N.C. State considers Pope money | Wake County | Indy Week
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N.C. State considers Pope money 

Faculty objects, calling foundation funding tainted by conservative agenda

When Toby Parcel, the dean of NCSU's College of Humanities and Social Sciences, read that the conservative John William Pope Foundation and UNC-Chapel Hill were splitsville on that Pope-funded "western cultures curriculum" idea, and that Pope might give its money to "other universities" instead, she did what any fund-raising dean would do, right? She got a meeting with Art Pope, who heads the foundation and myriad political causes besides. Maybe he'd like to pay for something at CHASS?

Without, though, as Parcel emphasized to a meeting of concerned faculty on Monday, it getting "interpreted as a matter of control." That's how the Chapel Hill faculty came to see the Pope Foundation's offer, she said, even though what was being talked about over there didn't strike her as "radically new."

Still, she added, her talk with Pope—very general, nothing specific—was about funding something CHASS already does, like a study-abroad program, or getting some money for out-of-fashion French and German language scholars. (All the kids are taking Spanish, Parcel said.) In other words, what Pope pays for needn't be "new, or massive."

So here was her question: "Are there conditions under which we might apply to the Pope Foundation?"

To which most of the three dozen faculty members who attended, and spoke, said: "No."

Their reason: The Pope-funded Center for Higher Education, and its anti-academic, anti-intellectual agenda, and its close relation, the Pope-funded John Locke Foundation.

"Their conclusions are always aimed at denigrating women, minorities and academic freedom," said Sheila Smith-McKoy, head of diversity studies at CHASS. "I wouldn't want to take money from the KKK or the Nation of Islam [either],"

Well, sure, Parcel said, the center's work is "deplorable and counterproductive." But it's separate from the foundation.

And as it turns out, the foundation is already giving money to a program in CHASS—a five-year, $511,000 grant to the political science and economics programs pays for guest speakers, some faculty and student research, and a club called the Society for Politics, Economics & Law. It's "a libertarian approach," political scientist Andy Taylor explained, with "minimal to no strings" since Taylor's in charge of it and it was something he wanted to do anyway.

However, Taylor also said that "a lot of the research that comes out of [the Center for Higher Education] is pretty shoddy."

And Cat Warren, head of women's studies (and occasional Indy contributor), said it's worse than that. The center's staff, she told the group, has gone out of its way to make her work "fairly miserable," with a barrage of freedom-of-information requests and the release of a report about her program that she called "inane crap." It was riddled with inaccuracies, she said, and called the faculty "man-hating proto-Marxists."

Why, then, Warren and several others asked Parcel, would NCSU want to lend respectability to Pope's efforts by taking its money and letting it get a foot in the door of the university?

Said Parcel: "It's input we asked for. Now we have to put it all into the hopper."

So will CHASS apply to Pope? "I don't know yet," Parcel said.

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