Ford and the Double Standard

The controversy over the Koch Foundation program at Florida State in which the Foundation has some input on hiring is so overdone that one is tempted to ignore it.  (Here’s a sample editorial from the Orlando Sentinel which quotes one anonymous observer as terming the program “shocking.”

At the same time, the double-standard is hard to take.  The money that left-leaning foundations have donated to universities in order to foster left-leaning initiatives dwarfs the money that Koch, Bradley, and other right-leaning foundations have donated, massively so, and their aims have been frankly ideological, though presented in putatively objective terms.

Consider the Ford Foundation and its support of “diversity” in higher education.  In 2003, Ford gave Rutgers University’s Institute for Women’s Leadership $346,000 “to examine faculty’s role in initiating and supporting programs to advance diversity in higher education policy and practice.”  It gave University of New Mexico $400,000 for “a consortium of minority serving Southwest universities to build knowledge and develop programs on diversity and institutional excellence.”  The National Council on Research on Women received $250,000 for “research on women’s leadership in higher education and its role in increasing racial and gender diversity.”  The Association of American Colleges and Universities got $113,000 for a “Diversity Digest” newsletter that would “identify and communicate new strategies for addressing campus diversity issues,” plus $225,000 to “explore how colleges and universities can connect diversity and academic excellence.”  San Francisco State’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism got $400,000 to “conduct programs to promote diversity in the news media and undertake a strategic planning process.”

Or consider Ford’s Campus Diversity Public Information Project, an initiative to foster “diversity learning" endeavors in higher education.  Several years ago, Ford hired Martin & Glantz (later changed to “FowlerHoffman”) with the goal of “re-positioning the image and identity of these programs, which can be controversial and are often portrayed in a negative or cynical light” (see summary here. Among its activities were “training diversity messengers, generating feature stories and op-ed pieces, reaching out to representatives of the local and regional media and local survey research.”  In other words, it was a marketing campaign to insert more diversity programs and thinking onto campus.

For most university people, the case isn’t comparable to the Koch affair.  Koch is intervening in hiring, they say, while Ford simply was calling for more research and policy-making.  Added to that, Koch represents a fixed ideology, while “diversity” is a term of social science.

Both contentions are naïve, and they run against powerful strains of the left-wing outlook.  First of all, Ford’s diversity support has the ultimate goal of having universities hire more people who embrace diversity as a value in itself.  Ford wants to change the personnel make-up and philosophical climate of the campus.  Second, “diversity” is, indeed, an ideology.  It assumes a particular understanding of society, groups and individuals, and outcomes.  The only reason it appears objective to campus dwellers is that the campus has become so one-sided on those matters.  It is customary among leftist academics to scratch the surface of policies and objective concepts for their ideological underpinnings, but "diversity" remains largely unmentioned in those terms.

When that changes, when those who protest the Koch Foundation manage to raise the same concerns about Ford and other organizations using funds to steer the campus in one ideological direction, their voices will be worth heeding.


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

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18 thoughts on “Ford and the Double Standard

  1. When people are selected on the basis of their melanin and genitalia you get regression toward the mean in other characteristics.

  2. The late William (Bill) Simon, head of the John M. Olin Foundation, told me that old man Olin made him promise that the Foundation would not last beyond the lives of the men he put in charge fearing that future directors and management would betray the values of the founders as in the cases of Pugh, Ford, Rockefeller who would be rolling in their graves knowing what’s being done in their names.

  3. Tim Geithner is now looting the retirement funds of Federal employees, ‘borrowing’ them to fuel the voracious Federal spending machine. To be ‘repaid’ by the Bernank’s home-printed funny money.
    Here’s an alternative: Loot the endowments of all the big leftist Foundations. Ford, Tides, Joyce etc etc. All that money just sitting there, it should be put to the use of The People, instead of a bunch of liberal trust fund babies. The Feds under Obama have the muscle to pull it off – didn’t they just grab Chrysler and GM?
    And while they’re at it, ‘borrow’ the retirement funds of all the NGOs – which are just propped up by the taxpayers, the same as Federal employees.

  4. Given how leftists manage to pervert foundations founded by conservatives, into leftist organizations, with the Ford foundation being a prime example, I can understand why they would want a hiring veto power to prevent the university from using their money to promote leftist goals.
    And they are not telling the university who they must hire. They merely retain a veto for unacceptable candidates, so nobody is hired unless both the university, and the Koch’s both agree.

  5. C’mon, Allan, look at the nature of Ford’s diversity orientation. The premises are solidly leftist, and they rule out conservative outlooks from the start. I don’t know of any Ford program geared toward intellectual or political diversity on college campuses. If I’ve overlooked one, please correct.

  6. Mark Bauerlein is correct that the Koch Foundation had no power to tell FSU who to hire. The advisory committee consisted of two economists (chaired professors) on the FSU faculty and one economist representing the Koch Foundation. The decision rule for the committee was unanimity. The faculty had three levels of control: 1) they put forward the screened initial list from the list of all applicants, 2) either of the two economics faculty on the advisory committee could himself block a nominee unacceptable to the faculty, and 3) the final go/no-go decision on the offer had to be approved by the department’s executive committee. What Mark doesn’t mention is that while The Koch Foundation supplied the salary, the faculty were appointed on regular lines backed-stopped by hard money. That means that the Koch foundation has no control over the research or teaching of the faculty once hired.

  7. Yes, FSU could have and should have turned the money down because of the constraints. And Koch should have not included the constraints.
    Can you definitively say that a Ford grant has not resulted in a conservative being hired? Please list all grantees and let’s compare.
    I don’t like what Koch has done. And to the extent that Ford directs hiring, I don’t like that either.
    But, then again, I have no ties to FSU and don’t intend to have any in the future.
    I would note that there are other horrid types of endowed chairs out there. For example, the many mid-east study chairs are filled mostly by Arab scholars. The Jewish Study chairs are filled by … Jews. The business study chairs named for corporations are filled by people who like corporations…
    This is not a new thing, it is just that Koch seems to have infused itself into the process more than others.
    It is all a scam full of corruption in order to give some justification for the views of the donors by supporting their views with academics…

  8. I do not understand Allan’s first comment. The second comment, though, is wrong. First of all, if you can find a single conservative that was hired through Ford’s diversity initiatives, that would be a big surprise. And if you wish to compare the number of people hired through those programs (hundreds of them) with the one person as FSU, the alarm doesn’t quite hold up. Let’s remember that “diversity” in hiring does indeed mean that the program has a veto power. Check out Ford’s guidelines for grants.
    Second, Koch does not “tell” FSU whom to hire. All it does is retain the power to veto people proposed as the candidate (the salary comes entirely out of Koch funding).

  9. No, Allan, that is not the debate. In fact, there is no debate, only interlopers. FSU clearly decided the donation was worth accepting even with the conditions. If they felt it was too much of constraint, they would have turned it down.

  10. “Diversity” is code for “liberalism.” It ought not be, but in practical terms it is. If campuses practiced true diversity, we would have many more conservative thinkers as part of the on-campus dialog. Unfortunately, liberals like to say they are open minded, but in practice they are not as reflected in any survey of political bias of on-campus personnel and as demonstrated in the comfort level of conservatives to argue their points of view in campus discussion.

  11. Henry Ford was staunchly conservative and entrusted his money to the Ford foundation with the intent that they would provide funding consistent with his beliefs. The directors went far left at the first opportunity. The Koch’s are surely aware that foundations and charitable organizations are almost invariably co-opted by the left and pursue matters in direct conflict with the benefactor’s beliefs. The Getty museum is another example of foundation directors disregarding Getty’s antipathy toward modern architecture.

  12. This is NOT a debate on whether offering money to schools to promote diversity is a good thing.
    This debate is about whether offering money to schools to promote diversity is different from offering money to a school to teach something AND telling the school who to hire.
    In the first, it is conceivable that a conservative could be hired. In the second, it is not conceivable that a liberal (at least one Koch objects to) could be hired.
    Again, if Koch had decided to fund a chair for, say, the advancement of the Austrian School of Economics and left it at that, there would be no controversy.

  13. I have always believed “diversity” to be another word for “anti-establishment” and the Ford foundation surely proves this to be true. I have nothing but disdain for any “diversity” program. Our universities have long been places of hatred toward traditional American values. How ironic that the leftists can fund this anti-American rhetoric with impunity, yet the Kochs can fund nothing without drawing public acrimony from the MSM. It’s too pathetic for words, and gives me yet another reason to ignore anything the MSM has to say. Thank goodness for the internet as a source of information.

  14. Perhaps Koch should donate targeted at fostering greater ideological diversity in higher education. Surely no right thinking academic would oppose increasing diversity even with Koch money.

  15. In my experience, “diversity” means any culture and any values except WASP ones. It is a sophisticated form of self-loathing of the America of the Founding Fathers, Constitution and Christianity. In this regard, “diversity” is not so much a world view and a set of values but an “anti-worldview” and “anti-values”.

  16. BS.
    If Koch had given the money but not retained a role in naming the professors, there would be controversy. Indeed, if Koch had given money, but not liked what FSU was doing with the money, it could have asked for it back or refused to give more. In any case, there is little, if any, similarity.

  17. By that standard, I do not expect those voices to be “worth heeding” in my lifetime, and that’s pretty well my sentiments on the matter, as well. When they can live by their own morals (or even something close), then I might give them some attention.

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