Founders College was conceived as a unique education model, a
correction to what its planners see as rampant political correctness,
puffball classes (Queer Musicology at UCLA, The Horror Film in Context
at Bowdoin), diversity and liberalism in higher education today.
Instead of a hodgepodge of class choices as students have at most
colleges, students are put on a specific, sequential track focusing on
literature, history, economics and philosophy.
Instead of professors able to earn tenure for life, professors would be
given short-term contracts and expected to forgo tenure.
And how has the education establishment reacted?
If a story back in a July 2007 edition of the Chronicle of Higher
Education is any indication, the answer is: not so welcoming.
The college “looks like it’s beginning to crumble,” the story says,
adding, “Even so, students are still applying.”
The newer Inside Higher Ed also covered the college’s search for a home
the summer prior and said the plan was “raising some eyebrows.”
The college was initially envisioned as one applying the Objectivist
philosophy of the writer Ayn Rand, which emphasizes self-reliance,
rationalism and laissez-faire capitalism. Over time, Founders has
stepped away from that platform, and has substituted “rational” as a
description of its educational content.
Then, Founders took heat for that.
Objectivist message boards and blogs have been lit up for months with
arguments pro and con: Would Founders stay true to its Objectivists
underpinnings? Was a distancing not necessary to be marketable?
Objectivism also typically looks askance at religion, which has caused
consternation among a few Halifax County preachers but otherwise has
done little to dim local enthusiasm for the project.
A Founders student and a former employee who both identified themselves
as devout Christians said they never had issues reconciling their
Objectivism, perhaps due to its high regard for capitalism, counts
among its fans a number of the well-heeled or famous: former Federal
Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger and
BB&T bank CEO John Allison.
Allison’s BB&T Charitable Trust has made a mission of funding business
education, most notably for the last nine years at Duke’s Program on
Values and Ethics in the Marketplace (where Dr. Gary Hull, the
Founders’ visionary, is director). Other recipients of donations to
“study the moral foundations of capitalism,” according to BB&T, are
Virginia Tech, many of the UNC schools, Clemson and University of
Virginia, among others.
In 2006, Meredith College, in Raleigh, N.C., turned down $450,000 from
the foundation after the faculty balked at having donors determine
course content, according to that area’s Independent Weekly newspaper.