Monday, October 01, 2007

What's not to like about a $200 million gift 

Claremont McKenna College, one of the Claremont consortium where I attended grad school and where I spent a year visiting, has Claremont McKenna received a $200-million gift from a philanthropist.
The donation is from Robert Day, a college alumnus and trustee who is founder and chairman of the Trust Co. of the West, an investment management firm headquartered in downtown Los Angeles. Forbes magazine recently estimated Day's fortune at $1.6 billion and ranked him 297 in its listing of the 400 richest Americans.

His gift is unusual for its huge size in relation to the small college, which enrolls just 1,140 students and specializes in public policy and economics.

The gift, which has sparked some debate on campus, would create Claremont McKenna's first graduate program, a one-year master's for 50 students that would entail the hiring of eight professors. In addition, as many as 50 students from all five undergraduate schools at the Claremont Colleges consortium would be eligible for senior year grants requiring them to take courses in finance, accounting and leadership psychology.
Well, what's not to like about this? Ben Casnocha explains that because of the school's classical liberal tradition, quoting from a lovely history of the school by government Prof. Ward Elliot. (I know him, but not well.)

So the debate on campus is over what, giving that money to a single department, or is it because it's THAT department? From the Times article:
Some professors, while recognizing the generosity, said they worried that the money could tilt the college too much toward economics and financial studies. A letter to Gann, drafted by literature department chairman Robert Faggen and signed by other literature professors, said they are concerned that the gift will "distort the college into a single focus trade school."

Government professor Andrew Busch, who is an associate dean of faculty, said most people are grateful for the money and think it fits well with the college's overall mission. Still, he added, "Any time you have a fairly small college and receive such a large gift, there are some questions about the parts of the college that don't receive the gift and where this puts them."
It puts you in the position of trying to use the grant to free up the college's other funds to give more to the literature department. But some lefties on the campus seem unhappy about this.