President's Blog

My column in the Chronicle of Higher Education on donor involvement

You have likely seen news reports on a recent controversy regarding some past gift agreements at the university. The Washington Post ran an editorial on the issue on May 6 (with an important clarification subsequently added) and posted my response on May 11. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial of May 11 takes a different position. If you have 27 minutes to spare, the Kojo Nnamdi Show aired a dialogue on May 9 including a Mason student and a Mason faculty member.

To sum up, the discussions revolve around three important, interrelated, yet distinct issues: a demand for increased transparency in the agreements between the university and its private donors (the “Transparent GMU” issue); the opposition to accepting gifts from donors of a given political persuasion (the “UnKoch My Campus” issue); and the question of what rights are appropriate for a university to grant its donors. As I explain in this Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed, we ought to be responsive to the first, stand firm against the second, and bring additional clarity to the third as means of facilitating the other two.

Our thousands of donors, large and small, allow us to deliver on our mission of excellence and affordability amid declining public funding. Every year we serve more students, we deliver outstanding value to them by all benchmarks, and we are recognized as leaders across a wide variety of disciplines. None of this would have been possible without private support built upon our public foundation.

Certainly greater transparency is needed, as is more clarity on how best to engage donors in an academic setting where intellectual freedom is paramount. While we work on those issues, it is crucial that we remain a space for open inquiry and rigorous debate, a university that embraces a multitude of people and ideas in everything it does, that respects differences and protects the freedom of everyone in its community to seek truth and express their views.

Continue reading my op-ed via this link:

Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed.