The Pope of North Carolina

Jane Mayer has an important article in the New Yorker about the influence of millionaire Art Pope in North Carolina politics and higher education. Pope funds the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, where director of research George Leef has been one of the loudest voices calling for the defunding of higher education and arguing for downsizing higher education, believing that far fewer students are capable of attending college. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with funding an advocacy organization, although I hope people understand that the proliferation of conservative groups and blogs on higher education is a result of money, not necessarily because they have the correct facts or opinions. More troubling are Mayer’s revelations about how Pope-funded groups directly influence politics in legally questionable ways, and how Pope’s work threatens the academic quality of universities by lobbying for budget cuts and then trying to purchase explicitly right-wing campus programs and classes. Mayer quotes Academe Blog editor-in-chief Cat Warren: “This is an organization that succeeds in getting higher education defunded, and then uses those cutbacks as a way to increase its leverage and influence over course content.” When campus fundraising must appease ideological interests, academic freedom and integrity are imperiled.

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.