Colleges had to expect some negative effects after the onslaught of campus protests during the last school year, but The New York Times writes that a "backlash from alumni is an unexpected aftershock of the campus disruptions." The University of Missouri, which has seen a decline in freshman enrollment rates, also took a hit in fundraising and alumni support, and they aren't the only ones.
NYT interviewed alumni from a range of generations who said "university administrations have been too meek in addressing protesters whose messages have seemed to fly in the face of free speech."
Lord Jeff Amherst, who gave his name to the town in Massachusetts and Amherst College, supported killing Native Americans with smallpox blankets. The school has decided to judge him by today's standards rather than by those during the 18th century he lived in. He's since been renounced as the school's unofficial mascot.
"He hated the Indians, because any general in his position would have," said Gordon Hall III, class of '52. He and Don MacNaughton, class of '65, created a booklet about Lord Jeff. MacNaughton paid for his share using money he would have otherwise given to the college.
Robert Longsworth, class of '99, warned about erasing history. "When the administration and faculty and ultimately a lot of the student body spends a great deal of time on witch hunts, I think that a lot of that intellectual rigor is forgone," he said.
Students also protested Thomas Jefferson statues at Mizzou and at William & Mary College. Again, students were judging the former president by today's standards rather than the times they lived in.
At Princeton, students issued a series of demands regarding Woodrow Wilson's affiliation with the school, including that his name be removed. The administration refused to do so, since diversity is achieved "not by tearing down names from the past but rather being more honest about our history, including the bad parts of our history," according to President Christopher Eisgruber.
Still, after seeing a record high the year before, undergraduate alumni donations dropped 6.6 percent. Participation rates dropped 1.9 percentage points.
At Yale, students interrupted a free speech conference. They also maligned college master Nicholas Christakis for his failure "to create a place of comfort and home," and his wife, Erika, who wrote a letter criticizing students for their overreaction to Halloween costumes.
"I don't think anything has damaged Yale's brand quite like that," said Scott Johnson, class of '82. "The worst part is that campus administrators are wilting before the activists like flowers."
According to Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart, the alumni fund was flat between this year and the year before.
The amount of alumni donations at Amherst dropped 6.5 percent for the fiscal year, with participation in the alumni fund dropping to 50.6 percent, the lowest participation rate since 1975. The amount raised from big donors also decreased significantly. President Carolyn Martin said she's not surprised that student protests have contributed to the decline in fundraising. She at least ought to be concerned.