Higher education in the US has a Koch problem
from David Ruccio
It used to be the case that, for the most part, the Koch brothers were bottom-feeders when it came to higher education. They approached (or were approached by) financially strapped schools that were only too willing to sell their academic-freedom souls for relatively small infusions of cash.
The exception was, of course, George Mason University, the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which took in just under $80 million from Koch foundations from 2005 to 2014.
Now, the grants are getting larger and the recipients much richer and more prominent. In some cases, the Koch brothers are supporting right-wing, free-market scholars and programs; in other cases, they’re buying the prestige based on an association with highly ranked colleges and universities. And, of course, a mixture of the two.
Here are three recent examples:
Earlier this year, the University of Louisville announced the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter ($4.64 million) and Charles Koch ($1.66 million) to create the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise.
Rebecca Peek, a U of L senior and member of the Student Labor Action Project, said she was ashamed of the school’s agreement.
“It will certainly affect curriculum and limit the viewpoints taught to business students,” she said in a statement. “As a student at the University of Louisville I want to know that I am being presented with information for the sake of knowledge, not to promote the personal agenda of a private interest group.”
The same pair has donated a combined $12 million to create a similar “free enterprise” teaching institute at the University of Kentucky.
At UK, the grant will establish a “John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise” and expand the work of a current capitalism program underwritten by BB&T bank, according to a university news release. About $10 million will go to the institute. The remaining $2 million gives Schnatter naming rights to an atrium in the new business school building.
Finally, the University of Notre Dame has just announced that its International Security Center has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to further develop and expand its role as a forum for broader scholarship on U.S. foreign policy.
“We’re delighted to work with the Koch Foundation on our International Security Center, which we’ve been committed to for many years,” said John T. McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “We think it’s important for academics to have a voice in policy debates about international affairs, and we believe our scholars’ research can inform those policy debates.”
Just to be clear, Notre Dame has the tenth largest endowment in the nation, with $8.2 billion in its fund at the end of fiscal year 2014.
Here is a link (pdf) to the list of of colleges and universities that, according to the Koch family foundations and philanthropy, have received grants from the Charles Koch Foundation.
The Center for Public Integrity has a list of 16 colleges and universities that received at least $25,000 in Koch foundation funding in 2014. Apparently, the University of Dayton in Ohio has decided it is no longer interested in receiving Koch-connected money.