• Moon Mythbuster

RMU professors donate overwhelmingly to Democrats, FEC analysis reveals

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

by Julian Gregorio and Selene Cerankosky

Robert Morris University professors who donate to politicians give overwhelmingly to left-wing candidates, an analysis by The Moon Mythbuster found.

Data from the Federal Election Commission shows that current RMU professors’ party support from 2008 to 2019 is severely disproportionate. Of professors who donate, 75 percent give money to Democrats. The disparity in total sums is even greater, as total Democrat donations are 18 times the size of total GOP gifts.

The analysis comes at a time when activists across the nation are scrutinizing classroom bias, and students are more conscious than ever of both left-wing and right-wing slant.

Pinpointing bias can be nebulous, and students’ own biases might cloud their interpretations. Nonetheless, RMU students share activists’ concern that professors’ politics could affect the quality of their education.

In fact, some say they noticed bias in the classroom before they even knew the donation stats.

“My teacher on a daily basis would bash Trump, not exaggerating,” said Austin Isaly.

Another student, Preston Bazala, says he’s convinced an Argument and Research professor gave his paper a bad grade because he bashed CNN. Mr. Bazala had written about fake news and how it helped President Trump win the 2016 election. The paper was solid, he thought — but the professor disagreed.

“You could tell she was left leaning,” Mr. Bazala said. “I don’t like to assume things like that, but there’s no way the paper I wrote deserved the grade it got.”

Students said that the overwhelming disparity is not inherently bad — but that disparity matters if and when it affects the quality of education.

“It’s not disturbing” that most professors donate to Democrats, but “it’s disturbing that they let it get in the way of their job,” Mr. Bazala said.

Robert Morris officials downplayed the extent that party support leeches into the classroom.

“The political affiliations and donations made by faculty and staff are a matter of their own personal preference, and in no way influence how the university does business or presents itself to prospective students,” Jonathan Potts, vice president of marketing and public relations, said in a statement.

Most students who discussed the analysis with The Moon Mythbuster don’t believe their professors actively downgrade conservative or liberal assignments. But James Peli says he noticed a professor criticizing left-wing ideology, and while it didn’t detract from the learning environment, it did irritate him.

“It just got old listening to him talk about how bad communism and socialism was,” said Mr. Peli.

Professor Philip Harold says that RMU is actually more intellectually diverse than other schools, and while not all RMU faculty lean left, he does share the concern that politically homogeneous colleges could quash diversity of thought.

“This kind of homogeneity is troubling,” said Mr. Harold, who is a political science professor and the associate dean for the School of Informatics, Humanities and Social Sciences. “You don't want an echo chamber where everyone shares the same political views and no one has exposure to differing views.”

Mr. Harold said stats show the top-10 U.S. colleges gave 97.5 percent to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“We are much more diverse than other institutions, which is a really good thing,” Mr. Harold added. “Students can be exposed to different views in conversations with their professors, and make up their own minds.”

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