Faculty donations lean toward Obama

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series examining UT officials’ political donations. This installment examines contributions made by UT faculty members.

The College of Liberal Arts faculty has outspent all other UT colleges and schools in political contributions since 2008. Leading up to the elections earlier this month, UT professors gave almost ten times as much to President Barack Obama as to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Liberal arts professors donated $235,590 to political campaigns and political action committees in the past five years, according to fillings compiled by The Daily Texan from the Texas Ethics Commission and the Federal Election Commission. With 692 professors as of 2011, the College of Liberal Arts is the University’s largest college.

Campaign contributions made by UT professors from all colleges and schools totaled $791,472 since 2008.

Reported figures for contributions by professors include all professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers who identified the University as their employer in state and federal filings. State and federal guidelines do not require individual contributors to disclose their employer, and individuals with multiple employers can choose which employer to list or opt not to include one.

UT spokesperson Tara Doolittle recently told the Daily Texan that campaign contributions fall under an individual’s right to free speech.

“As long as University resources or official positions are not used to advocate or influence political activity, employees are free to participate in the political system,” Doolittle said.

The School of Law, which had 117 faculty members as of 2011, making it the fifth largest college in terms of professors, had the second highest amount of contributions, totaling $191,359. The Cockrell School of Engineering was third, contributing $144,185 between its 245 professors.

Other colleges or schools with a high number of faculty contributions include the College of Natural Sciences with $139,840 from 556 professors, the McCombs School of Business with $59,042 from 153 professors and the College of Education with $32,241 from 178 professors.

Faculty contributions have steadily increased over the past five years and spiked in 2011 and 2012. Faculty members also tend to donate more to federal candidates and PACs than to state candidates or PACs.

Faculty members also contributed regularly to presidential and congressional races — contributing $46,662 to presidential candidates and individuals running for U.S. Senate in 2012, according to opensecrets.org, which is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Barack Obama received $46,346 in contributions from faculty members. Republican candidate Mitt Romney received $4,650.

Despite the overwhelming preference for giving to Democratic committees and candidates, representatives of UT Democratic and Republican student political groups said personal political preferences don’t necessarily translate to bias in the classroom.

Leslie Tisdale, president of University Democrats said she believes political contributions made by faculty should not dictate their objectivity in the classroom.

“I, as a student, contribute my time because I don’t have much money,” she said. “[Professors] might not have that much time so they contribute in other ways.”

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said it is usual for professors to donate to Democratic candidates but political affiliation does not always transfer into the classroom.

“I don’t think they are professors who are specifically biased, but it is a more systemic kind of bias — a more professional bias, per say,” Zeng said.

Zeng said political ideologies might structure course material to cover specific topics and teaching methodologies, but allowing broad discussion in the classroom can truncate biases.