The Bass family are economic and political power sources that few Americans know by name. The Bass family patriarch, Perry Bass, was an oil billionaire with long reach in Texas and across America. Bass and his four sons inherited billions from their bachelor uncle Sid Richardson, and the family turned those billions into even greater fortunes through shrewd investing and management. For a of couple of decades, they were major shareholders in Disney and selected Michael Eisner to run the firm. The family was a Yale family with Perry and his sons all attending Yale. Their money has continuously found its way to many charities and top tier universities with Yale a major recipient of the family's money.
Not all of their money though as Lee's donation for the establishment of a Western Civilization department turned into a debacle, and Bass' money was returned. Per the L.A. Times:
The university claimed that it had nothing to do with content, but the backstory was that Bass was troubled when he discovered that the Western Civ curriculum would not be a positive discussion of the West but a typical, liberalism tinted portrayal of the evil West. Bass then wanted veto power over the final lecturer selection and direction of the department. This was unacceptable to Yale. They valued expanding multicultural programs, and if there was any Western Civ department, it would be evil Western Civ destroying the world. Twenty years on, there is still no Western Civ department.
While it raised questions about philanthropy and the power or control donors are allowed, it clues us into how the university wing of the cathedral will place propaganda over money. In 1991, Yale was actually running in the red, and the $20 million donation would be like $34 million today. The other issue at play would be the effect on other potential donors, leaving aside the multiple billionaires of the Bass family. Money goes where donors want it to go, and the Bass family has connections to Duke and Stanford University who both have smaller endowments that Yale. The problem of universities at the vanguard of the progressive march and funding has been an issue for decades.
As written at length in "Making Harvard Modern", the old, conservative Harvard alumni disliked the pink or reddish tint of new professors. These donors even interfered with Harvard's hiring of specific refugee scholars from Germany in the 1930s. The fear was always that funding would be removed. After the drop in federal government grants after World War Two, Harvard was dependent on donations from the Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations. To create some independence Harvard announced in 1957 the "Program for Harvard College" fundraiser with a goal of $82.5 million by 1959. Harvard had Meet The Press appearances and radio shows on CBS to explain why as well as promote the fundraiser. It took an extension, but in 1960, Harvard hit $82.5 million. This started all top tier universities on the chase for more fundraising. It gave Harvard some daylight and freedom, coming on the heels of the school's confrontation with Congress with regards to some Communists on campus.
Rejecting Bass might seem odd, but the cathedral will not give up control for money. Donations in the millions come in with new waves of millionaires and billionaires who graduate from the universities. The Bass rejection as recent as it was might explain why the endowments of the top tier universities have become amazing alternative investment vehicles. Yale's fund manager was so successful that he wrote a book on investing. Ron Unz brought attention to the size and scope of the Harvard hedge/endowment fund, which others shined a light on. When financially connected Larry Summers was in charge of Harvard, he lost the school $1.8 billion with a carry trade idea over the objections of one of its advisors, Mohamed El-Erian, who is now a top executive at PIMCO. These endowments are hedge funds precisely because they have access to the financial technical knowledge to earn millions to achieve independence. Hedge fund-like income generating activities are the next step in securing financial independence.
These actions, rejecting a multimillion dollar donation and turning endowments into hedge funds, are really side effects of the universities' desires to maintain control, independence, power and drift forever leftward. Bass was upset that the Western Civ studies that he envisioned would never be, and instead be a critical view of the very society that allowed these pampered Brahmins to exist. Bass would not stand for a self-hating department, but Yale valued its hold over the megaphone over $20 million. Creating ethnic, gender or alphabet soup queer studies departments is the nature of today's liberal arts programs in the training grounds of the cathedral and would have been unthinkable to pre-'68 graduates of those schools. To reduce reliance on those old fogey donors, they just had to turn the endowment fund into a hedge fund. The ability to shape minds and mold opinions unencumbered by the unenlightened is Yale, Harvard and their ilk's desire. They say what is right to teach. They control the message.