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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, May 14, 2018

WSJ: The Trashing Of George Mason University

MasonFollowing up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal editorial, The Trashing of George Mason University: The Left Gangs Up on the School for Having Conservative Professors:

Progressives dominate all but a few corners of American academia, but apparently they want it all. Witness the political and media assault on George Mason University, an island of intellectual diversity in Northern Virginia that has committed the sin of accepting money from conservative donors.

A public university with some 36,000 students, George Mason has made a mark in economic debates through its Mercatus Center. This has caught the attention of an outfit called UnKoch My Campus, which claims that donors like Charles and David Koch inappropriately influence university decisions. The demand is for “transparency” but the real goal is to silence conservative views.

George Mason recently released hundreds of pages of public records in response to requests by Transparent GMU, the local UnKoch affiliate. They include contracts and correspondence related to a $30 million donation in 2016, the largest in school history. Ten million dollars came from the Koch Foundation, and $20 million from an anonymous donor represented by attorney Leonard Leo. Mr. Leo is also a vice president of the Federalist Society, the non-secret network of conservative lawyers.

Cue the outrage.

Researchers from Stanford, Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School found last year that only 15% of American law school professors are conservative. We’re surprised it’s that many. The good people at George Mason should go on taking money from the Kochs and anyone else it wants, and tell the UnKochs to harass somebody who deserves it, like that progressive icon, Eric Schneiderman.

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I spent much of my professional life in what are thought of as "social justice" issues both domestically and internationally. Over the past decade or so I have also seen a tragic rise in anti-intellectualism and repression of honest discussion and critique within universities as increasingly ideological and even fanatical professors corrupt the institution that is the very mechanism that gave them choice and opportunity. It often strikes me as an "inmates taking over the asylum" situation. Just because one has a valid point on an important concern does not mean it should be taken to absurd ends, and there seems to be far too much of that in university teaching and research, not to mention activism. There is so much lockstep political and ideological thinking and teaching in universities that I commend George Mason for striving to be different. It also offends me that those who commend themselves for being tolerant have become some of the most intolerant voices to be found.

Posted by: David Barnhizer | May 14, 2018 10:16:35 AM

Typical snide WSJ editorial, throwing in a completely gratuitous comment about Eric Schneiderman. What does that have to do with whether or not the Koch brothers inappropriately trying to influence University decisions at a public university? Absolutely nothing.

Posted by: Oliver Buckley | May 14, 2018 11:41:18 AM

George Mason is looking better and better. Lawyers from there should be on the judge track for Republicans.

Posted by: Barbara Bradley | May 15, 2018 2:21:04 PM

The irony is that the Mercatus Center is shot through with people who present only a simulacrum of a challenge to the official idea in academe. Libertarians of previous generations (Richard Epstein, Milton Friedman, and Gottfried Dietze) were genuine dissidents. Bryan Caplan is a parody of a libertarian. Messrs. Cowen and Tabarrok are bound and determined never to challenge anything in which the rest of the faculty might have an emotional investment. Scott Sumner is far more hostile to wage-earning Trump voters than he could ever imagine being to the cretins who have ruined higher education.

Posted by: Art Deco | May 16, 2018 4:03:55 AM