THE KOCH FOUNDATION SETS ITS SIGHTS ON FACULTY
These two documents were recently leaked to the George Mason University AAUP chapter. The documents come from the GMU affiliated Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), a 501(c)(3) organization funded largely by the Charles Koch Foundation. Charles Koch sits on the board of the IHS, as well as on the board of the Mercatus Center, both of which the Koch Foundation also funds, contributing millions of dollars annually through the GMU Foundation. It is estimated that IHS received over $14 million in 2017 from CKF alone, possibly to fund the “Proposal”. These overlapping connections between GMU, GMUF and Charles Koch’s affiliated Institutes and Centers suggest a major influence on the production of knowledge by Koch and, as the documents reveal, a strong exclusionary conservative ideological bias.
The “Proposal” to the Koch Foundation spells out plans to emphasize faculty indoctrination and recruitment (not unlike official Russian or Chinese Communist goals in previous eras); and the listing of “rubrics” for supporting research articulates ideological rather than truth-seeking tests for scholarship. These are disturbing documents that raise a number of ethical questions for academics:
Should donors and these university affiliated institutes and centers (which are not subject to university/faculty scrutiny) be allowed to influence the direction of teaching and scholarship in explicit political/ideological directions?
What happens to scholarly inquiry when it is directed by the views of donors rather than by disciplinary and knowledge-oriented problems?
Isn’t the notion of the university as the site for a free exchange of ideas deeply compromised by such powerful external, financial pressure, and ideological preconditions?
The Koch influence is far-reaching as this article documents, but the questions it raises speak to the broader issue of outside influence on academic processes, whether they involve teaching, research, or the creation of centers of knowledge production. The NCA thinks this is an issue that involves ALL university constituencies, students, faculty, and administrators alike. It is a conversation we need to have together if the academy as we have known it is to survive as a place (in the words of the regents of the University of Wisconsin in 1894) in which is protected “the continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone truth can be found.”