Faculty, staff donate $255K to candidates

Bulk of University employees’ federal campaign contributions go to Obama, database indicates


Charlottesville City voters can cast ballots at Venable School, above, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Thomas Bynum | The Cavalier Daily

University professors may maintain impartiality in the classroom, but many in this year’s presidential election took a partisan stance, donating thousands of dollars to political campaigns.

Employees at the University made more than $255,000 in reported campaign donations this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, a database run by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Political candidates are required under the Federal Election Campaign Act to report individual campaign donations of more than $200 by collecting and reporting the person’s name and employer. Reported data is made available in public documents.

University donors leaned left. President Barack Obama received roughly $131,000, the bulk of reported funds. Donors from the University contributed about $19,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign. Tim Kaine’s campaign received $42,575.

Among the 10 University donors who made at least one $2,500 contribution — the contribution limit per candidate per election — six are Law School faculty, two are professors in the College and two are architecture faculty members. Ten individuals have made donations totaling more than $4,000 – including six Law School faculty, one Medical School professor, an associate sociology professor, one architecture professor and one graduate student in English.

Assoc. History Prof. Max Edelson said although professors may make partisan campaign contributions, political bias in the classroom is not a major concern. “I think most of us know that we have a private political life, and we have a separate academic life, and we can keep them separate and balanced,” Edelson said.

Students agreed, saying because they are already aware faculty members have individual political views outside of the classroom, their campaign contributions are not an issue.

Second-year College student Shannon Bush said she did not think bias had been a major concern for students in the months leading up to the election. “I don’t really feel like it’s much of an issue, because they already have the political leaning either way,” she said. “So their political funding shouldn’t indicate a greater bias either way in the classroom.”

Campaign contributions from politically active University staff and faculty is common across higher education institutions. Harvard employees donated more than $1.9 million this election cycle, and University of Texas employees contributed more than $680,000.

The University leads Virginia schools in aggregate donations, with Virginia Commonwealth University employees contributing roughly $47,000 and Virginia Tech faculty contributing $53,238.

The analysis did not include contributions less than $200, which candidates are not obliged to disclose.

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