Thursday, August 29, 2019
Chronicle of Higher Education, After Scandals Explode, Universities Often Raise More Money Than Ever Before. Why?:
When a sexual-assault scandal exploded at Michigan State University, in late 2017, the blowback was swift and damning. Alumni were horrified at the scale of abuse and indifference — “We want to know the truth,” one alum told The Detroit News — and a half-billion-dollar settlement loomed, as did threats to the institution’s bond rating.
The Larry Nassar scandal implicated administrators from the president’s office to the athletics department. The university’s moral authority was tarnished.
Even as Michigan State is still grappling with the aftermath of what it hopes is a once-in-a-generation scandal, it shared some good news last week: The fiscal year concluded with the university’s best fund-raising haul in its 164-year history, totaling more than $272 million in gifts and pledges.
The trajectory points to a counterintuitive path charted by institutions in similarly grave circumstances. While headline-grabbing scandals involving rogue administrators and structural failures often generate steep legal fees, criminal charges, and public outrage, high-profile universities have seen donations — and sometimes enrollment — rise in the aftermath.
Baylor University is another example. ... Penn State had a similarly confounding fund-raising result soon after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. ...
The Baylors, Michigan States, and Penn States of the world, with strong brand recognition and long institutional history, can survive high-profile scandals. They’re also multifaceted entities, “complex places where people attach their loyalties or interest to a particular area,” said David Weerts, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The entomology alumni care more about insects than athletics, he said, and donations will reflect that.