As college campuses are notoriously liberal, the percentages of faculty donations to Democratic and Republican campaigns are typically predictable figures. Boston College falls among these liberal institutions as many of its professors donate regularly to Democratic campaigns.
The Huffington Post’s 2008 analysis of campaign donations made by BC professors supported the fact that 94% of faculty donations, a total of $53,753, went to Democratic campaigns, while a mere 6% was contributed to Republican campaigns. Obviously, these figures demonstrate the faculty’s political homogeneity as of 2008.
However, this liberal pattern now appears at first glance to have been broken. Presently, the Huffington Post shows that 62% of campaign donations, a total of $4,150, made by Boston College faculty members have been made to Republican campaigns.
Upon analyzing this figure, one realizes that it does not indicate that the Boston College faculty has suddenly become incredibly politically diverse. As Dennis Hale, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, advised, “It is always important, when looking at statistics, to know what the sample was, including how large it was: in a small sample a single outlier can create a big (and possibly misleading) difference”.
First, a donation of $500 must be neglected as it was made by a graduate student, not a faculty member, of BC. Though this still leaves 59% of campaign donations to the conservative campaigns, there were actually only a total of four donations made to the Republican campaigns by Boston College faculty. This pales in comparison to the total of twenty-three donations made by BC professors to the liberal campaigns.
The reason for this misleading information lies in a single large donation—that of $2,400—made by a professor to a Republican campaign. As this particular sum accounts for 66% of the donations made to conservative campaigns, and thus 38% of the total donations made to campaigns, it is responsible for the false appearance of a “shift” in political viewpoints of BC professors.
Thus, one can conclude by glancing at the amount of donations to Democratic campaigns, that the BC campus remains largely liberal.
Hale explained the reason for which the majority of faculty members at Boston College continue to hold onto their liberal beliefs: “most faculty members are liberal, a fact which can probably be explained by their having formed their political ideas in the 1960s and 1970s.”
He continued that, despite whether or not the world has made these particular beliefs “questionable,” most people who have grown up with a particular political view would feel reluctant to explore any other.
In spite of this, Hale’s “impression of the campus is that the dominance of a single party does not stifle debate the way it does on many other campuses, in part because there are enough Republican, independent, and conservative students to keep the debate lively.” Moreover, he affirms that, though most faculty members are Democrats, they are nevertheless “open to the expression of competing views.”
When informed of the statistics posted by the Huffington Post, Kristoffer Munden, President of the College Democrats of Boston College, agreed with Professor Hale that “the contributions support the generalization that professors are, overall, more likely to be liberal than other groups.”
Munden, however, does not believe that the abundance of faculty members with liberal viewpoints affects the political on-campus experience of the BC student. As a political science major himself, he assures that “most professors do not discuss their personal political beliefs in class.” He sees the abundance of contributions as an indication of “a politically engaged professorship” rather than “a partisan professorship.”
Tomas Castella, President of the BC Republicans, explained that the increase in amount donated by BC professors to Republican campaigns could “very well reflect the shifting political environment even among former Obama supporters.” Though the amount of donations to liberal campaigns exceeded those to conservative campaigns, the statistics nonetheless show that professors are more enthusiastic about Republican campaigns than they have been in the past.
Additionally, Castella disclosed that the “dissatisfaction with the Obama administration is reflected in the number of new and excited members to [the BC Republicans].” According to Castella, the political organization “signed more students up on Student Activities Day than [he had] ever seen at Boston College.”
Though ultimately the statistics of campaign donations sustain the fact that the Boston College faculty is predominantly liberal, Castella does present a valid point regarding the present discontent with the Obama administration felt by a large portion of the public. As Republicans become more dissatisfied with Obama’s choices, they will undoubtedly participate more actively in the campaigns of their own party. Likewise, as Democrats lose confidence in Obama, their support for the liberal campaigns will most likely lag.
For now, Boston College professors lean steadfastly to the left, but as the political climate changes, so too may the political views across campus. Until then, let us continue to engage in lively political debate.