing. It fundamentally changes the power balance. Over time, this could make a significant difference in university life.

Needed Changes

Offered funds on these terms, university administrators will likely bridle and resist, recognizing the implied shift in power. Presumably, they will not accept a donor’s money if limited to funding a single scholar, but will insist on sticking to the traditional pattern of capital gifts turned over to the university. This resistance precludes individual donors from effecting change on their own; they need, rather, to organize under the auspices of a sophisticated, well-funded institution.

That institution will have to oversee the complex process of (1) inspiring, bringing together, and guiding donors, especially generous and prominent ones, in a common purpose, (2) serving as a clearing house to match donors and scholars, (3) finding a suitable university for each team, (4) counseling teams as they negotiate with universities, and (5) monitoring the scholars and notifying donors when they leave a university’s employ.

This approach also requires donors to change their ways. First, it means abandoning the traditional focus on one’s alma mater in favor of being prepared to donate to any worthy institution. That means shifting from a sentimental outlook to a strategic one, carrying less about the football team and more about resisting the Left’s sustained efforts at indoctrination. Second, it means forgoing the prospect of memorializing their families or themselves in perpetuity. Third, it requires advance planning so that, should a donor be seeking a tax write off, the scholar and the institution are available for quick action within the calendar year. These changes imply a sea change in outlook and consciousness among alumni awake to the Left’s hegemony at American universities.

The donor-scholar team has to be prepared to be rebuffed, especially in the early years, and be ready to try one university after another until it finds one willing to accept the new terms. Hundreds of major institutions of higher learning exist in the United States; presumably, this novel approach will begin with the financially weaker institutions which can less afford to turn down the funds and the scholar.

There is no denying the challenges to implementing this idea of donor-scholar teams. But donors have strengths that they are not at present exploiting: money talks, universities feel a financial pinch, and potential donors feel increasingly frustrated by universities’ left-wing tilt.

Although donors taking control of the money they donate to professorships helps solve only one small part of this vast picture, that of elite faculty, this mechanism provides important, fresh ideas to challenge stale orthodoxies. As such, it will weaken the Left’s death-grip on university life.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org), founder of Campus Watch, has taught at Harvard, Pepperdine, the U.S. Naval War College, and the University of Chicago. This article was originally published by Philanthropy Today.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    JNS.org – In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he said during an interview in his office in the Talbiya neighborhood. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →