More openness needed from Academy

During last fall’s controversy about the establishment of the Academy for Capitalism and Limited Government, this page featured a headline reading “Fears about ‘academy’ are unfounded.” The idea was that the mere existence of a campus entity that studied capitalism and limited government was not a threat to the educational process.

But bedrock in that reasoning was the expectation that both the Academy and the University would be transparent about their relationship and what it means for faculty and students.

However, a recent News-Gazette report leaves us with more questions than answers.

In an effort to quell faculty concern about the program, Chancellor Herman set up a committee to study the Academy’s efforts to integrate itself into the University and its mission. Its subsequent report saying the academy “as currently conceived and configured is fundamentally inconsistent with the two central principles (of neutrality and autonomy) that define a free and distinguished university” was endorsed by the faculty-senate.

But since then, not a lot of headway has been made.

The Academy has gone on with organizing its second campus symposium that will be held in October. But beyond that, its plans for the future remain up in the air. In the meantime, the faculty-senate is still waiting for its concerns to be addressed.

After almost a year of waiting, more open discussion is called for.

The unfortunate thing is that despite whatever plans the Academy has, its failure to address criticisms in a timely manner raises doubts that could easily be unfounded. A lack of disclosure to faculty also invites the debate to be unfairly framed in liberal and conservative terms, rather than utility.

More to the point, the longer the Academy takes to address faculty concerns, the more it looks like it has something to hide.

While the fears some faculty harbor about the Academy attempting to unfairly circumvent the proper process and establish its conservative-leaning academic offerings have a certain tinge of hyperbole attached, the fact remains that this controversy could set a precedent.

The Academy’s conduct now, and the ensuing faculty backlash, could chill future donors looking to setup other kinds of programs that could enhance the University’s reputation.

A long and bitter exchange between faculty with legitimate concerns and donors with legitimate goals doesn’t do anything but call negative attention to campus.