As the Presidental Race Heats Up, Another Big Public Policy Gift on Campus

Election Day 2016 is just about a year away, and it's time to gather around our televisions to watch the debates. In the midst of flashing lights and gotcha questions, it can be easy to forget that quite a few of these debates take place on college and university campuses, which can be quite a boon for the selected schools. How, exactly, do schools get selected for this honor?

Well, schools send applications to the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to be host campuses. Last spring, 16 schools from around the country applied, and in late September of this year, four schools, including Washington University in St. Louis and UNLV, were chosen as sites for the presidential and vice presidential debates.

The spotlight has also been on Hofstra University in Long Island in recent years, and the university hosted presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Hofstra has also been selected as an alternate site for a presidential debate in 2016.

Now comes news from Hofstra of a recent $10 million gift to fund a new undergraduate school of public policy for students interested in becoming government leaders and scholars. The Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs will "incorporate 19 academic disciplines and two academic centers. Graduates will earn an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in public policy and service."

The donor, here, is Peter Kalikow, a trustee and alumnus of Hofstra, who is the president of H.J. Kalikow & Company, one of New York City’s leading real estate firms. Kalikow is also the former owner and publisher of the New York Post, and a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

We've been writing quite a bit about the funding of public policy schools on university and college campuses of late, and teasing out the different reasons why these gifts have been coming with some frequency. In a recent public and international affairs gift to Princeton, we talked about some donors being motivated by the centrality of global affairs and the many conflicts taking place around the world.

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Still, at least in part here, we couldn't help but notice the timing with the upcoming election cycle. Hofstra is also home to a presidential studies center, which likely hasn't hurt Hofstra's chances when applying to be a debate host site. In fact, the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency and Peter SKalikow Chair in Presidential Studies at Hofstra were created in 2006 by a gift from Kalikow. This brings up another lesson—that past philanthropy matters and later gifts often refine or deepen a previous effort. Kalikow, despite being in the private sector, has a keen interest in politics and presidents. He's been major campaign contibutor over the years, with his money mainly going to Republicans. 

Of the gift, Kalikow said, "We have spent the last two cycles in a government debate that is not a debate... People talk at each other and not to each other. Compromise and common ground has been a curse. It wasn't always that way."