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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Guilford’s $500,000 grant part of a conservative agenda

Jane Mayer’s excellent article in the October 2011 issue of The New Yorker (“A State for Sale”) helped to place Guilford’s ten-year $500,000 BB&T grant in the larger North Carolina and national perspective.  Mayer showed how millions of dollars from “conservative multi-millionaire” Art Pope, funneled through a number of “ostensibly nonpartisan policy groups,” including the Locke Foundation and the Pope Foundation, and aided by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, provided unprecedented funding in the 2010 elections in North Carolina, resulting in Republican control of both chambers in the state for the first time since 1870.

The Republican-controlled North Carolina state legislature now has slashed the budget for higher education, and, as we at Guilford well know, its decisions have affected not only the public colleges and universities, but private schools as well.

Mayer’s article shows quite clearly how the foundations that Art Pope supports have sought to influence college curricula, making the materials in classes, and sometimes creating entirely new programs, friendlier to the free-market version of capitalism, and to arguments for the ethical nature of capitalism.

The ten-year grant for $500,000 that Guilford College accepted in 2009 included the stipulation that students in certain classes read Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged.” The grant also stipulated that students who major in business and economics are to receive “free” copies of the novel at the beginning of their junior year, as are certain students in the Principled Problem Solving program.

It does not seem like all that much money —  $50,000 a year for ten years, in a budget that runs around $50-$60 million per year —  but the college’s acceptance of the grant, and the faculty’s acquiescence to it, raise fundamental issues about who determines the curriculum, about faculty governance, about the nature of higher education these days, and about the kind of society we hope to be.

The college announced the grant during the summer of 2009, much to the surprise of all but very few faculty members. By the time most students and faculty returned to campus for the fall 2009 semester, they seemed to have little interest in the fact that Guilford had made this ten-year commitment (if they were aware of it at all).

When a member of the college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) asked that the faculty discuss the process by which this grant was accepted, the Clerk’s Committee agreed to put the topic of the process by which the college accepts grants with curricular strings attached on the agenda at the November faculty meeting (the faculty was asked not to discuss the BB&T grant itself), and the general topic was discussed at some length during that meeting and, subsequently, at the December meeting.

There was, however, no consensus. In fact, the faculty was not able even to approve the following statement: “The acceptance of all gifts that involve the creation of new courses and/or academic programs is provisional pending the completion of the normal approval procedures.”

The college faced hard economic times in 2009, and it still does.  Many faculty understandably were worried about their jobs, especially those who taught in departments that had been eliminated at other colleges and universities. Even if they had qualms about the grant, or about the way it was accepted, few were willing to raise questions about a $500,000 grant just because it required some students in some classes to read Atlas Shrugged.

We are now in year three of the ten-year grant.  Meyer’s New Yorker article reveals clearly how money from conservative foundations has affected both North Carolina politics and what students read and talk about in certain college courses.

Therefore, as those Guilford students enrolled in classes in which they are required to read Atlas Shrugged examine her novel, and those business and economics juniors enjoy the benefits of receiving a “free” copy of it, and as those of us who attend the on-campus presentations by speakers who address issues like Rand’s place in American culture, we should all keep in mind that wealthy supporters of Ayn Rand have underwritten her recent ascendancy in academic discourse at Guilford and elsewhere.

The grant that Guilford College accepted was part of a much larger conservative agenda that has sought to redefine the nature of higher education in the state of North Carolina.


Richie Zweigenhaft, Dana Professor of Psychology at Guilford College, is the coauthor of a series of books on the American power structure (most recently, The New CEOs:  Women, African American, Latino and Asian American Leaders of Fortune 500 Companies).  He wrote about this grant in the July-August 2010 issue of “Academe” (“Is This Curriculum for Sale?”).


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  • D

    Doug WestMay 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I think the final paragraph sums it up, if not being too narrow in limiting the scope of this agenda to NC only. While I am all for free speech, forcing this one perspective on students by making the book required reading is unnerving. My hope is that professors will add some required reading that counters the premises set forth in ‘Atlas Shugged’. Unregulated, free market capitalism with it’s ‘trickle down’ theory not only leads to corruption and greed, but nothing does end up ‘trickling down’. The gap between the rich and poor has gotten exponentially larger since the 80’s.
    As an alumni, I am massively disappointed in the leadership of Guilford to enter into this contract with Art Pope and wish the students/alumni had protested to prevent it as is happening at other universities.

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    HelenMar 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    I am not sure that smaller casesls are the answer to better discussions or increased learning. It takes many 1L students a full year to understand that they are in a graduate program and that they can no longer coast, as they once did in their undergraduate programs.I teach Torts in two sections of 30 students each, though occasionally I have had to teach all 60 at one time. With 30 students more of them get to participate, thus smaller is better in that sense. However, in the larger casesls the discussion tends to be better because there are more students, thus all of the students hear better answers.Law schools could go to a model that has 20 to 30 students per class, but keep in mind the financial implications. Under current accreditation rules professors are only allowed to teach 6 credits per semester, and in the elite schools professors only teach 9 credits for the entire year (6 in one semester and 3 in the other) in order to allow them more time for scholarship. Let’ see. One professor teaching 100 students or 5 professors teaching 20 students? Tuition would jump to $40 or $50 thousand a year—this amount is unreasonable and would lead to increased inaccessibility of legal services by the poor. The current approach is sound: large casesls in the first year and smaller casesls in the second and third year. Ideally, I might want private one-on-one sessions with Civil Procedure guru Arthur Miller, but frankly I can’t afford to hire him at his rate.One thing which can be done, and which I have implemented, is the creation of small groups. All of my students belong to a small group with 3 to 5 students apiece. They have short weekly assignments and a larger mid-term project. This allows them to teach each other and is financially possible.

  • J

    JamesFeb 18, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    While I agree that having outside politically motivated monies coming into the school with stipulations that certain economic theories are to be taught may appear to be a conspiracy to change what North Carolina defines as higher education, a few questions are raised as I read this article.

    The article states that, ” …included the stipulation that students in certain classes read Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged.””. This leads me to believe that this is a major elective course selection and is not a required course for graduation for any specific major. The students have the choice to attend this class or not. While any business school junior may be given a free copy of the book, I don’t know many who would actually read the 1069 page book just because someone handed it to them. If this is the case and the course is a major elective and is not required to be taken to graduate then is there really an ethical or conspiratory event taking place?

    The article states that, “Mayer’s article shows quite clearly how the foundations that Art Pope supports have sought to influence college curricula, making the materials in classes, and sometimes creating entirely new programs, friendlier to the free-market version of capitalism, and to arguments for the ethical nature of capitalism.” This sounds as if previously the free-market versions of capitalism and arguments for the ethical nature of capitalism on campus were met with hostility. If this is the case then should this not be as much of an issue if not more of an issue as it shifts the pendulum the other way and points to the possibility that all economic views and possibilities were not being taught and discussed as equally justifiable? Should the point of higher education not be to inform from all sides and allow the student to make their choice what they believe to be right or wrong?

    I am a student who has been a part of one of these classes that reads Atlas Shrugged. I can only tell you my thoughts on the book and the class itself. I felt the book was educational to the point that it gives you the perspective of someone who came from a communistic society who saw her families business taken from them by the government and the crimes against society as she saw them. The book shows an extreme example of what happens to a society which does not follow her philosophy of Obejectivism, from her viewpoint. The book is only a piece of this class and serves as only one of the readings. Taught in this course is also the economic theories of Keynes, Marx, Galbraith, Hayek, Friedman, and others as well as the ethical theories of utilitarianism, libertarianism, Kantian ethics, egalitarianism, and Aristotle’s ethics of virtue.

    This has been a course which has focused on giving insight into the economic ideals and principals of complete laissez faire economies all the way down the line to complete planned economies. In my opinion this course has given equal weight to the many different views that exist in this highly globalized world today and has given me perspective from which other people I deal with in the future may be approaching an issue and give me more understanding so I can best relate. If my first question is answered in the affirmative then I personally see no wrong if the class is not a required course for a student to graduate. If my second question is answered in the affirmative then I would see a need for this class to exist to teach this theory and all others in a non-biased manner. The course is about ethical theory and depending on which viewpoint you are looking at this issue from you will come to your own conclusion and from that viewpoint your conclusion will be right.

  • V

    Victor LopezFeb 17, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Bravo. Bravo!