Capitalism academy advancing own agenda

By James R. Barrett

In spring 2007, in a secret memo of understanding between the University of Illinois Foundation and the organizers of the Academy on Capitalism and Limited Government, the University of Illinois signed on to a sweeping plan to use private funds to reshape our teaching and scholarship. The plan is to fund named professorships, lectures, conferences, research and course development reflecting the Academy’s own conservative views. The University’s faculty and students learned of this ambitious plan when Academy leaders advertised it as a victory in their effort to win American universities to conservative values.

At the October 2007 senate meeting, faculty raised concerns that all the resources appeared to be supporting one particular conservative perspective, representing a serious threat to academic freedom and intellectual diversity on campus. Also, the plan seemed to violate the University’s governance structure. An outside board of directors, rather than the University’s own faculty and administration, would direct decisions regarding a range of initiatives. A faculty committee established to recommend changes required to bring the plan back under University oversight has seldom met over the past year. The faculty remains in the dark, but the Academy has forged ahead and is planning to hold its second conference here next month, once again using the University’s name to advance its political aims. Chancellor Richard Herman should provide an immediate update regarding actions to ensure that the rules of faculty governance are not broken by the Academy, to resume faculty control of educational policy and to discourage outside special interests from using the University of Illinois’ good name to advance their own political agenda.