Nothing different between Pope Foundation and other UNC donors

CHAPEL HILL – One of the main criticisms being leveled against a proposed Western Civilization program at UNC-Chapel Hill is that the program would possibly be funded by a conservative philanthropy.

UNC-Chapel Hill leaders approached the John W. Pope Foundation about funding the proposed program. If the Foundation agrees, it could mean a $12 million donation for the school.

A small number of liberal students and professors are protesting the possible donation. They argue any donation from the Foundation is tainted and should not be considered because the Foundation also gives funding to conservative groups that have criticized UNC-Chapel Hill, including the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. They argue that no distinction would be made between the politics of the donor and the direction of the program.

Should the Pope Foundation agree to fund the proposed Western Civilization program, it would hardly be the first time a private foundation with a noticeable political agenda has ever given money to a program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Each year UNC-Chapel Hill receives millions in research grants and donations for various programs at the school. During the 2003 fiscal year, for example, UNC-Chapel Hill received funding from 378 foundations, which gave roughly $44.8 million. Many, including some recent donors, had their own political agendas, but never were those considered justification for turning down the grants. Rather, the donors were hailed and celebrated for contributing to the university’s diversity.

In 2002, the Freeman Foundation gave $2 million to UNC-Chapel Hill to support the school’s Asian studies program. Founded in 1992, the Freeman Foundation is named for Mansfield Freeman who co-founded American International Group Inc., or AIG. The Freeman Foundation, which is based in Vermont, is dedicated to creating an understanding between the United States and the Far East.

The Rockefeller Foundation, in 2001, gave $350,000 to the University Center for International Studies for a four-year program called “Re-imagining Civil Society in an Era of Globalization: The American South in Applied Humanistic Perspectives.” Based in New York, the Rockefeller Foundation is a global organization that seeks to enrich the lives of poor and excluded people.

The GlaxoSmithKline Foundation donated $1.4 million in 2002 to fund a program on Ethnicity, Culture and Health Outcomes. The foundation, based in North Carolina, seeks to meet the health and educational needs of this and future generations.

In 2001, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $200,000 to support the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. Founded in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation attempts to improve equity in education and health throughout the world.

Each of those donations, as those before them, received great fanfare out of UNC-Chapel Hill – and understandably so. News stories discussed how it would help fund a program that would address a serious concern of international importance. Needless to say, university leaders accepted the grant with gladness and excitement with no fist or sign being raised in protest.

Why now? What is the difference between donations made by the Freeman Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and that of the proposed donation by the John W. Pope Foundation?

Also, what is the difference between this possible donation by the John W. Pope Foundation and all the grants the Foundation has already made to UNC-Chapel Hill, including funding for the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the school’s athletics department?


Shannon Blosser ( is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.