May 11, 2011- Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications. The simmering controversy sheds light on the vast influence of the Koch political machine, which spans from the top conservative think tanks, Republican politicians, a small army of contracted lobbyists, and Tea Party front groups in nearly every state.
St Petersburg Times: Billionaire’s role in hiring decisions at Florida State University raises questions
May 10, 2011- 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.
May 11, 2011- The billionaire Koch brothers — no strangers to throwing millions at conservative causes — made headlines last month for bankrolling Wisconsin’s all-out assault on public workers. Now, professors at Florida State University are criticizing the brothers’ rolls in allegedly interfering in faculty hiring at the school — a publicly funded university — and raising larger questions about how universities are protecting academic freedoms in times of economic uncertainty.
The $1.5 million deal was signed in 2008 and allows representatives from one of Koch’s foundation’s to screen and sign off on any hires to a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise” in the school’s economics department. But two professors have recently revived the controversy, criticizing the contract as an assault on academic freedom in the Tallahassee Democrat.
From the St. Petersburg Times: