If financially generous professors are any indication of campus political savvy, then Stanford University boasts one of the most aware campuses in the country, according to a recent study conducted by OpenSecrets.org.
From data aggregated by the Center for Responsive Politics, Stanford University’s employees ranked third among university and educational institutions’ staffs in most money donated to political campaigns for this year’s midterm elections. Stanford’s donations totaled $375,553.
In fact, the state of California appeared to be a hotbed of university faculty political contributions. The Democratic candidate that received the most from educational institutions was Barbara Boxer, the incumbent candidate for senator of California. Howard McKeon, incumbent House candidate for California’s 25th district, received the most among Republican candidates. Boxer and McKeon receive $175,109 and $127,750 respectively, according to OpenSecrets.
Among educational institutions, the University of California system ranked first, donating $483,981 in total. Harvard University came in second, donating a total of $424,478.
Stanford did rank number one in another category – namely, the highest donating couple in the entire education sector. Together, Carol Winograd, professor emerita in the School of Medicine, and Terry Winograd, professor of computer science, donated a total of $148,350 during the midterm elections.
“Up until two years ago we gave a lot of money to NGO’s and nonprofits, not to political parties,” explained Terry Winograd when asked whether this year was consistent with his donations to past political campaigns. “[But] with Obama, there was a sense that this was a possibility for change. So the start of our political giving started in 2008.”
The OpenSecrets study explained that the majority of private donations by educators and administrators from non-profit institutions tend to be based on individual preferences. That certainly appears to be the case of the Winograds.
“Carol [Winograd] is heavily involved with J-Street, and one of her big issues is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Professor Terry Winograd noted of his wife, who is one of the founders of the Jewish Chaplaincy at the Stanford Hospital.
As far as the party-breakdown in donations, 75 percent of the donations from Stanford faculty and employees went to Democratic political campaigns. Meanwhile, only 25 percent went to Republican political campaigns.
All employees of Stanford University are legally bound to list Stanford as their employer, and all donations to any political campaign exceeding $199 are public record.
Harvard’s donations showed a similar ratio, with 77 percent donations going to Democratic candidates, and 23 percent to Republican candidates. Likewise, the donations made by the University of California system’s faculty and employees showed an 86 percent to 14 percent ratio, for Democratic and Republican candidates, respectively.
The question of whether these one-sided political donations have an adverse effect on Stanford is unavoidable. However, Professor Deborah Hensler of the Stanford Law School and a significant donor to campaigns this year maintained that no adverse effect exists.
“We don’t give up our rights as citizens by becoming faculty members at Stanford,” said Professor Hensler.
Professor Hensler donated $3,500 to various democratic political campaigns for the upcoming midterm elections. She explained that many of her main political interests tend to center around gay rights issues. For this election cycle, she is particularly interested in efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military’s policy which restricts military service for openly gay individuals.
“I think that faculty members at Stanford should have the right [to donate], just like anybody else,” she said.
According to the OpenSecrets study, the Democrat tilt in overall giving is common across the whole education sector. The study suggested that the mostly one-sided giving may be a result of a stigma for Republican support in the field of education, the effects of which could discourage donations to Republican causes. Alternatively, donations to Republican causes could be intentionally made under $200 so as to avoid allowing information about the donation to enter the public record.
Whatever the case may be, Hensler maintains that her donations do not affect her classroom demeanor.
“I have never, that I can recall, talked about my donations to my students. I don’t know that it is appropriate for me to talk about a political position in class,” explained Hensler. “That’s not to say that I think it is inappropriate to talk about contemporary politics with my students when we are outside of class.”
History of Giving
Faculty donations favoring Democrats is by no means new to Stanford. After the 2008 presidential election, the Review reported that Stanford Professors donated $356,048 to the Barack Obama campaign and only $8,200 to John McCain’s campaign. The tilt was particularly pronounced in the Political Science department, whose faculty donated more than $18,000 to Obama and nothing to the McCain campaign.
Since 2008, however, the ratio of Democratic donations to Republic donations has decreased substantially. Whereas in 2008 only $3 was donated to McCain for every $246 to Obama, the ratio was only around 3:1 in favor of Democrats for this year’s election cycle.
If level of giving is any indication of enthusiasm, then the political fervor that gripped the campus in 2008 appears to have subsided quite a bit.