Supporters describe it as a fund created by alumni to support interests they have at the university, in this case the study of Western civilization and free market economics.Almost? No, I'm afraid that it is way beyond "almost a disdain."
But many professors see it as much more — as a move by conservative alumni with influential national support to bypass normal faculty governance, create new courses and impose ideological tests on who gets certain pots of money. The alumni who have given the money for the effort, currently housed at the university’s foundation, are explicit that they want a formal role in who gets money from the fund, the views those people should have, and the eventual goal of creating a new version of the Hoover Institution at a top public university, with the ambition of inspiring others to follow their model.
As a result of those statements and other concerns, professors at the university are debating whether the new academy is appropriate for the university. Some like the program, others think it could work with certain oversight provisions, and others find the entire idea questionable. With the program about to kick off formal activities and the Senate at the university preparing to vote on oversight proposals for the academy, the debate is heating up. And the debate comes at a time that critics of academe are increasingly embracing a model of creating free-standing centers to sponsor fellowships, courses, lectures and other activities around such themes as American history, Western civilization, and free markets.
Vermette, a businessman and investor who is a former president of the university’s alumni association, said that the program came out of the conviction that key ideas are lost on too many students, and that money coming into higher education doesn’t change that. “I just have been concerned that the young people in particular are not being exposed to the value of free market capitalism and also limited government at our great universities,” he said. “There is almost a disdain for the free market.”
The new program will sponsor educational programs (the development of new courses or new curriculum for courses), lectures, conferences, research and more. The programs will all be based on “free market capitalism,” Vermette said, citing the ideas of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and the Austrian economics school of such libertarian thinkers at Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Vermette said that the founders of the center “very much want to work with faculty” at Illinois to support these programs. “We’ll work within the system,” he said.The left is upset because the values that they are trying to promote might not survive a serious academic challenge--and there's little or no chance of that in most public universities today.
Vermette stressed that the founders weren’t trying to exclude professors, but he also said that the donors anticipated having a real role in determining who gets support through the fund. Faculty members, he said, “will help us decide what programs are acceptable.” If professors at the university don’t want to get involved, he said, “we’ll bring in adjunct faculty when we need to,” he added.