“The Price of Philanthropy” – May-June 2012 Issue of Academe

When does philanthropy cross the line? That’s the question we are looking at in the newest issue of Academe, now posted online.

Over the next few days, I’ll be highlighting a few of the feature articles, but before I do, I wanted to talk about the issue as a whole, because I think it’s a particularly good one. The theme is “The Price of Philanthropy.” What happens when outside groups donate money to colleges and universities with the expectation of getting something in return? When is such reciprocity generally accepted—say, naming a building after a donor—and when is it not—say, requiring the school to assign certain books or insisting on control of the curriculum?

The background, of course, is that schools around the country are in financial trouble, making large gifts even more appealing. And if those gifts come with strings attached, well, they can be overlooked for the sake of finances. In fact, one administrator quoted in this issue says that it would have been irresponsible not to accept the gift in question. And don’t all gifts come with some kind of expectation? Shouldn’t donors have a say in how their money is used?

You can see that these questions can get very tricky, very fast. The articles in the May-June Academe will help sort through them, and help you watch out for potentially similar situations on your own campus. It’s a fascinating and highly relevant topic—click here to read the issue.

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