George Mason University law school in Virginia announced it would be renamed the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University, in honor of the recently deceased justice. Scalia’s influential advocate of constitutional originalism made him beloved by limited-government conservatives and a dangerous figure to liberals who think of the constitution as a “living document,” malleable to progressive trends. Even in death, the left and its allies at the Times won’t cease their attacks on the conservative justice.
Friday’s New York Times featured young reporter Nicholas Fandos, “University Critics Draw a Line at Naming Law School for Scalia.” The online headline was positively “fearful” of the change: “What’s in a Name Change? Politics, Some at George Mason University Fear.”
Conservatives and moralists may not be all thrilled to have President John F. Kennedy’s name on so many schools and colleges, but they certainly don’t actively work against them in the name of ideological purity.
The Times ignores or plays down the daily parade of left-wing lunatics on campuses all over the country. They have yet to mention last year's violent harassment of conservative speaker Ben Shapiro when he attempting to give a talk at California State University in Los Angeles. Yet any right-of-center nudges anywhere in academia are greeted with panic. (See the paper’s fixation on intolerance at Texas A&M, one of the few arguably right-of-center public campuses around.)
Of course, the dreaded Koch brothers are behind it:
For years, students and faculty at George Mason University paid little attention as Charles G. Koch and other conservatives helped transform their once sleepy commuter school in the suburbs of the nation’s capital into a leading producer of free-market scholarship. The effort, after all, was focused on a few specific departments like economics and law and attracted little attention outside conservative circles.
But the announcement last month that George Mason would rename its law school in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia, the longtime voice of the Supreme Court’s conservative wing who died in February, abruptly ended that indifference.
The name change -- and that it was tied to a $30 million combined gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous conservative donor -- focused attention for the first time in a serious way on whether the administration and trustees at George Mason had allowed Virginia’s largest public university to become an ideological outpost.
The university administration insists that the answer is no. But a drumbeat of public letters, social media posts and campus debates expressing concerns about the gift suggests a vocal group of faculty, students and state legislators are not convinced.
University administrators say that naming the law school after Justice Scalia was meant to honor a highly influential figure in American public life and that the gift behind it will allow the school to expand. Suggestions otherwise, they say, including that the university has ceded academic control to a donor’s interests, amount to little more than politics.
But the debate has raised questions about how, as the university’s growth has outpaced the state of Virginia’s support for it, conservative donors have become increasingly important.
The text box: “A “$30 million gift that has stirred concerns about ideology.”
Ideology? On a college campus? The hell you say!
Fandos managed to write an entire story on ideology on campus without bringing up the overwhelming liberal saturation of academia.
Over the course of nearly three decades, Mr. Koch, the billionaire industrialist who has pumped millions into conservative causes, and foundations affiliated with him have put a distinct imprint on key segments of the university. Those foundations have given more than $50 million over the past decade, most of it funneled to pet initiatives affiliated with the university, like the Mercatus Center, an economic think tank that churns out libertarian policy research, and the Institute for Humane Studies, which promotes libertarian philosophy. Mr. Koch sits on the boards of both.
Fandos blithely suggested that conservative positions have no place in academia.
But until the March gift, longtime faculty members said, the conservative influence seemed to stop there. Now, they worry, the university has publicly linked itself to a justice whose views on affirmative action, reproductive rights and same-sex marriage are inappropriate for a university that educates more than 30,000 students from diverse backgrounds.
One can assume the Times would have no problem with a quota-mongering, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion donor being honored by a college, and it certainly wouldn’t run a front-page story on the supposed controversy.
“To name the school after Scalia is so egregious,” said Craig Willse, a cultural studies professor at George Mason who has helped lead the opposition to the change. “He was racist and homophobic. What does it mean for us to associate ourselves with a figure like that -- especially when his views on education run counter to a public university?”
For a supposedly conservative-dominated campus, GMU was full of proud liberal activists willing to criticize the proposed renaming.
Even at the law school, where the faculty’s ideology and curriculum are widely known, some said the renaming had gone too far.
“I think it’s a really important distinction to make that having conservative faculty and learning about Antonin Scalia and his opinions is an important part of the education here,” said Rebecca Bucchieri, a 2015 graduate of the law school. “But branding the entire school and student body with his views is another thing.”
Ms. Bucchieri, who works for a reproductive rights nonprofit, helped organize a letter from more than 275 law students and alumni opposing the change.
“Reproductive rights” of course means “abortion rights,” but Fandos was apparently too queasy to write the word.
Fandos outlined that the gift is contingent upon the school hiring new faculty and expanding its Law and Economics department.
Those provisions have led to concerns from some faculty members that big donors like Mr. Koch are slowly encroaching on the university’s academic independence.
In their view, they have good reason to be wary. The Charles Koch Foundation usually insists on some say in how its money is used, going as far as asking for the right to have a committee it appointed sign off on hires to a new economics program it funded in 2011 at Florida State University.
Fandos seemed disappointed that Virginia’s Democratic governor may not be riding to the rescue of the embattled liberal academics.
With the university’s leadership unlikely to reverse course and Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, unwilling to intervene, according to a spokesman, opponents of the change have rested their hopes on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, a board appointed by the governor that must approve the renaming.