As the Director of the Freedom Project, I speak for all involved in welcoming attention to our exciting new venture to promote freedom of expression, pluralism, and tolerance on campus.
I must write, however, to clarify some errors in fact and unsubstantiated assertions made in your recent Wellesley Staff Editorial in the March 1 issue. Your first error of fact is contained within the first line of your editorial, in which you state: “Following an announcement that the Freedom Project had accepted a large donation from the Charles Koch foundation, the Wellesley student community voiced aggravation and dissatisfaction with the College’s decision to permit this transfer of funds.” You do not specify which elements of the “Wellesley student community,” give any empirical facts on such numbers, or insinuate a homogeneity of community that may not be present (or at least only present in one or the other bubbles of homogeneous thinking that exist at Wellesley College).
Indeed, dozens of students from all walks of life, who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who share a wide variety of political beliefs, have enjoyed, historically, the generosity of the Koch family and many other Wellesley donor families.
Your main error of fact is more serious. You assert that, in regard to the generous gift from the Charles Koch Foundation, “…we at the Wellesley News are disappointed that such information was not publicly disclosed to the student body.”
This is patently false: The Freedom Project has always been 100% transparent about the sources of its funding, including those funds from the Charles Koch Foundation. We announced this grant, and a generous matching grant, last December, and have announced all our donations and grants in the Academic Council, the membership of which includes representatives of student government. My understanding of the way that the system is designed, is that those representatives should be reporting back to their student constituencies on the matters that come before the Academic Council. If they are not doing that, it is not a problem with our transparency, but with a failure of student representatives to accurately convey the information they receive in Academic Council.
In addition, The Wellesley News wrote a recent article on the Freedom Project, in which I, as Director, was completely open and transparent about our sources and funding. In that article, I noted emphatically that our speakers reflect a wide range of viewpoints, values, and beliefs and that the Freedom Project enjoys 100 percent autonomy under the principles of academic freedom. To insinuate that we are somehow fostering the political agendas of our donors is to do injustice to me — personally — the Freedom Project, the remarkably diverse students involved in the Project, and the largess of our generous donors. Had the staff members who wrote this editorial taken the time, as good investigative reporters should, they would have discovered that there are no specifications for how this money is to be spent that are determined by any outside sources of funding. There was not even a feeble attempt on your part to actually look at our diverse speakers over the years to give the community a responsible and fair account of what we have done on campus.
In the future, I would suggest that critics of the Freedom Project or any other initiative on campus exert responsibility in accurately conveying what our programs and other programs actually do. This seems to be basic requisite of being fair and just.
All members of our community have access to our new website: www.wellesley. edu/freedomproject, where they can get factual representation of what we do.
Deffenbaugh de Hoyos Carlson Professor in the Social Sciences
Professor of Sociology
Director, The Freedom Project at Wellesley College