Maverick writer Heather Mac Donald reports on an interesting phenomenon — philanthropic alumni who are doing what college presidents and trustees have failed to do: breaking the left’s monopoly on campus life by not giving them money.
“Their strategies are very different from most big-time college giving, which too often funds some of today’s more regrettable violations of scholarly seriousness. One of Harvard’s most prominent benefactors, Sidney R. Knafel (Harvard AB ’52, MBA ’54), is a prime example of misguided philanthropy. Chairman of Insight Communications, the nation’s ninth-largest cable company, with a market value of some $2.1 billion, Knafel has recently forked over a juicy $1.5 million to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, a font of feminist grievance and left-wing posturing.
“The Radcliffe Institute supports some of the silliest academic orthodoxies around — a belief that knowledge, gender, and race are ‘socially constructed’ rather than based on any reality, a fascination with homosexuality, and an obsession with endemic American sexism and racism. At the end of this past academic year, the institute brought two prominent feminist journalists to lecture on campus. Susan Faludi — whose 1991 bestseller, Backlash, argued that the ‘patriarchy’ was trying to re-enslave women — claimed preposterously to her Radcliffe audience that 9/11 had triggered yet another ‘backlash against feminism.’ Barbara Ehrenreich, who lectured on ‘Weird Science: Challenging Sexist Ideology since the 1970s,’ is a fierce critic of the economic system that made donor Knafel a megamillionaire. American capitalism, in her eyes, is a racket whereby the privileged perpetually exploit the underprivileged.”
Mr. Knafel made his bequests to the Radcliffe Institute in honor of his mother and mother-in-law. “Did he fully understand what his $1.5 million would be funding?” asks Mac Donald. He has said that he believes that his mother-in-law would have been proud of being honored at the Institute. But would she really if they could decode the arcane language of feminist academics?
“Knafel’s other honoree — his mother, Lillian Gollay Knafel — would probably have been just as bewildered by the Radcliffe Institute. Whereas Mrs. Knafel, a founder of a League of Women Voters chapter in suburban New York, worked on World War II war-bond drives, the Radcliffe Institute will be deconstructing war and gender next fall with a conference entitled ‘In the War Zone: How Does Gender Matter?’ Topics will include ‘Home Front / Battle Front: The Gendered Geography of War.’…
“In fact, quite a few more effective directions suggest themselves, such as studying how Western ideals of freedom and women’s rights can be exported to repressive societies, or how to strengthen marriage in the inner city so that children can be raised with the guidance of their fathers and women don’t live in poverty.'”
To give wisely, donors must learn what’s behind academic jargon.