While politically-inclined Georgetown students gear up to persuade undecided voters in this fall’s elections, they could find their efforts less than effective in changing the minds of a faculty that has already largely rendered its verdict on the upcoming contest.
An overwhelming majority of Georgetown faculty and staff who have donated to contenders in this fall’s national elections have contributed to Democratic-affiliated candidates and groups. Faculty have donated $112,550 to Democratic candidates and liberal political action committees since the 2002 election, according to data compiled by The Hoya from the Federal Election Commission. Federal donors are required to report identifying information, including their employer and occupation on all contributions over $200.
The figure rises to over $150,000 after counting administrators and non-teaching staff, compared to a total of $11,325 contributed to Republican candidates and groups.
In the presidential race, university employees have contributed $77,615 to Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry and $3,000 to President George W. Bush.
Georgetown faculty and staff gave an additional $7,500 to Democratic-leaning joint fundraising committees, organizations set up to distribute campaign money to other PACs and political groups.
Giving patterns at Georgetown remain consistent with other universities, reflecting the left-leaning tendencies within higher education.
University professors have long been a traditional base of intellectual and financial support for Democrats, and similar donation patterns have emerged in surveys of faculty at other prominent East Coast universities including Yale, Harvard and Princeton.
A 2002 survey of Ivy League universities found that while 84 percent of professors voted for Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential elections, 9 percent voted for then-Governor Bush. A scant minority – 3 percent – of respondents in that poll identified themselves as Republicans.
Georgetown government professor Stephen Wayne blamed the policies of the Bush administration for the Democratic leanings of faculty on the Hilltop.
“Georgetown used to have a reputation of having a fairly conservative faculty,” Wayne said. “My guess is that the perceived anti-intellectualism of the Bush administration, the invasion and
occupation of Iraq and the administration’s insensitivity to the plight of the poor and middle class also have something to do with the numbers.”
Georgetown professor and campaign finance specialist Clyde Wilcox defended faculty members’ ability to express their political beliefs in their lectures and discussions. He proposed that an opinionated faculty can be a boon, not a hindrance, to students taking government courses.
“There are two equally plausible positions on all issues, so teaching both sides as equally plausible is not really what you would want,” Wilcox said. “Some people say that the world is flat, but few geographers teach that. And we really wouldn’t say that it is a bias in the education system that they do not.”
Campus Republican leaders said they were disappointed by the findings and called for administrators to take action to diminish the political imbalance.
“The administration ought properly, and immediately, to rectify this gross disproportion of political opinion with measures of reform which embrace a true diversity,” Jady Hsin (COL ’07), president of the Georgetown University College Republicans, said.
Hsin called on the university to reverse an “ill-conceived and profoundly shallow commitment to diversity” that he said has created an environment in which faculty can, “knowingly or otherwise, masquerade liberal opinion as incontrovertible fact.”
But President of the College Democrats Scott Zumwalt (COL ’06) said that he believed Georgetown faculty, though largely Democratic, are skilled at creating an impartial classroom setting and are reluctant to become involved in overtly political issues.
“Even when I have asked the most liberal professors if they want to help out with the College Democrats, almost all of them are hesitant because they do not want to be perceived as biased,” Zumwalt said. “Frankly, I have never had a class where a professor only teaches one side of an issue. Even [former Gore campaign manager] Donna Brazile is receptive towards Republican issues and viewpoints.”
Scott Fleming (SFS ’72), assistant to the president for federal relations, strongly denied the existence of a liberal bias in university hiring procedures.
“Hiring decisions, as well as rank and tenure decisions, here at Georgetown are most certainly not made on a political basis,” Fleming said. “Faculty are hired for their academic expertise, and that is how it should be.”
Fleming also sought to reassure students that the record of a majority of Democratic donations does not imply that a similar political perspective will be reflected in professors’ classroom attitudes and curricula.
“In instances where the substance of coursework relates to political issues, I am most confident that our faculty ensures that their personal views do not impact their ability to present balanced perspectives and to respect diverse views in the classroom,” Fleming said. “What individual faculty may decide to do politically – on their own time and with their own financial resources – is their own decision and not a university consideration.”
Georgetown faculty contributed to a wide range of Democratic candidates and PACs, often donating thousands of dollars to congressional contestants from Puerto Rico to South Dakota. Other professors have helped to fund groups such as the Progressive ajority PAC, which has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic-oriented candidates and organizations in the current election cycle.
Perhaps the Democratic Party’s strongest financial backing was found in main campus and law school faculty, university administrators and Georgetown-affiliated lawyers and fundraisers. What little strength Republicans could muster from campus employees came largely from Medical Center and Hospital physicians and professors.