Cynics here in Badgerland have been cracking jokes for months that UW-Madison could become “Koch University” if and when some of Governor Walker’s policies take effect, including (some allege) the public authority status that is part of his budget bill.
But who knew that the first branch campus of Koch University already opened in Tallahassee, Florida, way back in 2008? Only now, in May 10th’s St. Petersburg Times, is the arrangement finally getting wider attention:
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.
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.
If the scenario described above alarms you, then you should (1) sit down, and (2) read the entire article. And then you should ask yourself (and others) what safeguards, if any, exist to prevent similar deals from being concluded here. Not “assurances”, mind you, safeguards.