The Koch Brothers once again try to buy influence over America, but this time in a very unprecedented way. Paying off Florida State University with a 1.5 million dollars donation - with a caveat. They get to approve who gets hired and that is almost never allowed.
A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.
A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."
Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they've funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.
Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it's not happy with the faculty's choice or if the hires don't meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations.
David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences, defended the deal, initiated by an FSU graduate working for Koch. During the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculty's suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates. Although the deal was signed in 2008 with little public controversy, the issue revived last week when two FSU professors — one retired, one active — criticized the contract in the Tallahassee Democrat as an affront to academic freedom.
Conservatives have been attacking the institution of education ever since Ronald Reagan was in office and originally they tried to cut as much federal funds as they could out of our education system. Now, the Koch Brothers are bribing university officials to make sure they can vet candidates applying for position related to "political economy and free enterprise." In other words they want to be able to ram Conservative economic policies down the throats of college students at FSU. It's a shocking development
Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors' influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was "unheard of."
Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU "truly shocking."
Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry's ties to academia: "This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing."
It's bad enough that the Citizens United ruling has screwed up our election process and now the Koch Brothers have found a way to f*&k up education. As you know the Kochs and Gov. Rick Scott are tied to the hip when it comes to their political agenda.
The foundation partnering with FSU is one of several non-profits funded by Charles Koch (pronounced "coke''), 75, and his brother David, 71. The aim: To advance their belief, through think tanks, political organizations and academia, that government taxes and regulations impinge on prosperity.
The Koch philosophy is similar to that of Rick Scott, who, in one of his first acts as Florida's governor, froze all new state regulations on businesses, and has pushed for tax cuts.
And the Kochs haven't only stopped at FSU.
Now, rather than taking over entire academic departments, Koch is funding faculty who promote his agenda at universities where there are a variety of economic views. In addition to FSU, Koch has made similar arrangements at two other state schools, Clemson University in South Carolina and West Virginia University.
Donald Rasmussen should be ashamed of himself. Oh, and you know Ayn Rand will be thrown into this deal in some form.
A separate grant from BB&T funds a course on ethics and economics in which Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is required reading. The novel, which depicts society's collapse in the wake of government encroachment on free enterprise, was recently made into a movie marketed to tea party members.
"If somebody says, 'We're willing to help support your students and faculty by giving you money, but we'd like you to read this book,' that doesn't strike me as a big sin," said Rasmussen of the BB&T arrangement, which the bank has with about 60 schools. "What is a big sin is saying that certain ideas cannot be discussed."
Nor does he fear that the agreements with Koch and BB&T will prompt future donors to demand control over hiring or curriculum.
Said Rasmussen, "I have no objections to people who want to help us fund excellence at our university. I'm happy to do it."
Please call the Dean's Office--(850) 644-6284 and ask Donald Rasmussen what else is for sale at FSU?
Think Progress has more: Koch Fueling Far Right Academic Centers At Universities Across The Country ]
As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previous known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study:
– West Virginia University: As ThinkProgress reported last year, Koch funds an array of academic programs at West Virginia University, a public university. One Koch-funded academic at WVU, economics professor Russell Sobel, has written a book blasting regulations of all types. He even argues that less mine safety regulations will make coal miners more safe. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, a similar arrangement has been made with WVU as with FSU in accepting at least $480,000 from Koch.
– Brown University: The Charles Koch Foundation funds the Political Theory Project at Brown, which provides funding for “Seminar Luncheons for undergraduates, academic conferences, research fellowships for graduate students, support for faculty research, and a postdoctoral fellowship program.” Amity Shales, a pop-conservative writer who argues that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, an odd theory promoted by Charles Koch himself, has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Project at Brown. Moreover, Koch’s donation of at least $419,254 to Brown has underwritten a number of research projects in the Economics and Political Science deparments, including a paper arguing that bank deregulation has helped the poor.
– Troy University: The Charles Koch Foundation, along with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation, provided Troy University, a public university, a gift of $3.6 million to establish the Center for Political Economy last year. The Center’s stated goal is to push back against the belief following the financial crisis that markets need regulation. Notably, the entire Advisory Council for the Center is made up of Koch and BB&T-funded professors at other universities, including Russell Sobel at West Virginia University and Peter Boettke at George Mason University. Currently, the Center’s only staffer, Professor Scott Beaulier, is a board member of the ExxonMobil-funded attack group, American Energy Alliance, and a former staffer for Koch’s think tank at George Mason.
– Utah State University: The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly $700,000 to Utah State University, mostly for the Huntsman School of Business. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory. Professor Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” at the school, helps select students — who must provide information about their ideological interests in their application form — to the Koch program. Simmons also works for several Koch-funded front groups, and writes papers against environmental regulations. Charles Koch’s book, “The Science of Success,” a book Forbes mocked for proclaiming a “Marxist faith in ‘fixed laws’ that govern ‘human well-being,’” is part of the required reading list for the program. A representative for Utah State did not return ThinkProgress’ calls about conditional strings attached to the Koch grant.
Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls...read on
Helping our education system to the Koch's means indoctrinating them into Conservative policies.