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Faculty presidential campaign contributions favor Democrats

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson/61056391


Faculty at Drake University feel so strongly about this election, they’re dipping into their own wallets to impact the race.

An overwhelming majority of donors employed at Drake are tipping the scales in Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s favor.

One staff member and 15 professors have donated to candidates ahead of the 2016 presidential primary and general election.

Democrats Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton received donations from 12 faculty members. Only one professor and one staff member have donated to Republican Donald Trump.

Drake has no policy that bars professors or staff from donating to political campaigns.

Associated Professor of Journalism Lee Jolliffe, Ph.D., has donated over $800 to Clinton this election cycle.

“I have particularly wanted Hillary for President ever since she said she didn’t have a cookie recipe because she was a professional woman in 1992,” Jolliffe said.

“And then when she said in Beijing in 1995 that ‘Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,’ and called them out for murdering their baby girls, she won my heart. I thought, ‘Bill can be president now but Hillary should be president soon.’”

But on the Republican side of this presidential campaign, Drake professors have shied away from Trump, by and large.

“We’re an endangered species,” said Chip Miller, Ph.D., professor of business and public administration.

Miller feels it is “the responsibility of the electorate” to donate to a candidate.

“I have seen what happens when people have the power of the purse to just buy elections,” Miller said.

Miller believes that donating is necessary because he can’t expect candidates, even if they are billionaires, to fund their own campaign.

“If I want them to win, they are not going to if I am sitting on the sidelines,” Miller said.

Miller said he does not publicly support Trump via bumper stickers or yard signs because “voting behavior is my own, nobody else’s business.”

Campaign contributions are public record.

Sharon Hart, a grader in the School of Education, donated $300 to the Trump campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Hart also did not return requests to comment for this article.

Drake College Republicans President Logan Kentner says the discrepancy can be chalked up to the typical number of Democrats or liberals employed at universities.

“A lot of (the discrepancy), I would say, (is) that there (are) not as many Republican professors as there are Democrat. I think that is (true of) just higher education in general,” Kentner said.  “I think that’s not me trying to play ‘poor me’ or anything, but that’s just the way it is, I think.”

Another reason we may not see donations from Republican professors this cycle, Kentner said, is due to the fear of backlash.

“I think that’s something that unfairly hits the Republican Party,” Kentner said. “I would argue some of the views of Bernie Sanders or some of the things Hillary Clinton have said or done could also be just as polarizing. Obviously, I’m not going to say Trump hasn’t said things that are inappropriate, but I would argue that there are certain things that people should be weary about supporting Democratic candidates as well.”

Several faculty members that donated to Republicans Bush in 2000 and 2004 or McCain in 2008 have not donated this cycle for the businessman’s presidential bid. In regards to the presidential race, many members of the faculty have either donated to Democrats or, in many cases, not at all, with the exception of one $250 donation to Ben Carson’s short-lived candidacy.

Trump’s unpredictable sayings and positions may play a part, at least, Kentner said.

“I think, specifically with educated people, (Trump) has had a drop off in his poll numbers,” Kentner said. “Obviously all professors are educated and most staff (are) as well, so I think that has something to do with it. Saying you support Trump in this election is difficult just because you never know what could come next, you never know what he could say next … Some people will hold back support for him.”

Drake Democrats President Caroline Closson thinks the lack of donations to Trump from professors is a byproduct of his policy.

“I think it’s due to this being a very unique election where a lot of folks that have not supported, or at least donated to, Democrats outright have, due to the fear of what Trump would do if elected, particularly with educators,” Closson said. “Trump has shown interest in cutting the entire federal education budget, so I would imagine that the majority of (the) Drake staff have a huge problem with that.”

Some professors have taken their involvement in the election beyond donations.

Jolliffe describes her dedication to the campaign as “more than money.”

“I am deeper in the Hillary campaign than I’ve ever been in a campaign,” Jolliffe said. “In July of 2015, I had 300 Twitter followers and I thought Twitter was kind of stupid. But the campaign said they really needed some people to build up a Twitter following and tweet truth about Hillary because there were so many myths and lies out there.”

Since then, Jolliffe has garnered nearly 20,000 followers on her account, one that is “proudly blocked by (Green Party candidate) Jill Stein,” according to the account biography.

“I’m really pretty careful to keep Drake away from that (Twitter account), a separate entity,” Jolliffe said.

In terms of professors showing bias in class, Kentner expressed concerns.

“Honestly, I don’t know how appropriate it is that they donate in the first place, I guess,” Kentner said. “For either candidate, just because of the polarizing effect that it has. I can say I’ve never been blatantly discriminated (against) for any views that I’ve had.”

Kentner cited Professor Rachel Paine Caufield as an example of a professor who has not donated to political campaigns to remain as unbiased as possible.

Closson said that despite any donations to political candidates, she hasn’t had any negative experiences with professors from bias.

“In my politics and strategic political communications classes, I have had nothing but professionalism with all of my professors,” Closson said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle they are, they always go out of their way to make sure that everyone feels like they have a voice in these politics.”

In course evaluations from last year, Jolliffe said that only a few students noted her politics as an issue.

“Probably out of the 180 students I taught last year, I had three say ‘You know, I wish you weren’t so liberal,’ or something, on the course evaluation,” Jolliffe said.

As a professor, Jolliffe acknowledges that her politics are unhidden.

“I think I’m more open about my politics than I should be,” Jolliffe said. “I try not to, but it just seeps out of my pores, you know?”

Jolliffe said that her first year seminar students held a wide range of political views, from campaigning for Texas Senator Ted Cruz to Clinton’s Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders

“I try to bend over backward to be fair, just because my views are easy to find. They kind of stick out all over me in some ways,” Jolliffe said.  “So I try to make a point that I help in every direction.”

The information from this article is sourced from the FEC database, which is searchable by name and employer.

The information is as current as the most recent FEC filing date.

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