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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

College keeps list of alumni asking questions about free speech climate: two from $1 million plus donor club express concerns

Markle Hall of Administration (Hana Isihara ’17).

The college’s development office has been keeping a running list, with 112 names currently on it, of alumni who have either expressed concern about the free speech climate on campus or have asked questions about it, Vice President of Development and College Relations Kim Spang said.

This record-keeping began in December 2016, with questions prompted by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Spang added. The last time an alumnus or alumna was added to the list was November 2017.

The alumni span the spectrum in terms of how much they have donated to the college in the past, from over $1 million in their lifetime to never having given at all, Spang said. About 20 haven’t given to the college in the last 3 years, and about 12 have declined in their giving or stopped entirely in the last year. Others haven’t changed their donations.

Jack Bourger ’71, for whom the Bourger Varsity Football Field House is named, is one of the donors who stopped giving to the college in the last year. He is a member of the Societe d’Honneur, meaning he has given or pledged more than $1 million to the college in his lifetime.

Bourger has taken issue with several problems he sees with Lafayette, he said, one of which is the political climate where he said conservative students are silenced and don’t feel comfortable sharing their views. He gathered this information from the final report Ad Hoc Committee on Ensuring Inclusive Dialogue, published nearly a year ago, and conversations he has had on campus with students. Some students at the time took issue with the committee, saying that it was not representative of the campus as a whole and had a conservative bias since the outset of its work.

Aside from politics, Bourger is also concerned with the state of the college’s athletics, particularly football which he is passionate about. He pointed out that many programs struggle for a winning percentage, including football having won six games out of 27 in the last three seasons.

Bourger is a member of the Alumni/Alumnae Coalition of Lafayette (ACL), which shares concerns like Bourger’s own, which pertain to the free speech climate on campus and also college’s financial state, with Lafayette having taken on more debt in the last year for the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center.

The ACL’s mission statement on its website says that the group is “deeply concerned about the management, reputation, lack of non partisan free speech, and the financial health of Lafayette College.”

He said he and other ACL members requested a meeting with Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski, but were turned down. Demareski said that debt is a healthy part of Lafayette’s financial situation and that it is not something which the college is concerned about, and that he has not had any contact with the ACL as of late.

Al Siegel ’60, also an ACL member, said he has perceived a problem with the college’s faculty leaning “far left,” and if he continues to see this trend, he, too, will stop donating to the college. Just like Bourger, Siegel is a member of the affluent Societe D’Honneur, having given about $500,000 to the college thus far and pledged over $1 million.

Siegel said he is encouraged by the formation of the Lafayette Symposium, which brought two speakers to Lafayette this semester who have each written books on free speech on college campuses: Princeton professor Keith Whittington and University of Pennsylvania professor Sigal Ben-Porath.

Bruce McDermott ’69 is another alumnus member of the ACL who said he and his family has reduced their giving to symbolic amounts “based on concerns and disappointments” he’s seen, related to how the Mill Series is viewed on campus.

He described himself as “a loyal, longtime giver to the college.”

Lafayette’s annual fund has not been affected overall by those donors who have chosen to stop donating, Spang said, as the college’s goals for donations thus far in the fiscal year have been exceeded. That said, she added, the donors who have expressed concerns remain important to the college, and Spang has gone so far as to even go to their homes to meet them and discuss.

“I don’t think this is a Lafayette issue,” Spang said. “I think this is a conversation in the world we’re having today.”

Lafayette’s goal for its annual fund in the fiscal year 2017-2018, which is about halfway over, stands at $8.4 million, with $4.2 million raised at this point. Its goal for alumni participation is to have 8,194 give to the college this year, and that, too, is on track with 4,327 having given already.

Correction: This article originally stated Bruce McDermott’s graduation year as 1986, referencing an incorrect alumnus. The correct alumnus’ class year is 1969. 

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  • J

    John LeoneApr 7, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Alison – please be reminded that so many of the “Old Boys’ Club that you referenced are the very same ones who have driven the cause for access and affordability to a place like Lafayette – in almost all cases for underrepresented and disenfranchised groups. Painting with such a broad brush not only creates profound inaccuracies, it is hurtful.

    No one group has cornered the market on empathy; no one owns the roadmap to the best and quickest way to the socially just society that most reasonable people seek. Education and experience together eventually make things much clearer, but even these are not a panacea. Lafayette is in constant pursuit of this fundamental goal.

    I have been at the college for 38 years – the last 23 spent working with our graduates from all walks of life, all generations, and all political persuasions. As a private college, the vast majority of the resources we raise to keep our College solvent and a place of consequence come from these folks – private citizens whose experience here was strong enough that they feel compelled to give back . They give with both hands because they believe that within our DNA as an institution – historically and in the present day, we continue to turn out educated women and men who make a positive difference for our country and our world.

    The word, “philanthropy” actually comes from the Greek meaning “love and humankind”. I see it every day in my work for the college.

    Please remember, if you are granted the good grace to live a long life, you will someday be a member of a similar club. It is my deepest and fondest wish that you will, at that time, have seen and acknowledged that same sense that Lafayette made a difference for you, opened your eyes to new and maybe different ways to see things, and armed you with the resources necessary to navigate an ever changing world.

    I applaud our College for its courage and openness – in the face of a challenging and increasingly polarized political landscape – to have hosted the debate last evening.

    Let the discourse go on.

  • A

    Alison Hindenlang '03Mar 20, 2018 at 9:33 am

    I’m not surprised that these older male alumni are suddenly concerned about “freedom of speech” now that their voices aren’t the only ones being heard. Do they also still think it’s a problem that women are allowed to attend? I, for one, am glad to see Lafayette working to give platform, voice, and value to those outside of the Good Old Boys club. If education and exposure to ideas outside of the stereotypical upper class upbringing of most Lafayette students leads them away from the conservative position espoused by these alumi then maybe they should be the ones rethinking their position and values and not the students or the College.

  • H

    Hal Crane '68Mar 18, 2018 at 3:02 am

    For years now Lafayette has been part of the “diversity bandwagon” where only liberals have a campus voice and true diversity of thought involving conservative thinkers or professors is non existent or suppressed. This seems true for nearly all of higher education, Lafayette is just following what is happening in nearly every similar institution.
    True diversity would go beyond mandatory political correctness and allow free speech and the hiring of professors and administrators who aren’t liberals and are free to speak without fear of termination. On too many campuses conservative speakers are shunned, shouted down, barred from speaking, physically intimidated, stopped by mob actions or never invited. The chilling effect on free and open speech is palpable and the loss to students’ intellectual development is incalculable.

  • P

    P.H.Babcock '66Mar 5, 2018 at 9:26 am

    The “problem” with unbiased scholarship is that it leades directly to conclusions and law as witnessed in the U.S. Constitution , aconservative document and contract of liberty and freedom which progressives and liberals have concluded needs to be deconstructed, despite the emperical data proving the opposite.reality and on going massive benefits to the human condition.

  • W

    William Rappolt '67Mar 3, 2018 at 6:53 am

    As a proud graduate of our fine college , a citizen of the United States, a veteran, and member of the Society d’honneur I enthusiastically support the Bill of Rights and especially the right of free speech. I would hope that my name is included on the college’s LIST. If not, please add me immediately. I urge my fellow graduates to do the same. I thought LISTS ended 60 or 70 years ago.