In the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s presidential victory Tuesday, Hillsdale College faculty expressed uncertainty over how a Trump administration would affect the college.
Although seven Hillsdale professors and administrators publicly endorsed Trump in September, faculty members said Trump’s policies remain unclear when it comes to higher education. His win, however, does provide a hope for maintaining Hillsdale’s independence better than during a Clinton administration, they said.
When asked how a Trump presidency would affect Hillsdale, President Larry Arnn was honest: “I don’t know,” he said.
But he said he would like to keep Trump to his word.
“The comprehensive independent regulatory state is dangerous to any independent institution,” Arnn told The Collegian. “Trump claims he wants to reduce that. I like that.”
Professor of Politics Thomas West said he wasn’t sure a Trump victory would make a difference for Hillsdale’s state as an independent institution.
The accreditation process, however, is what concerns him the most, West said.
Provost David Whalen, who hasn’t publicly endorsed Trump, said growing requirements from the federal government could harm Hillsdale’s ability to determine its own policies. They may also pressure accreditation agencies into becoming more than peer evaluators but enforcers of administrative policies.
West said, in particular, agencies may have to enforce diversity standards. Hillsdale College doesn’t collect racial information on its student body or faculty, in the spirit of its mission statement, which states it will educate “irrespective of nation, color, or sex.”
“There’s probably going to be pressure to increase the number of minorities,” West said. “It may take a long time for that to happen.”
West, however, added that the college has influence of its own.
“The college has resources to fight back with — publicity,” West said. “The college will get support from parts of the public, no matter who is president.”
Only two employees of Hillsdale donated to Trump’s campaign, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Arnn donated a total of $3,000 to Donald Trump for President Inc. in three payments between Sept. 28 and Oct. 13. No college employees donated to Clinton, according to the FEC.
Arnn said he did his research on the real estate business mogul. In February, he came across an op-ed in the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal with Trump’s byline. In it, Trump calls for a president to rein in the federal government.
“The United States of America is a land of laws, and Americans value the rule of law above all,” Trump said in the article. “Why, then, has our Congress allowed the president and the executive branch to take on near-dictatorial power? How is it that we have a president who will not enforce some laws and who encourages faceless, nameless bureaucrats to manage public lands as if the millions of acres were owned by agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy?”
Arnn said the piece surprised him.
“I regard that speech as superb, and I read it, and I thought, ‘Wow. I wonder who wrote this,’” he said.
Arnn had students in his office look further into what Trump had said on the rule of law and the government’s ownership of property to see if they could find anything unconstitutional from him on those subjects. They couldn’t, Arnn said.
“Over time, I’ve told people that, including people who are very against Donald Trump, and found them surprised,” Arnn said. “I was surprised. It looks to me it is what it is. The article, I think it’s really good. It gets to the heart of the matter, and then I find out it’s not the only thing he’s said on the matter by a long shot. I don’t know who wrote that article, but a lot of those things he’s said out of his own mouth in the context of a debate — more than one — responding to questions. He seems to have absorbed the point.”
Ultimately, the real power rests in bureaucratic agencies, West said. While the president has influence over the top officials in those departments, he said many civil servants in those agencies don’t change with a new president, meaning a win for Trump or Clinton wouldn’t have made too much of a difference concerning the policies the bureaucracy enforces.
“A lot of these regulatory policies have been in place for a long time and would take a long time to change them,” West said. “No matter who wins the election, I don’t expect a drastic change to take place in America in regard to the college.”