UMass faculty discuss who they support for president

By Shelby Ashline

(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)
(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts faculty and staff have made individual donations of as much as $500 to candidates in the 2016 presidential race, with the majority choosing to support Democratic candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Three professors, one staff member and two students have offered donations in excess of $50 between September and the end of January, according to public data kept online by the Federal Election Commission.

Joseph Levine, current head of the philosophy department, made two donations in conjunction with his wife, philosophy professor Louise Antony, during these months. The donations – each in the amount of $250 – support Sanders.

“I think that’s the most that we have ever given to a political candidate,” Levine said in a phone interview. He and Antony have since made additional donations in February.

Levine said he has supported Sanders ever since he announced his candidacy last May. He knew about Sanders when the senator was mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s, and Levine agreed with the policies he espoused as a state representative starting in 1991 and as a state senator starting in 2007.

“Ever since he’s been in the senate, he’s been one of the few senators that I felt most closely represented my views,” Levine said of Sanders.

Levine specifically supports Sanders’ economic policies, such as his intention to regulate banks in order to prevent financial crashes like the United States experienced in 2008.

“I’m especially excited about his being willing to take on Wall Street, his emphasis on the need to get money out of politics and I’m especially impressed by his refusal to take money from super PACs,” Levine said. “Many of his economic proposals – despite the bad press they’ve been getting recently – are some of the best of anyone running for office.”

David Kotz, an economics professor at UMass, also supports Sanders and his economic policies.

“I think there are very serious problems with our economy and our political system,” Kotz said in a phone interview. “The economy, for decades, has not been working for ordinary people. They have less job security while the people at the top are getting richer and richer… (Sanders) proposes what I think are the best reforms that there could be for our economy and our political system short of a major restructuring.”

Kotz, who donated $50 to the Sanders campaign in January, said he has been a Sanders supporter since he ran for Congress and made donations to his campaign then as well.

“I never expected him to be running for president,” Kotz said of Sanders. “He’s the best candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Kotz said he agrees with Sanders’ methods of reducing unemployment rates, specifically by hiring people to do necessary repair work to bridges, roads and schools. He also stands behind Sanders’ proposals to offer universal health care, a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges.

“He calls for free public higher education, something which I took advantage of when I went to graduate school at (the University of California at Berkeley),” Kotz said. “How come the U.S. could afford this in the 1960s, but not today, when we’re richer? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Kotz said he is not surprised by the amount of support Sanders has garnered since the beginning of his presidential campaign.

“There is a long history of Bernie Sanders running a campaign that gets support from a broad cross section of the population,” said Kotz, who described how “when small farmers of Vermont were traditionally voting for Republicans, (Sanders) was able to win their votes.”

“This campaign is demonstrating that his ideas are popular with a broad cross section of the population,” he added.

Both Kotz and Levine said they plan to vote for Sanders in the Massachusetts primary Tuesday.

John Ridgway, a lecturer in the college of information and computer sciences, also donated $500 to the Sanders campaign in December, according to the FEC website. Ted Atkinson of the information technology department donated $250 to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November. Both Ridgway and Atkinson declined to be interviewed.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Shelby_Ashline.