NCSU Political Science in the New Yorker

The buzz in Raleigh this week has been Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece on North Carolina’s very own version of the Koch brothers, Art Pope.   Short version: The Citizens United ruling allowed Art Pope to fully unleash his funds to help turn the NC legislature solidly red.  For those of us, in these parts we’re quite familiar with Pope’s conservative thinktanks and their efforts.  Among us academics,  most notably the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy which seems to spend most of its time criticizing UNC and NCSU for teaching classes with “gender” and “race” in the title.  They also tried to fund a curriculum in “Western studies” (right, because that is so neglected) at UNC but were rebuffed.  At NCSU they’ve funded an undergraduate research award over which they have had no ideological influence (believe me, I know, my students benefited) and a speaker series which brings a conservative speaker to campus every year.  Here’s that part of the New Yorker article:

Pope, she believes, has already encroached too far on the economics department at N.C. State, where he has donated more than half a million dollars for free-market-related programs. The grant has funded annual lectures, all of which have been given by prominent conservative and free-market thinkers. The speakers are picked by Steven Margolis, the former department chair, and Andrew Taylor, a political-science professor who is a columnist for Carolina Journal, a John Locke Foundation publication. “I’m pretty sure we would not invite Paul Krugman,” Margolis told me. A dozen members of the economics faculty have been listed as “John Locke Foundation Affiliates.” Among them is Roy Cordato, of the John Locke Foundation. His previous research, including a paper he wrote opposing cigarette taxes, was funded, in part, by tobacco companies. Like Pope, he strongly opposes government efforts to combat climate change. Warren says, “I find it incredibly troubling that there are all these faculty members associated with this particular foundation.”

Honestly, I’m not sure why I should find this troubling.  Economics professors shouldn’t be conservative?  As for the “not Paul Krugman” speaker series– I love it.  Let’s be honest, left to our own devices, NCSU (or pretty much any faculty except Bob Jones) is not going to be bringing in a lot of conservative speakers.  I’m glad that the Pope foundations funds this series to bring in a more diverse series of voices than our students would usually hear.  I try and attend this whenever I can and always strongly encourage my students.

Anyway, the whole article is really interesting and worth a read, I just felt the need to add some clarification where it discussed my little corner of the woods (and I do think it’s pretty cool that one of my friends and colleagues is in the New Yorker, even with some non-flattering innuendo).

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