A union supporter expresses his opinion in Madison, Wis., earlier this year.
Billionaire Charles Koch pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department three years ago with the stipulation that his staff would screen the faculty hired for a program on “political economy and free enterprise.” The St. Petersburg Times has cried foul, and rightfully so. We’re talking about a public university here. Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch continue to leverage wealth from Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in America, to wage war on government regulation, public benefits and labor rights. —KDG
St. Petersburg Times:
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.