Just before Memorial Day weekend, NPR’s Morning Edition featured a segment examining the role of Charles Koch at Florida State University (FSU): “NPR: Koch Foundation Criticized Again For Influencing Florida State.”
FSU students outline the various ways that Charles Koch’s multimillion dollar grants give his staff subtle control over hiring of economics faculty and de facto influence over what students are, and aren’t, taught. This limitation is a serious violation of academic freedom, as has been repeatedly asserted by the American Association of University Professors, which is dedicated to the protection of academic integrity at US colleges. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum told NPR’s Greg Allen:
You know, it amounts to the Koch brothers’ foundation basically trying to buy a position on the faculty. And that certainly is a threat to academic freedom.
FSU students and faculty alike have been strongly outspoken against the Koch agreement since 2011, when Charles Koch’s influence was first exposed by two FSU professors writing in the Tallahassee Democrat. This year, FSU has come under renewed criticism for not taking preventative measures to limit the influence of outside interests like Charles Koch, whose multi-million dollar grants are craved by public schools in need of more funding.
This is often because Charles Koch bankrolls political groups working to defund public functions, including decreased higher education funding when corporate taxes are cut.
Charles Koch is the Kansan fossil fuel billionaire known for coordinating with corporate executives to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into election politics, union busting, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and the privatization of education, among other things. The Koch family is known for spending tens of millions of dollars on politcal groups that deny climate change, which I have asserted is overlapping with the activities of FSU economics professors who are involved with global warming skepticism (well outside of their field of expertise–economics).
The up-bringing of Charles Koch and his three brothers is the subject of a new book by Mother Jones editor Daniel Schulman, titled Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. The book offers a lot of helpful context how Charles Koch and his brothers have lived their lives out of touch with the vast majority of people, apparently not in small part due to being worked ruthlessly by father Fred Koch, not to mention being born into his vast wealth from the oil company he co-founded.
Charles Koch in particular took his father’s ferocious work ethic to heart, now leveraging his own fortune in combination with that of weathly, politically active friends who work together to bend government into a service for corporate executives rather than prioritizing the needs of people living on the margins.
You can read more from Florida State University students and professors themselves in the Tampa Bay Times, and op-eds written by students and professors for the Tallahassee Democrat. Charles Koch’s influence on higher education was recently examined by Dave Levinthal for the Center for Public Integrity.
Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.
Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.