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VA: University faculty, staff overwhelmingly donate to Obama

ALEXANDRIA — If dollars were votes, employees at Virginia’s publicly funded colleges and universities would have re-elected President Barack Obama by a landslide.

While they have donated more than $100,000 to Obama’s campaign, they’ve given just a little more than $11,000 to presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Virginia Watchdog study revealed.

Virginia Watchdog analyzed 2012 presidential campaign contributions at OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan database of national, state and local campaign finances.

Professors tend to attribute their left-wing politics to their intelligence, said Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, who co-authored a series of essays titled “The Politically Correct University” for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Several George Mason scholars have led some of the most comprehensive national work on professors’ politics.

That doesn’t mean left-of-center professors are naïve enough to think all people on the left are smart — only that all people on the right are dumb, he added. Klein, who identifies himself as a classic liberal or libertarian thinker, said he hasn’t voted Republican a day in his life.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the state’s largest employer, employees gave $62,000 to Obama and $2,000 to Romney. George Mason University was the biggest Romney donor at $7,200, compared with $16,775 for the sitting president.

Faculty and staff at 12 of the commonwealth’s 15 public four-year institutions made donations to Obama, while more than half of those universities had no record of contributions to Romney. Public universities Longwood University in Farmville, Christopher Newport University in Newport News and UVA’s College at Wise showed no record of donations for either.

Virginia’s numbers follow a nationwide pattern in numbers analyzed in July by Colorado Watchdog, one of Virginia Watchdog’s sister operations. Among 27 of the nation’s top publicly funded universities, only employees at the University of Kentucky gave more to Romney than to Obama.

Klein suggested the left lopsidedness is partly the politics of the majority at play. Once a group, say the history department at UVA, has a majority, faculty members are likely to continue to discriminate — intentionally and unintentionally — and hire like-minded people, he said. At the same time, non-left prospective professors are less likely to apply where they don’t think they’re welcome.

“If you’re wearing certain colors, and people of those colors when they go up over the hill are going to be shot at, then you don’t go up out of the trench into the fire, into the hail of bullets, right?” asked Klein. “So you really can’t separate the self-sorting from the gunfire, as it were.”

Robert Lichter, communications professor at George Mason, co-authored a controversial 2005 study of 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 four-year schools, concluding that conservatives — particularly social conservatives — were constrained to less-prestigious universities. Lichter said he believes the selection is more of a natural process of “likes selecting likes,” not a conscious discrimination.

“There really is a culture clash that makes it more difficult for conservatives to move ahead in a world that is somewhat alien to them,” Lichter said.
Solon Simmons, an assistant professor at George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Harvard University sociology professor Neil Gross surveyed more than 1,400 full-time professors at 927 American institutions in 2004. Less than 20 percent identified themselves as some variation of conservative, compared with nearly 32 percent of the American public at the time. More than 62 percent of professors identified themselves as some shade of liberal, compared with more than 23 percent of the American public.

The left bent was most blatant among the social sciences, with about 80 percent of history and psychology professors at the bachelor level claiming to be Democrats. In a select few fields, like accounting and business administration, more professors identified themselves as Republican than Democrat.
On the whole, Simmons suggested that some fields attract a certain kind of character, and those people come to “represent the occupation.” That’s been the case for the occupation of professor, he said.

“This process moves along in a virtuous or vicious spiral, depending on your point of view, and the occupation takes on a politically coded image,” Simmons wrote in an email.

Klein said the ratio of Democratic professors to Republicans in the social sciences and humanities was around 4-to-1 50 years ago. Now, it’s more like 8-to-1.

Why was there a 4-1 ratio in the first place? Klein said that’s a tough question to answer, but it has something to do with academics’ view of the universe as something to be conquered.

If people can know all there is to be known, then people in government should know how to make proper choices. But those who adhere to classic liberalism — not modern liberalism — think people can only rarely know enough to intervene beneficially. Academics usually resent that idea, he said.

“If you’re an intellectual, you think you’re just a smarty pants and supposed to know stuff and answer problems, but in (classical) liberalism, you’re sort of supposed to butt out,” Klein said.

Lichter said two equally intelligent people motivated by different incentive structures are attracted to different spheres — one to the business world, and the other to academia. The business world is built on financial incentives, while academia prizes intellectual prestige.

Academics, who get to live in a “world of pure thought,” can easily be critics of society, maybe with a bias against “bourgeois values,” Lichter said.

“There has been a lot of criticism of intellectuals per say as a category of people who kind of get carried away with their own ideas and sometimes get out of touch with reality – practical reality, let’s say,” said Lichter. “And I’m not saying that’s necessarily true of liberal academics, I’m just saying you’re in a different world from the workaday world of ordinary people. And I think it’s easier to feel like you’re up above that world and are … in a better position to criticize it when you’re a professor.”

Klein said research suggests that students aren’t overwhelmingly swayed by their professors’ political bent. But whether they buy into, he said students are losing out on the “good stuff,” like economists Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. And if they do hear about them, it’s from a “straw-man,” “warped” perspective, he added.

But will the left-leaning bent ever reverse? Klein doesn’t think so.

“I don’t see how the heck that can be undone,” he said.

Contact Katie Watson .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 571-385-0773.

Total donations by university employees through July 21, 2012:
Obama: $102,057
Romney: $11,450

Radford University
Obama: $250
Romney: $0

Longwood University
No records found for either candidate

University of Virginia
Obama: $62,342
Romney: $2,000

Old Dominion University
Obama: $750
Romney: No records found

Norfolk State University
Obama: $2,750
Romney: No records found

Christopher Newport University
No records found for either candidate

James Madison University
Obama: $700
Romney: $500

George Mason University
Obama: $16,775
Romney: $7,200

UVA College at Wise
No records found for either candidate

Virginia Tech
Obama: $3,500
Romney: $1,250

College of William and Mary
Obama: $2,050
Romney: No records found

University of Mary Washington
Obama: $1,475
Romney: No records found

Virginia Commonwealth University
Obama: $8,865
Romney: $500

Virginia Military Institute
Obama: $650
Romney: No results

Virginia State University
Obama: $1,950
Romney: No records found





Realistic Republican, I LOVE your statement.  Even though I am a committed Democrat, I believe our problems in this country stem from the inability of our political leaders to work together and compromise.  While I firmly admit that both parties have moved to their polar extremes, it seems so evident within the Republican Party.  The GOP’s hatred of science, the environment, higher education, and civility scares me (as does their commitment to the Religious Right).

I hope that your party returns to what it was; heck I could even get behind some center-right or Rockefeller Republicans.  Until we get the secret money out of politics and campaigning and get more moderates back in who are looking to compromise to get things done, our political system won’t improve no matter who we elect.

This is the reason that the Republican party is having such difficult.  I’m talking to you OpenMic and JesusNut.  There are many teachers who no longer agree with traditional Democratic ideas and are looking to come to the Republican side.  However, many of the ignorant conservatives make remarks that alienate potential supporters.  Let me address a few:

JesusNut: “They’ve grown up living on grants and subsidies from taxpayers.”  There’s so much ignorance here I don’t know where to start.  First, don’t the majority of students who attend college receive the benefits of grants and subsidies?  I was unaware that high-school teachers receive salary bonuses from government grants.  Also, are teachers not tax-payers themselves?  This is the CLASSIC teacher hating comment from somebody who can’t look past their own issues and wants to project onto others. 

OpenMic: Similar hate.  Unfortunately, there’s a pretty good argument to be made that government contractors are more dependant on “government largesse.”  Classy and insightful quote too: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”  This is one of the most overused and misinterpreted quotes out there.  Does this mean that teachers cannot “do” professions related to their field of study or any other professions in general?  Please clear this up.

If we want to clean out the White House and get the right people in, we need to stop alienating potential supporters.  The problem with our party right now is not the policy and likeability of our candidates, it is outspoken ignorant “super-conservatives” who are closed minded and only want supporters that attend church twice a week and are struggling working on a farm.

Shocking…Professors giving more to Dumbacrats. There is a reason they couldn’t make it in the business world hide behind closed doors. I love having them try and educate me on their beliefs and views, but make more money by doing the opposite.

The teaching profession typically attracts liberal minded individuals. As a result, you’ll always find a high level of teachers and professors favoring a Democrat agenda. After all, they’ve grown up living on Government money through grants and subsidies from taxpayers.

What a puff piece. Really, college professors donating to Democrats? Shocking.

When are you going to show that hedge fund managers and Wall Street financiers are donating “overwhelmingly” to Romney?  And in that case, because of Super PAC’s it really would be overwhelmingly.  It would dwarf the $100,000 collected by President Obama from VA university professors.

LTM, if you really want to be the journalists, why don’t you show the contributions that McDean or OpenBand have made to local politicians?  Oh right, its easier to beat up on University professors than looking at your own house.

Guess smarter people might know something…

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Is there a group more dependent upon government largesse than the faculty of a public university? No surprise here.

Why is this a surprise?  Academia staff in college are one of the most liberal groups around.  80%-90% liberal.  These are the results I would have expected.

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