Alumni, use checkbooks wisely

Marvin Olasky
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Posted: May 18, 2006 12:05 AM

Winning football teams tend to generate alumni contributions to universities. So do college commencements. Graduation time is beloved by development officers even more than tailgate party time, because one of those immutable laws of math indicates that only half the teams will have winning records over an 11-game season -- but a warm commencement can create a glow every time.

So here's one word of advice to conservatives or Christians tempted to pull out their checkbooks at commencements and make a contribution to a university's general fund: Don't.

If you do, you'll probably be supporting ideas and programs opposed to your own values. Many professors care little about what contributors or taxpayers think, because they are largely removed from market considerations. Many care little about what God thinks, because they see themselves as great brains who are or should be laws unto themselves.

As long as the money flows, many form a self-perpetuating cabal, hiring younger professors in their own image rather than those who can introduce students to greater intellectual diversity. Contributing to a general fund merely enables current academic regimes to stay in power and give top honors to those who dishonor America.

Yale University has been a prime example of this tendency, as alumnus John Fund has shown in his articles about Yale's affirmative action for a Taliban leader. But extremist action tends to produce counter-action. At Princeton, the 1999 hiring of pro-infanticide Peter Singer to a prestigious professorship led to an uproar that pushed the administration to approve formation of the small but significant James Madison program, which exposes students to moderate and conservative points of view. Wise alumni send contributions there.

At the University of Texas, where I teach, a Concentration in Western Civilization and American Institutions starting next year will also give students more exposure to teachers from outside a narrow leftist perspective. Professors involved with the Concentration (I'm one) plan to include courses such as Principles of the American Founding, World Religions, the Natural Law Tradition, and Leadership and Ethics in American Life.

I hope Texans especially will contribute to the new Concentration, but what leads me to write this column at this time is a plea from some entrepreneurial Yale students and alumni. In past years, I've written columns recommending that Christians give students an alternative to secular liberalism by setting up study centers adjacent to major universities, and now folks involved with the Rivendell Institute at Yale are doing just that.

Rivendell (Tolkien meets Yale!) over the past 20 years has performed minor miracles while commandeering New Haven coffee shop tables and begging for office space. Despite those limitations, it has still managed to engage over 3,400 students and faculty in Gospel discussions. Had it been around from 1968 to 1971, maybe it would have influenced me and kept from me wasting the early '70s in Marxist pursuits.

Now, Rivendell is raising funds to purchase, renovate and furnish a house one block from the Yale campus with space for seminar rooms, conference facilities, and a library and offices. Yale produces leaders, including four of the past six presidents, and if students there develop a commitment to Christ and a vision for bringing the light of the Gospel to the world, not only that university but this entire nation will be blessed.

Similar efforts are underway at other universities, so if you are a conservative or a Christian, I hope you'll research alternatives to sending a check to support an alma mater that in many cases has become a child-abandoning mother run off for an affair with an intellectual gigolo. But there's nothing inevitable in this: Cut the funding, cut the ideological abuse.

And, if you are charmed by the mellifluous words of a college development officer pleading for you to fund purported academic advance, remember Whittaker Chambers' words: "Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness."