By Travis Waldron on May 10, 2011 at 11:45 am
Charles Koch, the billionaire libertarian who has funded front-groups and lobbying efforts to expand his anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda under the guise of “free enterprise,” has now widened his reach into another key public policy area: academics. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation entered into an agreement with Florida State University in 2008 in which the foundation would provide millions of dollars in funds for the school’s economics department.
The funds were marked to add multiple faculty positions in the economics department. But the money came with multiple strings attached, including a demand that Koch have the ability to directly approve who ultimately filled the positions. As the St. Petersburg Times reports, the agreement is now raising questions across the board about academic freedom and integrity at public colleges and universities:
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.
Koch wasted little time in asserting his influence. In 2009, he denied 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions to fill the positions in the new programs, called the Study of Political Economy and Free Enterprise (SPEFE) and Excellence in Economics Education (EEE). The hires that were made were agreed upon by Koch and the department’s faculty.
But according to a memorandum about the agreement, obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, the ability to pick and choose faculty members was hardly the only string attached. In addition, Koch wanted the ability to review work done by the economics faculty and much more:
The agreement with Florida State is hardly Koch’s first foray into higher education. The Koch brothers have provided funding to numerous colleges and universities, including George Mason University, to which the Kochs have donated millions of dollars for an economics program that has played an extensive role in anti-regulatory policy development.
Because selling out its academic freedom to Koch apparently wasn’t enough, Florida State also entered into an agreement with BB&T, which provided funding for a course on ethics and economics and required that Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, be a part of the course curriculum.