Conflicting Visions, Part I: Should Universities Accept Outside Funding for Free Market Centers?

Editor’s note: This week the Pope Center addresses a controversial issue that has arisen at dozens of American colleges and universities—whether outside funding for free market programs and centers undermines academic integrity. In recent years, as organizations such as the Charles Koch Foundation have provided that funding, a variety of arguments have been made that schools should reject the money and the programs.

Today, Ralph Wilson of unKochMyCampus argues that colleges should do just that—reject the money. In Part II of this debate—available here—Hillsdale College economics professor Gary Wolfram argues the opposite—that wherever the funding comes from, the expansion of free market teaching is to the good. Each advocate will be asked to respond to the case made by the other in the comments.

Donor Intent Is Political, Not Academic

By Ralph Wilson

The purpose of free market centers and programs funded by the Charles Koch Foundation’s (CKF) network of donors is political rather than educational. The network erodes institutional integrity to leverage donor control.

Recordings and documents from the Koch network suffice to show why these programs, executed in bad faith, should be rejected outright.

The Foundation’s “integrated strategy” for implementing donor-funded policy change, called the “Structure of Social Change,” coordinates the funding of universities, think tanks, and “grassroots” (astroturf) groups.

Since 2003, this has been orchestrated in CKF’s highly secretive bi-annual donor summits, whose attendees now largely comprise the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.

At a 2014 summit, in a session entitled “Leveraging Science and Universities,” a CKF official explained:

students that graduate out of these higher education programs also populate the state-based think tanks and the national think-tanks…they become the major staffing for the state chapters on the grassroots innovation around the country….

So the network is fully integrated. So it’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities, and integrating this talent pipeline. I hope that those of you [who] are excited about the electoral process, you’ll invest there. Those of you who are excited about universities, invest there.

Fundraising simultaneously for academic and political projects, he reminds donors of a 32-state strategy for a “culture of freedom that will not just change the policies of those states, but also have a significant impact on the federal government.”

Florida State University’s Bruce Benson described in 2007 how potential university grant recipients may attend Koch Foundation summits:

Koch has organized a group of Foundations with similar agendas that meet twice a year to discuss funding strategies, etc. If some version of this proposal is agreed to, Koch will invite representatives from FSU to these meetings, introduce us, allow us to make our pitch, and encourage others to join them in funding the program…. [T]hey also want FSU to demonstrate a commitment to the program (e.g., make a sincere effort to raise other money from their network of foundations). (Benson memo, 2007)

The Koch Foundation’s academic network proliferates through the Association for Private Enterprise Education (APEE), described as “instrumental in establishing Chairs and Centers of Private Enterprise,” with a mission of “revealing the invisible hand through education.”

Koch-moderated panels at APEE’s 2016 conference affirm their role in the “integrated strategy.”

CKF’s Charlie Ruger was clear, “we want these great ideas of the APEE network to be applied, the way we think about it at least, across sort of an integrated structure of production for culture change,” to include “arranging state legislative testimony to make sure that, you know, these kinds of ideas have a seat on the table in public policy.”

“At All Costs”

A 2010 summit explained how “free enterprise is more than an economic system—it is a moral imperative, and we must defend it at all costs.”

What costs?

“Leveraging” universities for “policy change” requires bypassing or violating university procedures, often sneaking or forcing agreements into place.

At Florida State University, the extent of donor influence has included the ability to veto tenure hires, or any programming, with as little as 15 days notice, aside from an annual donor review of curricular/extra-curricular programs and non-tenure track hires.

According to a faculty investigation, the Koch “gift” violated academic freedom and faculty governance. A “two-fold conflict of interest,” it was executed through “administrative dictate,” with the dean and department chair Bruce Benson (former APEE president) using “threats” to create an “atmosphere of intimidation.”

At Auburn University, a Koch center established under Dr. Robert Lawson (former APEE President, now at Southern Methodist University) was found to have been the result of a foregone hiring process that took place without faculty knowledge, largely outside of Auburn’s hiring procedures.

At Western Carolina University, Dr. Ed Lopez (former APEE president) misinformed faculty and administrators with his “campus version” of a Koch center’s proposal, omitting key deliverables shared with the Koch Foundation, including a student “pipeline.” Despite a faculty vote against it, administrators approved the center.

In May 2016, faculty governance at George Mason University was ignored after faculty voted to halt a $30 million Koch-backed deal under review.

In October 2016, administrators at the University of Kentucky disregarded two consecutive faculty votes to reject the governance proposal of a new Koch center.

At Texas Tech University, journalists found that the Free Market Institute, under Dr. Ben Powell (former APEE President), was established in the business college after being rejected by three departments. Economics faculty said Powell “didn’t satisfy the minimum criteria for a tenure position,” had a ”weak vita,” and an “Austrian bent” that “wasn’t consistent with the culture in our department. We are mainstream economists.”

At Troy University, Koch, BB&T, and Manley Johnson (2010 Koch summit attendee) founded the Johnson Center in 2010. The mission statement mirrors the summit, touting “the moral imperatives of free markets.”

Troy’s now infamous George Crowley remarked at APEE 2016 how “We had a big gift…that let us hire a whole bunch of people all at once, and we kind of were able to take over, for lack of a better term.”

At Montana State University, there are concerns that a Koch center “bypassed the standard public review process and public input,” as the center is operational without having received Board of Regents approval.

It’s no wonder that organizations funded by the Koch network are frantically trying to redefine academic freedom and faculty governance.

False Diversity

In 1974, Charles Koch said universities “encourage extreme hostility to American business.” But free-market ideology is appropriately rare in academia because it has not withstood critical inquiry. Its resurgence is owed largely to self-interested corporate donors.

Calls for a “diversity of ideas” presume falsely that these programs are academic, rather than privately funded fodder to skew the “marketplace of ideas” in favor of the donors’ interests.

By allowing these programs on campus, universities aren’t promoting intellectual diversity; they’re inviting the fox into the henhouse.

  • Lou Sander

    It is hard to make sense of this mish-mash. It doesn’t seem worth the effort to try.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Probably, you should wait for the opposing view. I’m more interested in how CIA and military funding of elite higher education has compromised values over long decades. “Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber” and the book-length version explains this problem better than I can.

  • Stephen Miller

    Ralph, a “faculty vote” is not the same as “faculty senate vote”. I don’t recall seeing “faculty votes” from UK, WCU, or GMU. These bodies are hardly representative. But aside from that, it’s clear from their rhetoric that those faculty who oppose free-market centers stand against academic freedom, not for it. Diversity of thought is exactly what they fear when they seek to prevent the founding free-market centers, or otherwise they would simply greet free-market speech with more speech.

    You yourself network with other groups, and you have donors. Your parent organization, Greenpeace, has donors. Yet there is no conspiracy. You disagree with me on the moral superiority of free enterprise. So do your donors. So do the grassroots groups and larger organizations you work with. So do public sector unions, etc. etc. But when you see that donors who disagree with you are funding scholars and activists who also disagree with you, you believe that there’s some conspiracy afoot, one that is somehow different from yours. The only difference is that we disagree on what leads to the greatest good.

    • Hi Professor Miller.

      Ralph’s thesis, which you do not dispute, is that Koch isn’t working to advance higher education, but its own narrow brand of societal preferences.

      I work for Greenpeace, and I helped pull UnKoch together a few years ago. The affiliation comes with a lot of confusion.

      Greenpeace got involved because students came to us with alarming evidence of scientific fact being misrepresented – in the classroom – by professors in other disciplines. Hopefully you are not among the Koch network professors engaging in such behavior.

      Before I was involved, there were already students and professors, (including Ralph, who I hadn’t met), who put this issue on the map, revealing Koch’s control in the professor hiring process at Florida State University, as you are familiar.

      I didn’t see you say exactly what the conflict of interest is with our donors. We don’t take government money, don’t exchange money w candidates or endorse them, and we don’t take corporate grants. We’re careful with foundations, sometimes we have to turn them down. Over half of the budget comes from our street canvassing team, mail, email, etc. Greenpeace represents tens of thousands of actual people who support us.

      The Charles Koch Foundation represents one man. You happen to be receiving his money at Troy University, right? At the very least, I’m sure they find your (forgive me) rather fringe perspectives very convenient, as “intellectual raw products” for their policy ambitions, as Richard Fink said.

      I don’t see any comparison between Greenpeace’s support for students and alumni who asking for it, and a professor who is teaching a curriculum that reflects the ideology of its major donors, pulling students into other programs funded by the same donors, and working with political think tanks funding by the same donors. And I haven’t even asked what personal, financial or professional incentives may be involve on your end.

      UnKoch was born on the campus, “Well-Being” Inc. was born in the boardroom.

      Thanks for reading,

      • Rational Muslim

        All professors are encouraged to seek out funding opportunities by their universities and all individuals SHOULD disagree with them when they actually interfere with academic freedom or for legitimate scientific reasons. What they ought not do is oppose them on ideological grounds. The problem I have with UnKoch My Campus and your argument is that you are conflating two different issues: the agreement and the donor of the money. Rather than opposing specific agreements, you are opposing a specific foundation. I happen to be a libertarian conservative who fully accepts the rock-solid science that man made global warming is a serious threat to our existence. My research, however, demonstrates the problems with engaging in governmental solutions to this crisis and instead I argue for free market insurance industry solutions that will have less impact on our current economic system. Reasonable people are entitled to their own opinions (though not their own facts) and should not be prevented from seeking out funding from ANY source provided that source does not seek to impose an agenda. However, just because agendas are aligned between donor and recipient is not an automatic proof of a violation of academic freedom. I would never seek out funding from a liberal group because I fear distortion of my research for their purposes just as you rightly fear distortion of your agenda from conservative groups. However, if you deny me a priori funding opportunities because of your personal opinions, then you would be no better than if I did the same to you. Your solution is worse than the problem because you do not seem to understand this distinction. Fix the agreements; do not ban the donor. If the donor is not willing to play by the exact same rules, that is the donor’s issue and money should not be accepted. If, on the other hand, you seek to impose different rules or bend funding to YOUR ideology, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

        • I’m sorry, who is speaking? Is “Rational Muslim” a professor? An alum? A lobbyist? Just want to know if you’re in the field, or affiliated with any of the groups or networks we are all discussing.

        • We’d also like for the donor to stop attacking public finance for things like education. Charles Koch wages many-tiered campaigns against his own taxes and regulations affecting Koch Industries. That is taking away opportunities from other people, and instead offering incentives for his narrow, private field of study.

          And oh yeah, he’ll make sure you read his books and his trademarked management theory, so that you’re ready for a job at one of his many think tanks, to continue pushing to roll back regulations on his company and taxes on his assets.

          Again, back to Ralph’s thesis: where is the student in all of this? The donor’s intent has nothing to do with an educated populace, but a selectively brainwashed populace, incentivized by his money, in order to create more favorable conditions for his future political campaigns, which are always related to his business interests. He’s a CEO. A CEO’s interests are very different from the rest of us hundreds of millions of US citizens.

          So yes, the donor here presents his own very-unique problems. AND, his contracts are restrictive and at odds with academic freedom and shared faculty governance, and many professors have gone to great lengths to document. The professors on this page disagree, of course, because they’re taking millions of dollars in grants from Charles Koch. I’m sure they are firmly rooted in favor of that continuing.

        • ralph wilson

          Re: “Rather than opposing specific agreements, you are opposing a specific foundation:”
          Not at all. In fact ALL of our work is rooted in the criticism of the contracts themselves, as they establish the political leverage the Koch network requires.
          We criticize the foundation for establishing problematic contracts.
          Feel free to read any our work, for example, our recent letter to faculty at the University of Kentucky .

      • Stephen Miller

        Ralph assumed what he sought to prove by categorizing views he agrees with as “academics” and views he disagrees with as “political” (or “narrow band of societal preferences” in your language).

        The assertion that the centers or the researchers at those centers are something other than academic doesn’t hold up. A simple glance at Powell’s CV compared to his econ colleagues at TTU tells you he raises the average research productivity there. Your claim that he or I or anyone else represent “fringe” views only reveals your ignorance of the profession. Like you, I probably do have some fringe views, but for an academic economist to favor free markets is very mainstream. Nevermind the multiple Nobel Laureates that fit under a broad market-oriented umbrella (Stigler, Friedman, Hayek, V. Smith, Ostrom, Becker, etc.), but even with the junior professors in free market centers you see a broad engagement with mainstream economics in many of the same journals and with the same academic publishers as our harshest academic critics. The difference between those critics and anti-academic activists like yourself is that they engage free market ideas and criticize them head on in the academy. It’s not economics faculty opposing these free market centers. It’s typically faculty with no background in studying markets at all, such as English and Modern Languages. Frequently the critics themselves are remarkably unproductive scholars, and thus resort to lines of argument like Ralph’s and yours, where the mere lumping together of ideas you dislike and people who disagree with you presents some threat to academic freedom.

        “I don’t see any comparison between Greenpeace’s support for students and alumni who asking for it, and a professor who is teaching a curriculum that reflects the ideology of its major donors, pulling students into other programs funded by the same donors, and working with political think tanks funding by the same donors.”

        That’s because you can’t imagine that some people honestly disagree with you, that the professor is teaching a curriculum that reflects her own views, which are well-founded in theory, evidence, and many volumes of academic discourse. The fact that many donors happen to agree and support those faculty (and many, many students) who ask for it is what you object to. That’s what’s really going on here, is you and others, including your big donors, don’t like that students are learning about ideas you don’t approve of. Do you complain about other private donors, those who give money to academic centers that promote the views you agree with?

        • haha should your big donors sit down with my big donors and all of us kids can just go outside and play?

          But, seriously, it’s not just about rejecting others’ ideas. The intent here is to disrupt policy from the outside. I don’t think it’s healthy for academics to have a financial incentive to uphold a donor’s view.

          For three years, we have been challenging folks like yourself to give us examples of what they consider undue influence by ‘liberal’ donors. A few reporters have lazily compared topline figures, but nobody is asking what kind of oversight these donors have.

          Please, give us some examples, because right now any casual observer on this thread is getting lots of documentation of the strings Koch has attached to dozens of professors like yourself. We have seen examples of professors engaged in lobbying alongside Koch Industries itself on issues CKF paid them to examine.

          The closest thing I’ve seen to Charles Koch’s setup is probably the so-called “Confucius Institutes,” established by the Chinese government and decried by the AAUP and others education advocates. While I’d celebrate programs for Chinese language and culture on campus, these groups certainly seem to have deeper problems.

          • also – even Peter Boettke has plainly said that Austrian Economics isn’t seen as mainstream:

            “Clearly the contemporary Austrian school of economics is not part of the mainsream [sic] of economics.”


          • Stephen Miller

            Out of the mainstream != fringe. If you have ever listened to Boettke speak for more than a few minutes, he very quickly gets into his distinction between mainstream and “mainline”. His argument is that Austrian economics is mainline economics. It’s a small school of thought, but a highly influential one, such that many of its core insights have been adopted by the mainstream.

          • Phil Magness

            It does not appear that they are interested in anything but an intentionally uncharitable representation of Boettke’s motives, or any other person they disagree with.

            I’d simply ask anyone who’s following this debate to look at the scholarly publication output of faculty in the GMU Law School and the GMU Economics department. Then look at the same for the average faculty member in the humanities departments that are complaining about “tainted” Koch & Scalia money.

            There isn’t even a comparison. Econ & Law are both nationally ranked, are two of the most productive departments in the entire university, and are a major reason GMU attained R1 status. Their main critics in the humanities come from low or unranked departments and have comparatively mediocre CVs with little to no research impact.

          • Stephen Miller

            I don’t believe liberal donors or any other private donors to universities present a threat to academic freedom. I don’t think your donors have undue influence, that wasn’t what I was saying at all. i was saying our relationship with donors is like yours. I don’t see a conflict of interest with Greenpeace and UnKoch My Campus. I just disagree with their goal of attacking academic freedom rather than supporting alternative points of view. Start Centers for the Study of Unfree Enterprise. Start an Unfree Enterprise Speaker Series. Call it something else if you like (get your marketing people going on that), but greet speech with speech. Meet ideas with ideas.

    • Duncan Gilchrist

      Professor Miller,

      You say faculty and students who oppose the political intent of Koch funding are afraid of the “diversity of thought”.

      I don’t understand how someone who takes money from the Charles Koch Foundation can pose as a proponent of “diversity of thought” when Charles Koch himself has been recorded to say: “We should cease financing our own destruction and…[support] only those programs, departments or schools that “contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.”

      Isn’t it entirely hypocritical to accuse other’s of attempting to limit academic freedom while at the same time accepting money from an organization that imposes ideological constraints on academic endeavors in exchange for money?

      • Stephen Miller

        Are you suggesting that a donor should support programs he doesn’t value? I’m trying to understand what you imagine here. Do you believe there is such a thing as an impartial donor? Do you imagine UnKochMyCampus donors are impartial? Do you imagine Greenpeace donors are impartial? CKF and other donors present no threat to academic freedom. I’ve seen enough violations of academic freedom, and they invariably come from political actors, not private donors. What you’re saying is akin to saying that microphones present a threat to free speech, and your solution is to take away a professor’s microphone and push her off the stage.

        • Megan Jones

          Of course there is no such thing as an impartial donor. The issue is that some donors have hidden requirements with their money. There is a difference between “Here’s 10,000 dollars for your university to use as you see fit” and “Here’s 10,000 dollars, but I will only give it to you if you follow all of these guidelines I set out” after also making it harder for that university to receive public funding so they are in such dire financial straits that they are willing to accept anything to stay in the black.

        • Morgan Aprill

          “I’ve seen enough violations of academic freedom, and they invariably come from political actors, not private donors.” The Koch Brothers and their network are HUGE political actors? Wilson refers to this in his article. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you how the think tanks funded by the Kochs work with organizations like ALEC (funded by the Kochs) in order to put bills in front of the lawmakers (funded by the Kochs) that the Koch network’s astroturf groups help elect. Getting their institutes on university campuses is a part of indoctrinating students and faculty to their ideology. I mean, go look up any news article with keywords “Koch” and “politics” and you’ll find plenty on their well-documented spending system in our nation’s politics that rivals that of the two major parties.

    • Megan Jones

      Professor Miller,

      I am confused by your claim that the faculty who oppose free-market centers are against academic freedom and the diversity of thought, especially because the issues that most have with these centers is not that they teach free-market economic principles, but that they teach them to the exclusion of other branches of economic thought and are created through donations that have hidden stipulations.

      I would also like to reiterate the existence of endowments is not the issue at hand here. The issue is that many of these donations that Wilson is discussing are not given free from regulation from outside bodies. These endowments often limit the results of research being done, who can be hired, and what can be taught. This is not about the moral superiority of one branch of economics over another– this is about the management of donations, the reliability of the research coming out of our universities and the idea that a university education should reflect scientific fact.

      Thank you.

      • Stephen Miller

        “but that they teach them to the exclusion of other branches of economic thought ”

        This bit is completely untrue, and anyone who makes this claim has not bothered to glance at syllabi,much less sit in on a class. You can’t teach macroeconomics without teaching Keynes. You can’t teach about externalities without discussing Pigou (his ideas anyway). You can’t discuss inequality without discussing Piketty (and Saez). The only difference is that other approaches to the same topics are also discussed.

        “and are created through donations that have hidden stipulations”

        Such as? I’m at a mission-driven center. So the mission matters, but the donors have no stipulations for hires, research, or anything else. There are reporting requirements, but they are very mild compared with other foundations or federal agencies.

        “These endowments often limit the results of research being done, who can be hired, and what can be taught.”

        How? Who is limited from doing research they wish to do? Who is limited in what can be taught? If you’re so concerned about the quality of the research, then engage the research! If someone publishes findings you disagree with, explain how your findings differ and publish that response. That’s how academic discourse works.

        • ralph wilson

          RE:”but that they teach them to the exclusion of other branches of economic thought ”

          Peter Boettke admitted to doing this sitting just beside you at the APEE 2016 conference. His talk “Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: Engaging with Mainstream Academics,” describes stacking the deck in favor of pro-free market perspectives;
          (At 15:57) “[Reporter Jedediah Purdy] called me, he started asking me, he says, ‘so you have to use Ayn Rand in your classes.’
          And I said, ‘uh, yeah, I use Ayn Rand in my classes but I also use Charles Dickens, and John Steinbeck. Are you against debate? New perspectives?’ The class is called Contending Perspectives in Contemporary Society. So I’m talking about contending perspectives, is there a problem with that?
          That guy is completely neutered, understand. Now, what did I do in my class? I used the economic way of thinking as the literary device to assess the quality of the stories told in Dickens’ Hard Times, Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Right? You would have to be, kind of, deaf, dumb and silly, or whatever, to not understand that Steinbeck does not understand economics, right? ”

          RE:”and are created through donations that have hidden stipulations”
          I literally gave an example of hidden stipulations that Ed Lopez withheld from faculty and admin at your former university Western Carolina University. Your “mission” at Troy appears to have been secretly adopted during a secret donor summit which Manley Johnson attended. Neither you nor your colleagues have responded in the least to the clear evidence presented that the academic “missions” of these centers are political, and have been revealed as such by recordings and documents.
          Also, the contract for your center at Troy University is being withheld despite records requests filed in this summer (Jund 30). Show me your MOU, and I’ll give you +2 bonus on your otherwise inadequate response.

          RE:”These endowments often limit the results of research being done, who can be hired, and what can be taught.”

          What I assume Troy’s MOU with the Koch foundation says is the same as every other we have seen, namely, the donor can pull their money at any time. This clearly serves as maximal incentive to align the outcome of research with the donor’s VERY specific political views/views. Just show me Troy’s MOU and we can sort the whole thing out:)

          • Stephen Miller

            Your “evidence” again is nothing more than your categorization of “things Ralph disagrees with” as being something other than academic. Boettke admitted no such thing. He explained that when you read those works side by side, a) you present a diversity of views and b) the economic way of thinking affects how you read those works. Steinbeck didn’t understand economics. It doesn’t mean throw it away, but it helps to realize that as you read him or any writer on economic issues. Just as Boettke does with his students, it might help for you to actually study the work of people you disagree with rather than see how bits and pieces you don’t understand can fit into your favorite narrative.

            The same point applies to your notion of “hidden” stipulations. Of course both parties to an agreement can sever the agreement at any time. Again, you lack the imagination to see that it’s not donors driving research, but research that draws donors. There really are many accomplished scholars doing high-quality research who disagree with you. In some cases, it’s simply because they understand economics. If you were interested in ideas rather than propaganda, you’d engage their ideas rather than encouraging administrators to restrict their academic freedom. This is the key question: Whose academic freedom has been limited by these donors? Who has been told what to write or what not to write? Only political actors, i.e. elected and unelected bureaucrats do that to faculty.

          • ralph wilson

            (Putting aside whether Steinbeck did/didn’t “understand economics.”)
            If Boettke chose to contrast viewpoints “side by side,” but chose to represent one side using someone who he believes “didn’t understand economics,” then he has rigged the discourse to favor free market ideology. His duty as an educator is should have compelled him to have chosen an academic criticism of capitalism, allowing for an actual debate with robust arguments on both sides, rather than one selected for its flimsiness. That is totally disingenuous.

            RE: “Of course both parties to an agreement can sever the agreement at any time.”

            Koch retains incomparable rights as a donor, to the extent that they are not actually “donors” because they are not donating “gifts” (i.e. irrevocable charitable donations) as much as paying for very specific services. No other donors hold veto power over the heads of programs, able to terminate with 15-30 days notice. Show me a comparable MOU (or yours for that matter), and maybe you can get away with brushing off the issue so casually. Also, CKF’s contracts generally do not give the university similar termination rights, for what it’s worth. Donors have “sole” authority.

            Re: Whose academic freedom is being violated?
            Awkwardly enough:
            1) Yours. You and the academics that must contractually comply with your donor stipulations are voluntarily forfeiting your academic freedom. Your consent does not make your constrained inquiry “free” somehow. It is constrained. If you and everyone at the Johnson center all woke up tomorrow, and were critical of free markets (maybe it was the oil pipeline explosion in Alabama, maybe the outcry of hundreds of thousands of public employees begging you to stop trying to “take down” the state pension system.. whatever the reason) if you all woke up and decided that everything you had published was flawed, and set about to correct it all, you would lose the support of your donor. You are not free. You are contractually bound to produce research that supports a predetermined outcome, that free market economics is “morally superior.” If you do not obey, your funding ceases. You are not free as an academic to conclude differently.
            If you think that claim is unfounded, let me take a look at your MOU and we can make sure.

            2) Your students’ academic freedom is being violated, because they inherit the constraints of your inquiry (see Boettke above). Not only do students not know the constraints on their Koch-affiliated faculty, or that your teaching/research is contractually skewed, but often they do not even know who is funding the professor or center itself. Moreover, they probably don’t know that (as explained by Dr. Steven Crowley and Dr. Derek Yonai at APEE 2016, a panel called “Being an Intellectual Entrepreneur”) the APEE network uses the classroom as a “recruiting ground” for the “Liberty Movement” (Koch’s talent pipeline), producing “footsoldiers . . . in this fight for economic freedom,” and sometimes “outsourcing to Students for Liberty.”
            This is not an educational agenda, it is a political agenda literally funded in political donor summits. Dr. Miller, you say I falsely categorize perspectives that I disagree with as “political” rather than academic. If you have actually read my article, I will trust that you simply forgot my explanation for why I consider Koch’s academic programs to be political.

    • Laura Wright

      Stephen, The faculty senate is the voice of the faculty; it is the voting body of the faculty.

      • Stephen Miller

        It’s hardly representative, especially at WCU. I doubt that’s by design, but there’s a strong selection effect in faculty senates.

        • Laura Wright

          Selection effect? Meaning what, exactly? Those of us who care deeply about our institution tend to want to be involved in the governance and decision making mechanisms of it? The faculty senate, like the actual senate) is made up of elected faculty members who are charged with representing their constituents. But who really cares, right? Faculty senates are only advisory, so their voice only matters if the administration chooses to pay attention to it. In the case of the Koch funded center at WCU, the administration didn’t.

          • Stephen Miller

            That is more or less how it works in some colleges, but in others, most senate elections are uncontested because simply getting anyone to volunteer is a difficult process. So there are not only selection effects, but asymmetric ones across colleges. Now maybe the senate could address that somehow, I don’t know. But the cumulative effect is a strange one: the senate is even less ideologically diverse than the faculty at large. It occasionally passes blatantly political resolutions, presuming to speak for the faculty when clearly they don’t. But there’s also an important difference between the faculty senate at WCU and the US senate: it represents the faculty proportionally. This means that you can easily have History faculty outvoting Nursing faculty on a change in the Nursing curriculum. Maybe that’s appropriate, but I see plenty of opportunities for academic freedom violations there, where shared governance becomes bully governance. I think that’s exactly what happened with the free enterprise center at WCU. I get it, a majority of A+S faculty oppose a free market center in the business school. Did a majority of business faculty oppose it?

            Those dynamics are probably why the senate is only advisory in such matters, because ideology would undermine academic freedom otherwise.

      • Phil Magness

        Most faculty senate constitutions and charters have clauses that prevent them from interfering with the autonomy or internal governance of individual departments and other academic units. The lone exception is usually departmental affairs that affect the entire university, or other units of that university.

        Hiring decisions within a specific department and research grants received by that department are almost always considered internal matters to the department.

        GMU has a clause to this effect, and it appears that WCU does as well. As a result, passing general faculty senate resolutions that attempt to regulate the hiring and research grant decisions of specific departments and units is usually a violation of the faculty senate’s charter.

    • Phil Magness

      The GMU faculty senate charter also expressly prohibits the senate at large from intruding upon the internal self-governance of individual faculty units. If the resolution had been acted upon it would have been in violation of the charter.

      The resolution was also rescinded at the September meeting of the faculty senate.

      • ralph wilson

        Your assertion that the resolution was “rescinded” is absolutely misleading. A GMU faculty member has just clarified:

        “At its September meeting the Faculty Senate did rescind one part of one resolution: namely, to create a COI policy regarding gifts from private donors by the first fall meeting. The rescinded resolution was approved last spring in the context of a larger Senate request that the approval of the renaming and gift agreements be put on hold until there was time for further discussion. Since the Administration and Board of Visitors refused to allow for this, there was no need to hurriedly create a complex COI policy–an undertaking that should be done with great care.. So the Senate rescinded that part of one resolution so it could work more carefully to create a COI policy. At its October meeting, the Senate created a committee charged to develop a COI policy, and at its November meeting (yesterday), it elected the five faculty who will serve on the committee.”

        • Phil Magness

          I’m not asking for your spin on what happened, or that of David Keubrich, Craig Willse, or any other faculty member in unrelated humanities departments who nonetheless appear to have an ax to grind over the law school’s internal hiring practices. The minutes actually show two resolutions were rescinded:

          “1) The Senate ad hoc Task Force on Donor Relations present to the Senate at its first fall meeting with a
          detailed COI policy applicable to private donations.

          2) The Senate ad hoc Task Force on Donor Relations present to the Senate at its first fall meeting with a detailed proposal for a committee charged with approving the creation and/or expansion of GMU affiliated centers and with monitoring their ongoing activities as well as those of already existing centers.”

          “The resolution to rescind the two motions was seconded and approved.”

          The resolution also stated a rationale in which it acknowledged the failure of the previous resolution and committed the senate to working with the administration’s support in the future:

          “The two action items were part of a larger proposal that asked the GMU Administration and Board of Visitors to postpone the request for SCHEV approval of the renaming of the Law School and delay enactment of the accompanying grant agreements in order to allow for a “more careful discussion.” This request was not granted, thus obviating the need for the Task Force to work on these items over the summer. Also, since any COI policy or policy dealing with campus centers will need the support of the
          Administration to be adequately implemented, it is important for the Faculty Senate to collaborate with appropriate administrative offices in the development of these policies”

        • Phil Magness

          Simply read the link I gave to the minutes and you can see that your “source” is the one who’s misleading you. They rescinded not one, but two resolutions connected to the Scalia law school.

          By the way, speaking of academic standards and ideologically motivated faculty, when was the last time that Prof. Kuebrich published a piece of original research in a peer reviewed scholarly outlet? Perhaps you can ask him in your next email.

          • ralph wilson

            The number of rescinded resolutions is immaterial.

            Because your comment provided no context, anyone reading might think that you mean that the faculty senate rescinded the resolution(s) as a withdrawal of their concern. In fact, these were withdrawn after faculty discovered that admin/SCHEV were going to ignore faculty concerns because of their time frame.
            You will note in the very same minutes you’ve posted that the content of the rescinded resolutions is moving forward, now without the initial time constraints.

            Magness, how very unprofessional, and irrelevant. I wish I could say I expected better.

          • Phil Magness

            “The number of rescinded resolutions is immaterial.”

            You sure do like to change the subject when something you claimed is shown to be wrong!

            You or your source, who happens to be engaged in a deeply unprofessional and unscholarly attack upon faculty colleagues with substantially more productive research records than his/her own, would also do well to review the discussion at the time the resolutions were rescinded. They reflect awareness that the original resolution was adversarial and carried the possibility of intruding upon the academic autonomy of grant recipients, whether the money came from Koch or Soros or anywhere else.

            As a result, the new resolution adopted substantially milder language that committed the senate to collaboration with the administration in crafting a broad and generic policy, as opposed to waging a witch hunt on the Scalia Law School.

  • Mark Monsky

    It’s sad to see universities seek/accept funding from politically motivated organizations in order to expand educational opportunities. As long as the universities own up to their actions and fully communicate the relationship you can hardly fault a school from turning down money. It’s still very sad.

    • Rational Muslim

      All organizations and individuals have some political motivation unless they give money to everyone. When I donate to an association that helps the deaf rather than one that helps the blind, I am making a political statement that I value the alleviation of deafness more than blindness. The key is to properly negotiate agreements, not turn down money a priori simply because you disagree with the donor’s motivations.

      • Megan Jones

        While I would agree that where one donates their money certainly makes a political statement, I would like to point out that there is a difference between prioritizing organizations to give to and giving money with strings attached while simultaneously advocating for the elimination of other (especially public) sources of funding to those organizations.

  • Rational Muslim

    At best, the author’s argument is for greater scrutiny and transparency in terms of the agreements. At worst, it is a call for the most egregious violation of academic freedom: imposing one side’s view of the truth (the progressive agenda) on the whole of the academy. He makes not even one cogent argument against accepting money for free market centers but instead launches a series of attacks on specific agreements in such a manner that it demonstrates his own unfitness for any academic position whatsoever. To ask for better negotiations is one thing. To ask for a wholesome repudiation of a respectable field of economics for which one member of that school (the Austrian school) won the Nobel Prize in Economics is demonstrating a serious lack of integrity.

    • Duncan Gilchrist

      “At worst, it is a call for the most egregious violation of academic freedom: imposing one side’s view of the truth…”

      Is this not EXACTLY what the Charles Koch Foundation is doing? The contracts that they’ve established require adherence to their personal ideology for funding to continue.

  • mitchelllangbert

    The author’s arguments reflect the Democratic Party groupthink that in turn reflects the extraordinary politicization of college campuses that has already occurred at the behest of intolerant, politically motivated academics who indoctrinate and do not educate.

    Programs like peace studies, labor education, gender studies, ethnic studies, and climate science amount to Democratic Party-funded affirmative action plans for left-wing political advocates. The social sciences reflect intense and ever-increasing politicization, advocacy, and intolerance.

    The difference, of course, is that the political intent and intolerance of American academics reflects the Democratic Party’s agenda. That is what is objectionable to Professor Wilson. Refusing an honorary degree recipient to come onto campus because her political views is objectionable to politically funded, politically motivated academics is perfectly acceptable to him because the intense politicization is of the kind with which he agrees.

    Professor Wilson’s argument reflects the insipid level of discourse to which the groupthink on college campuses has fallen. Go study queer studies, my friend, and claim it is not politicized and funded by the same Democrats whose votes are bought and paid for through subsidies to universities.

    • That is so inappropriate.

    • Megan Jones

      Professor Langbert,
      I would like to ask for some clarification on a few of your points, which I don’t quite understand.

      First, I’m confused by why you say that the author’s arguments reflect Democratic Party groupthink. What arguments specifically point to that?

      Secondly, Arum and Roshka’s claims have been widely disputed since they came out ( and the data that Arum and Roshka relied upon did not account for all types of learning. If it is indeed true that many of the graduates from your institution graduate without being able to write at all, that is quite sad. Although, I imagine that half of the alumni of your institution would find that claim insulting. What, then, is your definition of being able to write? The field of composition studies has emerged in part as an attempt to answer this question. Since there are varying levels of literacy and different kinds of literacy, specificity is important here.

      Thank you and I look forward to hearing your response.

  • Andrew J Perrin

    There is no such thing as “innocent” money, and therefore no such thing as “guilty” money. I think universities should accept funding when, and only when, it is sufficiently unrestricted as to impose no meaningful constraint on the free exercise of inquiry and education. Specifically: they must not impose restrictions on the content of courses or curricula or on the results or publication of research findings. To the extent that the Koch gifts violate that rule, they should be rejected; to the extent that they do not, they should be accepted.

    NOTE this post is my personal opinion and not the position of UNC or any unit thereof.

  • Gary Wolfram

    It is interesting to note that Ralph Wilson’s piece makes it clear that the purpose of the funding of free market centers on university campuses is to engage in a debate of ideas. In particular, the author points out that the centers serve the purpose of “revealing the invisible hand (market economy) through education,” and will instruct students on the benefits of liberty. It is difficult to see why this is a problem. After all, university comes from the Latin for community of teachers and scholars. Why would taxpayers in Virginia be affronted that someone is willing to spend their own money to provide additional scholars at a tax-payer funded university, especially one that would offer an explanation of how the market economy works and the importance of liberty? Most of the author’s argument is that at some institutions a group of faculty were opposed to having additional views on campus and their opposition was not successful in stopping the founding of a center. Hayek, in The Constitution of Liberty, pointed out that we need to establish what the principles are by which we govern ourselves and to restate these for succeeding generation. That is what the Koch Foundation is doing.

    • Megan Jones

      Professor Wolfram,

      I am sincerely wondering what you mean by liberty, because from my perspective a donation that limits the research outcomes or curriculum of a college course is limiting the work a university can do and cutting into the academic liberty of individual professors and students. I think there is something much different between giving a donation to a university so they can spend it on hiring more professors, and giving a donation that puts limits on what professors can be hired and what those professors can research and teach. Would you mind explaining what you mean by liberty and how these endowments with stipulations reflect that?

      Thank you.

  • Phil Magness

    “In May 2016, faculty governance at George Mason University was ignored after faculty voted to halt a $30 million Koch-backed deal under review.”

    Utter nonsense. The May 2016 faculty resolution was adopted in violation of the GMU faculty senate charter, which clearly and explicitly prohibits them from interfering with the internal self governance of individual academic units. The law school is an academic unit, and its faculty unanimously endorsed the terms of the grant. The entire episode was actually a case of faculty in unaffected departments from other units of the university attempting to violate the internal faculty self-governance of the law school.

    • ralph wilson

      The freedoms of an academic unit are not free license to literally do what ever it wants.
      If, for example, an academic unit was colluding to break the law and (for example) the administration was complicit, should outside faculty expect the ability to intervene?

      • Phil Magness

        As I understand it though, you aren’t alleging any illegal activities.

        Rather, you are asserting that the English department and the Sociology department should have the ability, through the faculty senate, to control the Law School’s internal faculty hiring practices and dictate which donors they may take grant money from. Furthermore, your only clearly stated reason for this position is your dislike for the political views of the source of the money for each.

        As I noted above, using the faculty senate to intrude upon the autonomy of individual units of the university is an unambiguous violation of its charter. And to be even more frank, any faculty member in another department who colludes in efforts to weaponize the faculty senate for the purposes you appear to advocate is probably also engaging in academic misconduct because s/he is intentionally attempting to sabotage the research funding of another faculty member.

        • ralph wilson

          Well, because of the tax-exempt status of the Koch foundation, they are not legally allowed to engage in political activity (which they do, self-admittedly through their academic programs). Additionally, it is not legally allowed to use public resources (George Mason University, for instance) for political activity.
          Moreover, the contract involved clearly violates the academic freedom and integrity, giving an outside entity excessive control over the “autonomous” unit.
          Feel free to respond, as the thought experiment is actually germane.

          Re:” your only clearly stated reason for this position is your dislike for the political views of the source of the money.”

          In fact, since 2011, the root of my criticisms are that specific contract provisions give donors power to “intrude upon the autonomy of individual units.”
          These specific contractual provisions were the central concern of the GMU faculty senate, and the basis of their dissent.

          I have not once stated whether I “dislike” the political views of the Koch foundation anywhere. Rather, I have shown very clearly that it is the self-interested political agenda of the foundation that drives its academic programming. There is a not-so-subtle difference.

          • Phil Magness

            Those are all very different arguments than the one you made. So rather than continuing down the rabbit hole of your poor understanding of non-profit law (restricted political activities are specifically defined as electioneering and lobbying, not anything with quasi-political content as you seem to believe – a definition, btw, that would apply to your own organization), I’ll again press you on the original point:

            You believe the faculty senate should have the ability to exercise control over the hiring and research funding decisions of individual units and departments.

            The faculty senate charter unambiguously prohibits interference with the internal governance of individual units and departments.

            You are therefore espousing a position wherein the faculty senate is violating its own charter.

          • Jason Brennan

            Seems like Ralphie flat out lied about GMU, got caught, and is now trying to change the subject.

            Couldn’t they have gotten a minimally honest person to write this article instead of a professional liar?

          • ralph wilson

            I’m sure you won’t believe me, a professional liar, but you have to click on a hyperlink before it will show you the information contained within:

          • Jason Brennan

            I will cut you some slack, Ralphie, and instead presume you were just mislead and confused by that article. But now that Magness has corrected your mistake, I look forward to reading your retraction and apology.

          • ralph wilson

            They are not different arguments, I simply didn’t know I had to clarify that trying to influence policy is also known as “lobbying.” Take Art Hall at the University of Kansas who was payed by the (Fred and Mary) Koch foundation to lobbied against Kansas renewables:

            Or Steve Miller’s remarks at APEE 2016 (about lobbying):

            “We opened up offices in Montgomery last month. We hired a policy analyst there, we’re hiring another policy
            analyst. This is our chance to actually be more directly involved in state politics. And it’s already started to pay off.
            So Dan Smith and John Dove did a very detailed diagnosis of the fiscal state of Alabama. We were able to get an audience with the governor’s staff. And the next day we might have heard more back from them if the very next day his sex scandal hadn’t broken…[laughter].
            But we’ve actually met a couple times with different groups of legislators and they’re very very interested in what we do. The first time there was a presentation of their research they were actually very excited. They had Dan come and speak. The people who do pension reform, that committee on pension reform, they’re very interested in what we do, they’re very interested in that.”

            I’d love to get to the original point that you are pressing, but it will require you actually addressing my response (one you’ve side stepped several times now).
            Clearly one academic unit should not have undue influence over the internal governance of other academic units (nor should a donor).
            If an academic unit is breaking law, or violating academic freedom by allowing donors undue influence, I do think that the rest of the university’s faculty and the administration have a role to play in correcting the situation.
            This is quite distinct from your assertion that I “believe the faculty senate should have the ability to exercise control over the hiring and research funding decisions of individual units and departments” in some blanket, unqualified manner.
            You repeatedly refuse to acknowledge my response to your question, so I’ve given you examples that both the legal and academic freedom concerns are the basis of our criticism.

            Are you espousing a position wherein an academic unit is allowed to do literally anything it wants (including activities that violate law or academic freedom) without the involvement of faculty outside the unit?

          • Phil Magness

            Changing the subject to vague unsubstantiated claims of “illegality,” and inventing a definition of “political activities” that is not consistent with non-profit law, isn’t getting you around the original problem with your argument, Ralph.

            The charter explicitly says the faculty senate is prohibited from interfering with the internal autonomy of individual units of the university.

            Hiring decisions and the spending of research grants are internal decisions of a department and its faculty.

            You are therefore advocating that the faculty senate should violate its charter.

          • ralph wilson

            You can repeat yourself as frequently as you’d like, but at the end of the day all you are doing is evading my clear response to your question. I’ve answered yours repeatedly. You’ve not answered mine at all.
            Also, since you refuse to share post a link to the charter so that everyone reading can assess for themselves, I see you’ve quoted from it in the comments of the Inside Higher Ed article:
            “The authority of the Senate shall not extend over the internal affairs of any single collegiate unit EXCEPT AS THEY AFFECT THE INTEREST OF THE UNIVERSITY AS A WHOLE OR THE INTEREST OF OTHER UNITS” (emphasis added).
            Wow, I guess the charter allows for exceptions.. and as per all my assertions above and below, I believe that this situation constitutes just this kind of exception. Why? Again for all the reasons articulated above and below.

            I am therefore advocating that the faculty senate should uphold its charter.

          • Phil Magness

            You didn’t respond to my question, Ralph. You veered off into an incoherent and legally unsupported insinuation of criminality.

            As I noted previously, faculty hiring decisions and research grants are considered a part of that department’s internal affairs. This is an established matter of standing precedent of faculty governance and also aligns with longstanding AAUP practices on both hiring autonomy and research grant receipts. Therefore the exception for “the interest of the university as a whole” does not apply here.

            So I’ll ask again: how is the position you espouse anything other than a direct violation of the faculty senate’s charter?

  • Stephen Miller

    The threads have tended to focus on the question of how the “strings attached” grants to free market centers violate academic freedom. My question is, whose academic freedom has been violated by these agreements? Plenty of faculty have been suspended, fired, denied tenure, or simply told to be silent when something they wrote or said became politically inconvenient for University administrators — the Chronicle and the AAUP document these cases, seemingly every week. So where is the story of a free market center donor violating a professor’s academic freedom?

    • ralph wilson

      (Copied from the same question below)
      Re: Whose academic freedom is being violated?
      Awkwardly enough:
      1) Yours. You and the academics that must contractually comply with your donor’s stipulations are voluntarily forfeiting your academic freedom. Your consent does not make your constrained inquiry “free” somehow. It is constrained. If you and everyone at the Johnson center all woke up tomorrow, and were critical of free markets (maybe it was the oil pipeline explosion in Alabama, maybe the outcry of hundreds of thousands of public employees begging you to stop trying to “take down” the state pension system.. whatever the reason) if you all woke up and decided that everything you had published was flawed, and set about to correct it all, you would lose the support of your donor. You are not free. You are contractually bound to produce research that supports a predetermined outcome, that free market economics is “morally superior.” If you do not obey, your funding ceases. You are not free as an academic to conclude differently.
      If you think that claim is unfounded, let me take a look at your MOU and we can make sure.

      2) Your students’ academic freedom is being violated, because they inherit the constraints of your inquiry (see Boettke above). Not only do students not know the constraints on their Koch-affiliated faculty, or that your teaching/research is contractually skewed, but often they do not even know who is funding the professor or center itself. Moreover, they probably don’t know that (as explained by Dr. Steven Crowley and Dr. Derek Yonai at APEE 2016, a panel called “Being an Intellectual Entrepreneur”) the APEE network uses the classroom as a “recruiting ground” for the “Liberty Movement” (Koch’s talent pipeline), producing “footsoldiers . . . in this fight for economic freedom,” and sometimes “outsourcing to Students for Liberty.”
      This is not an educational agenda, it is a political agenda literally funded in political donor summits. Dr. Miller, you say I falsely categorize perspectives that I disagree with as “political” rather than academic. If you have actually read my article, I will trust that you simply forgot my explanation for why I consider Koch’s academic programs to be political.

    • Stephen Miller

      1. I’m pretty sure my academic freedom isn’t being violated. I would know. You would not. I can literally write whatever I want. I might lose a donor or two, but likely not. They can tolerate a lot of weirdness. But even if I went full on left-wing, what exactly would I lose? My job? Tenure?

      2. Students lose nothing. They gain. You quote Boettke explaining that he presents a diversity of views and then somehow imagine that’s the same as restricting what students read. Meanwhile they are exposed to more points of view than they would otherwise. That’s an expansion of intellectual horizons — literally the opposite of a violation of academic freedom. I know you imagine there’s some sort of brainwashing going on, but that’s because again, you cannot imagine a world where people actually disagree with you in good faith.

  • ralph wilson

    My new favorite Steven Miller quote, “I’m pretty sure my academic freedom isn’t being violated. . . .I can literally write whatever I want. I might lose a donor or two, but likely not.”

    • Stephen Miller

      The same is true for you. If you woke up tomorrow and changed your mind about Koch Industries, would you still have a gig over at Greenpeace? Are you less free because they give you money? Your argument isn’t just nonsensical, it’s dishonest, given your efforts to very directly curtail academic freedom.

      • ralph wilson

        Our positions are incomparable.
        You work for a public institution, established for the public good.
        If, as you’ve admitted, the funding for your center, your position, and teaching responsibilities are dependent upon keeping a private donor’s ideology in the forefront, then you have admitted that Koch’s money comes with strings, and that the donor has undue influence at Troy University.

        • Phil Magness

          Publicly chartered universities are political by their nature. A large part of their budgets are politically allocated. They often hire their own political lobbyists to secure further funding and favorable regulatory conditions for the university. Large numbers of their faculty also routinely take political stances in favor of funding and other legislation that directly affect their own institutions and future salaries.

          Like Captain Renault, your “shock” at finding politics in public universities is both selective and hypocritical.

          • Stephen Miller

            Has it occurred to Ralph that maybe advancing the ideas of a free society is what we believe advances the public good?

          • Phil Magness

            I suspect it does not. I also suspect he is largely oblivious to many overtly political features of other departments and research topics where he simply happens to agree with the position being taken.

            I also notice he’s strangely silent about the group of GMU faculty in the climate science and journalism departments who tried to get the government to pursue RICO prosecutions against global warming skeptics. That wasn’t even advocacy – it was outright political lobbying with the collusion of a sitting U.S. Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse.

          • ralph wilson

            When you tell me what you think about the Structure of Social Change and Koch’s donor summits, I will tell you what I think about the climate scientists.

          • Phil Magness

            In that case, I think your interpretation of the “Structure of Social Change” closely resembles the paranoid style in American politics that Richard Hofstadter diagnosed some time back.

          • ralph wilson

            Not my interpretation phil, or what person my paranoia-stylings resemble, but the model itself.

          • Phil Magness

            Your link is dead, so I cannot tell what specific document you are referring to. Based on the discussion, I suspect that it is nothing more than a statement about their beliefs, research priorities, and strategies for making grant decisions. Almost any nonprofit, whether on the right or left, will have a statement of strategy of the type you describe. That leaves me wondering why you’re in such a frenzied state about such a mundane document.

          • ralph wilson
          • Phil Magness

            Thank you for the link, but I’m still not seeing what you’re so worked up about. That’s not even an internal document – it’s a short essay from a publicly accessible philanthropy magazine article on how F.A. Hayek’s theories of social movements shapes their donation strategy. I suspect that virtually any large philanthropic donor adheres to some strategic vision or another, usually rooted in their own philosophical beliefs, and Hayek is a perfectly mainstream figure.

            In that sense, you might as well show me an article by a Greenpeace executive linking their strategy to the anti-nuclear movement of the 1960s and citing inspiration from the work of Rachel Carson. It’d be entirely unsurprising, even if I disagreed with the source. But it’s not a basis for making claims that are, frankly, conspiratorial.

          • ralph wilson

            Well, you’ve confirmed that it is a document, and made yet another stab at false equivalence, but have continued to make no remark on the model. Now that I know it is open in front of you, I suppose I can be more clear.

            The Koch foundation acknowledges that the purpose of their academic programs as creating “intellectual raw material” for privately funded “implementation of policy change.”

            True/False: This not simply a “donation strategy,” it is a political strategy, born in the pockets of private donors and carried out by universities, think tanks, and “grassroots” groups.

            Can you remark?

          • Phil Magness

            So as suspected, in the guise of asking for my “thoughts” on an innocuous essay for a philanthropy magazine, you actually want me to comment upon your own unusual and highly partisan interpretation of that essay. I’ll leave you with Hofstadter’s diagnosis instead, as it fits your interpretation to a T:

            “As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. “

          • ralph wilson

            Excellent question Steve (not that it hasn’t been addressed several times already, but that’s the game).
            I believe this to be at the heart of the matter. The objective of your center, and others nationally, comes from your donors who are overtly executing a political agenda in their private interest (ATTN Phil Magness).
            As vague and innocuous as the “ideas of a free society” sound, they have been exposed as the cover language for the Koch foundation’s “structure of social change.”

            I find it hard to believe that you truly believe that a 100% self interested scheme hatched in secret by the nation’s wealthiest people would also happen to be in the public interest. I genuinely find it hard to believe. You seem like a smart guy, and it seems like one of the most unlikely/improbable/demonstrably false propositions I’ve ever encountered. You’ve more or less affirmed that you couldn’t agree (even if you wanted to) without losing your funding (I suspect the same of Magness, at the Institute for Humane Studies), as so I’m not holding my breath on publicly convincing your of these propositions.
            But if your questions are genuine, I encourage you to actually read and address essay, especially the first half, which you have all done really great at ignoring entirely.

            For example, I would love to hear your thoughts on the “Structure of Social Change.” Steve? Phil?

        • Stephen Miller

          So Ralph, does your funding and activism depend on keeping your private donors’ ideology at the forefront? You can’t have it both ways. Either donors support our work and our views or we both are simply espousing the views our donors want. There’s a great symmetry here, but again the difference is you aren’t interested in open debate. Free market center donors have no more influence over faculty research and teaching than your donors have over your activism. If that is undue influence in your mind, then you’re a hypocrite for taking donor money to do your job.

          • Samuel Drake

            Mr. Steve et al.
            First I would like to make it clear that I do not work or receive any money from Koch Industries or Greenpeace etc. With that said, your statement just provided your guilty of being bought by your donors. I agree that Greenpeace has a certain view and would like to advance their goals, but they do not throw their money around. I have never heard of Greenpeace funding university centers to promote their “ideological” views. You are a man trying to promote the public good, right? Well from the looks of it, your definition of “public” would be top executives of large corporations or uneducated, unfriendly Americans. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but I would hope you and the good ‘OL boys of white priviledge don’t muddy the water anymore than it is.

          • Stephen Miller

            To say the Koch Foundation is promoting an ideology but Greenpeace is not is laughable. But the framing itself is wrong. In both cases scholars and activists are finding donors who support their work. In neither case are scholars and activists basing their views on what the donors want. Again, the argument against ideology only makes sense if you can’t fathom sincere disagreement. Disagreement with Ralph doesn’t make me a shill for MJC donors any more than his disagreement with me makes him a shill for his donors. We are both working toward the public good as we see it. The difference is that we disagree on what that means. Free markets don’t benefit corporate cronies; they harm them. But they do benefit the public at large.

  • Gladys Nobriga

    I agree their quality of work should be put to public scrutiny and peer review as all areas of academics are put through.

    If the recordings don’t do it for you, a clause is that funding can be denied to universities if their free market ideological requirements are not met, this does not reflect the “diversity of ideas” they claim to provide. Life threatening campaigns like Right on Crime (prison privatization), union busting and eliminating collective bargaining, the Arizona Immigration and Stand Your Ground law to name a few are results from the think tanks and centers on these universities. We must keep self-interested corporate donors from the very institutions that bring about shared governance, transparency and the pursuit of truth or we could lose it all.

    • Gladys, Right on Crime is agnostic on prison privatization. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an instance of our support for it. In fact, here in Texas, we’ve seen private prisons closed. See:

      • ralph wilson

        According to ROC’s own website, they expressly promote the continued use of private prisons, and creating incentives specifically meant to spur further privatization:

        “For those instances when prisons are necessary, explore private prison options. A study by The Reason Foundation indicated that private prisons offer cost savings of 10 to 15 percent compared to state-operated facilities. By including an incentive in private corrections contracts for lowering recidivism and the flexibility to innovate, private facilities could potentially not just save money but also compete to develop the most cost-effective recidivism reduction programming.”

        For more on ROC see our report:

        • You appear to assign different meanings to words than do I.

          Gladys’ initial claim about our initiative was that we were a “Life threatening campaign(s) like Right on Crime (prison privatization))…

          In reply, I asserted that we were agnostic on the question of prison privatization.

          You then quote from an issue statement where we say “For those instances when prisons are necessary, explore private prison options…”

          Exploring options sounds agnostic to me and meets the definition of the word. We support what works and what is needed.

          In the case of Texas, we supported the closure of private prisons — which rather undermines your case.