Thanks to Instapundit, I ran across this little item regarding Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s decision to forego a $115 million gift to Harvard. The reason? He had a relationship with Larry Summers, and no Summers, no gift.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the battle against intellectual tyranny on campus has been the persistent willingness of wealthy Americans to fund institutions that actively despise them, their values, and the culture that made their wealth possible. It is difficult to persuade administrators that fundamental problems exist in modern higher education when the objective market indicators (such as student enrollment and alumni giving) often show record returns. With donors uninterested in holding administrations to account, there is very little pressure for reform. Money does talk, after all.
At almost any other university than Harvard, Ellison’s decision would have a shattering impact. Harvard, however, will sail through just fine. Its endowment, after all, is larger than the GNP of most countries, and it could replace Ellison’s lost gift without even dipping into principal. What is most important is the precedent. All across America, donors large and small are negotiating their own gifts with their own alma maters. They need to heed Ellison’s example and understand that the fifty yard line (or the skybox) is not the best location for viewing and understanding the modern university.
Bravo, Larry Ellison. Now I only hope he can withstand the pressure to change his mind.