Hillsdale College and the University of Missouri (Mizzou) are in the midst of a legal showdown over donor dollars — or more specifically, over a hefty donation from Sherlock Hibbs, a Wall Street financier who died in 2002.
Hibbs’ will allotted $5 million to Mizzou for the purpose of hiring "dedicated and articulate disciples" of the free market — specifically, Austrian economics. However, he installed a caveat: Follow the stipulations of the donation or forfeit the funds to Hillsdale College, a famously conservative institution.
With colleges and universities so ready to leave conservative principles in the dustbin of history, it’s no wonder Hibbs didn’t necessarily trust Mizzou to fulfill the conditions of his donation. And sadly, according to Hillsdale, Hibbs was right to be skeptical all along. The conservative college has filed a lawsuit that challenges Mizzou’s use of the donation.
“[Mizzou] has never appointed a dedicated and articulate disciple of the Ludwig von Mises (Austrian) School of Economics to a Chair or Distinguished Professorship funded by Mr. Hibbs' gift," Hillsdale's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. “Instead, [Mizzou] provided millions of dollars over 15 years to individuals who were not Austrian economists.”
There are currently four professors at Mizzou who are funded by Hibbs' donation: Karen Schnatterly, Dan Turban, Lisa Scheer, and Rhonda Reger. Each scholar signed an oath that he/she is “a dedicated and articulate disciple of the free and open market economy (the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics).” However, according to Hillsdale’s research, not one of these scholars has published on the topic.
Phil Magness, an economic historian and senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, backs this up. “None of the named faculty appear to have any meaningful research in or connection to Austrian economics." Magness continued: "It looks like Missouri accepted the cash, then failed to honor the terms of the donor."
Furthermore, Mizzou refuses to respond to requests for comment regarding these professors’ course curricula. Mizzou's director of media relations, Christian Basi, told Reason’s Robby Soave that evidence of dedication to Mises is “not a requirement of the gift.”
Taking all this into account, Mizzou seems happy to rake in donor money but is unwilling to use it for its intent of funding ideological diversity on campus — which Mizzou desperately needs.
After all, this is the same campus where a street preacher was punched in the face, a professor threatened a student journalist, and the football team vowed to quit if the president of the university didn’t resign. In fact, these antics resulted in enrollment dropping a stunning 35%, forcing the school to shut down seven dorms and lay off more than 400 employees. With stats like that, reverting a donation to Hillsdale should be the least of the school’s worries.
Mizzou’s blatant disregard for the terms of the donation agreement paints the perfect picture of how many colleges and universities are willing to pay lip service to ideological diversity while spitting in its face. Thank God for the institution of Hillsdale, which provides an alternative and conservative voice in the academic marketplace, and is now holding other universities accountable, as well.