A $50 million gift to George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School earlier this year, from the estate of Allison and Dorothy Rouse, has some faculty members worried about its implications for academic freedom. Documents obtained by the group UnKoch My Campus and shared last week show that the Rouse trust ordered that the funds be used “as an endowment to fund a chair or chairs that will promote the conservative principles of governance, statesmanship, high morals, civil and religious freedom and the study of the U.S. Constitution.” The Associated Press reported that the university says the trust has no role in selecting professors, and that the curricular specification is nothing unusual. But when a campus gift committee reviewed the deal last year, administrators omitted the word “conservative,” according to minutes of the meeting. The university said minutes are a snapshot and that the committee reviewed the gift agreement in full. But some professors contend the omission is meaningful, especially considering past concerns about funding at George Mason.
Alarms have sounded about one of George Mason’s former faculty members in recent days, as well. The Star Tribune reported that the Charlemagne Institute, a Minnesota think tank dedicated to what it calls “defending and advancing Western civilization,” parted ways with senior fellow John Elliott for praising white nationalism and Adolf Hitler in a private email group known as “Morning Hate.” Elliott previously directed the journalism program at the Institute for Humane Studies, a Charles Koch Foundation-funded think tank at George Mason. He left in 2013. Splinter News first reported on Elliott’s comments. It notes that he drew former mentees into the group, including a former intern from George Mason. Elliott told Splinter that he apologized for his comments and rejects white nationalism.