Press Releases

ACTA Survey Reveals Major Dissatisfaction Among Davidson College Donors Over the State of Free Speech on Campus

November 4, 2021 by ACTA

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has released the results of an anonymous email survey of major donors to Davidson College conducted between September 23 and October 12, 2021. Three hundred and twelve of 1,114 recipients completed the survey for a response rate of 28%. The survey focused on a group of donors whose philanthropy is highly important to the college, almost all of whom are also Davidson alumni. They were asked about their perceptions of free speech protections on campus, the importance of viewpoint diversity and ideological balance, and changes in their giving habits in recent years. The survey revealed a widespread view that the Davidson campus is ideologically biased and exposed alarming levels of dissatisfaction, which has led many donors to decrease their philanthropic giving. The survey also found overwhelming support for freedom of expression and ideological balance on the faculty and board of trustees.  

  • 59% of donors surveyed said that they are “somewhat” (24%) or “very” (35%) dissatisfied with the direction that Davidson College has taken “over the last decade” (38% said they are “somewhat” or “very” satisfied). 
  • 51% of respondents said it is “not clear” that Davidson’s administration “protects free speech on campus.” 
  • 37% of donors said that their level of giving had declined or ceased in recent years. 
  • 80% “strongly” (62%) or “somewhat” (18%) favor the proposal that Davidson College specifically adopt the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression. 

Davidson College is currently conducting a search for a new president, its 19th since the school’s founding in 1837. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents said it is important that “benefactors and alumni/ae” have representation on the presidential search committee, and 94% said the next president should make freedom of speech and open, civil discourse a high priority. 
“Alumni remain the sons and daughters of their alma mater because they remember the quality of the education they received and the freedom they had to grow and mature,” said ACTA President Michael Poliakoff. “They wish to vouchsafe that experience for future generations.” Davidson donors are sending a clear message: They want their alma maters to protect free speech and viewpoint diversity, and they are willing to cut their giving if their concerns are not addressed. Along with all other colleges and universities across the country, Davidson would do well to heed this warning.  

The survey findings and report can be found here

MEDIA CONTACT: Gabrielle Anglin  
PHONE: (202) 798-5425 


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

Discover More