Public records show that Rice University employees have given 87 percent of their campaign contributions to liberal or Democratic organizations since 2000, while 10 percent of the contributions have gone toward those that are associated with Republicans.
Other universities have reported similar findings. The Harvard Crimson recently reported Harvard University faculty to have donated 84 percent of their political contributions to Democratic causes between 2011 and the third quarter of 2014. Similarly, the Daily Princetonian reported 99 percent of contributions from Princeton University faculty were donated to Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
Rice’s findings are analogous with those of most peer institutions despite the fact that Rice finds its home in Texas — a state whose electoral votes have gone to Republican candidates in every presidential election since 1980. In comparison, Harvard and Princeton are both in states that have voted blue for over 20 years.
The disproportionality between donations to Republicans and Democrats is most evident in presidential election years. For the 2008 presidential election, 93.2 percent of contributions made by Rice faculty were given to either Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama; 6.8 percent were to Republican candidates Ron Paul, John McCain or Mitt Romney.
Faculty donations have gradually decreased since the early 2000s. In the 2008 election, faculty donated a total of $61,743.93 whereas in 2012, $37,548.40 was donated. So far, 2016 presidential candidates have received a total of $14,467.60 from Rice faculty.
Nine of out of the top 10 contributors donated to Democratic causes; only one gave to Republican causes.
Diana Strassmann, director of Rice’s poverty, justice and human capabilities program, is the university’s greatest contributor. Between 2000 and 2015, Strassmann donated $78,200, all going to liberal or Democratic organizations. Recipients include President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Emily’s List, a political action committee dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.
Strassmann did not respond to a request for comment.
Rice’s second-greatest contributor is Anne Chao, an adjunct history lecturer who focuses on the field of modern Chinese history. Chao is also part of the poverty, justice and human capabilities program and currently serves as a member of the advisory board for multiple centers on campus, including the Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality. Chao’s contributions accumulate to $30,750 to liberal political action committees such as Emily’s List and candidates including Hillary Clinton.
Jeff Smiseck, Strassmann’s husband, is on Rice’s board of trustees. Smiseck is the former CEO of United Airlines, having resigned in September 2015 over his breach of ethics.
Chao’s husband, Albert Chao, is also a member of Rice’s board of trustees. While Smiseck has not donated to any campaigns, Albert Chao has donated to Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz.
According to Chao, faculty’s political opinions are not intentionally passed down to students.
“Most of my colleagues normally do not voice their personal political views in class, and if they do, are very aware not to impose their views on the students,” Chao said.
The data shown was gathered through the Federal Elections Commission’s publicly displayed records of donations made to federal election candidates and political action committees.
Since the FEC only displays contributions equal to or above $200, calculated numbers may not account for all of the contributions made during the year.
Data includes contributions made by donors who listed Rice University as their employer. The time range of contributions was limited to the last 16 years. The data was not further refined based on occupation. For instance, the data was not sorted by donations made solely by “professors.”
Party affiliations of federal election candidates and political action committees were considered to organize contributions into categories: Democratic and Republican. A third category was used for donations to nonpartisan PACs, third parties or centrist groups not affiliated with a particular party.