Money and the Academy:  Academic Freedom at Meredith College


Fall 2004:  Pres. Hartford makes initial inquiry to John Allison, Chairman and CEO of BB&T about applying for funding from the BB&T Foundation.

Oct. 21, 2004:  Mr. Allison encourages Pres. Hartford, telling her that independent colleges like Meredith might expect a “$250,000 five year contribution” used for a purpose such as that found at other schools funded by the Foundation.

February 9, 2005:  Pres. Hartford submits a proposal for $447,000 over five years to the BB&T Foundation.  This proposal was developed by Dr. Hartford, members of Institutional Advancement, and two faculty members (an Assoc. Prof. of Religion & Philosophy and an Ass’t Prof. of Business).  These professors developed a new course, including the course description and how the money would be spent.  This was a detailed and far-ranging proposal that anticipated a joint appointment between the Depts. of Business and Religion & Philosophy.

Spring 2005:  This first proposal was not approved by Mr. Allison.

Summer 2005:  Pres. Hartford, the Ass’t Prof. of Business, and the Dean of Special Programs began work on a new proposal.

July 1, 2005:  A new proposal was sent to BB&T asking for “$450,000 over the next five years to support the study of capitalism.”  This alternate proposal did not include a joint appointment between the two departments and instead directed the gift to the Honors Program.  This proposal:

  1. Outlined a course for Honors students (Colloquium) also open to upper-level Business majors that would “focus on the American ideals of democracy and capitalism and require extensive reading, including Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and The Road to Serfdom by Frederick A. Hayek.
  2. Provide support for faculty and student research on individual rights and capitalism through the Undergraduate Research Program
  3. Support guest speakers at Meredith who will focus on ethics, values and philosophy in business as part of the President’s Speaker Series.
  4. Provide all incoming honors students with a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

August 8, 2005:  Mr. John Allison of BB&T bestowed a $420,000 contribution to Meredith payable over 7 years in $60,000 annual installments beginning Oct. 2005.  The funds provided are to be used as outlined in the proposal as sent by Dr. Hartford on July 1, 2005. 

Fall 2005:  Honors Program Committee begins discussions about the BB&T gift.

November 2005:  Honors Program Committee is divided and requests for Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) to make a decision regarding whether the College should accept this gift. 

December 9, 2005:  At a joint meeting of the FAC and the newly-formed Faculty Council, FAC took a vote on the decision of whether to accept the BB&T gift with the conditions (excerpts of report below). 

      1.  We consider the process that led to the college’s accepting the current terms of the grant to have been seriously flawed. The College Handbook clearly states that the faculty is responsible for curriculum, and FAC firmly maintains that no funds should be accepted in situations where a donor appears to have played any role in curricular decisions. …

      2.  However, since the current agreement was made at a time when we had no specific procedure in place addressing how and when an elected body of the faculty will become involved when a gift is tied to any curricular issue, FAC proposes that we accept the BB&T honors gift on the condition that the honors colloquium … pass review by the Academic Council before … [it] is offered.  We see this as a positive solution to the concern about this flawed process… . 

April 4, 2006:  Academic Council approved the course along with a resolution (reading in part):
“that the faculty teaching this course … are free to design the course with no pre-conditions.  Faculty teaching the course must have the freedom to choose appropriate readings and other course materials within the guidelines of academic freedom and academic responsibility.  Further be it resolved that any funding obtained for the College that includes conditions that the Faculty interpret to be restrictions on academic freedom cannot be used to support the development and implementation of this course or any course.”

April 6, 2006:  Documents concerning the BB&T gift were shared with a local reporter.

April 7, 2006:  At the All-College Faculty meeting faculty voted to both approve Academic Council’s recommendation to add the course to the College Catalog and also to adopt the resolution that was issued by Academic Council.

Fall 2006:  BB&T rescinded the remainder of the grant.