As college students across the country return to campuses this fall, the Fund for Academic Reform (FAR), a project of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), is offering new publications for higher education donors . Entitled “Oasis of Excellence,” the guide “identifies more than 80 programs at U.S. colleges and universities that maintain high academic standards and protect diversity of perspectives.”

The Charity Roundtable, in its guidebook Protect Your Legacy, says that giving to higher education can carry risks to the intentions of donors, and that alumni are particularly vulnerable when donating to their alma mater. I am warning you. “If not careful, colleges and college administrators may disregard, creatively interpret, ignore, or directly violate the intentions of donors.” The nostalgic memories and emotions you bring when considering a gift for someone can blind you to these dangers.

But what philanthropists committed to preserving freedom of speech, academic freedom, and diversity of perspectives on our campuses are smart and strategic to reach their goals, rather than abandon higher education institutions. It is very important that you donate generously. The “Oasis of Excellence” is a resource that donors value in their efforts.

This guide also serves as a reminder of what values-based philanthropy can achieve, specifically teaching America’s founding principles. Amherst College James Wilson Institute for Natural Rights and the founding of America are named after him, one of the few who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Founded by Professor Hadley Arkes, his former students, and other his Amherst alumni, the Institute promotes research and understanding of natural rights. At the Roundtable, we believe that the best way to protect the future of democracy is to promote and defend the American ideals that strengthen free societies.

Similarly, at the University of Notre Dame, the Center for Civil Rights and Constitutional Government educates students on Catholic social thought and the ideas and institutions of constitutional government. Its work is supported by individual and institutional donors such as the Napa Institute and the Charles His Koch Foundation.

Interest in teaching America’s founding principles coupled with concern about lack of diversity of perspectives in academia, Lind and Harry Bradley Foundation provides funding to establish the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I decided to The Charles Koch Foundation and individual donors support the Center in the study of liberal democracy and how the institutions of constitutional republics promote free and responsible citizenship.

On a personal note, I consulted FAR prior to the publication of this guide for advice on gifting to my faculty alma mater to celebrate our 50th reunion. They suggested the Tocqueville Forum for Political Understanding at Georgetown University. The forum offers programs “aimed at gaining better knowledge of the underlying political, cultural, and social underpinnings of both the Republican Party and other traditions in America.” It was a great recommendation.

Interested donors can visit “Oases of Excellence” online. Our Roundtable Programs team is ready to help you learn more about the programs listed and the institutions that host them.



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