I realize that universities are having a tough time and need to try and get money where they can, but what Florida State has done is absolutely deplorable, abominable, and any other harshly negative word you can come up with. Even worse that the bozos in the Econ department (tells you what you need to know about their integrity) try so hard to defend it. It’s one thing to take money from wealthy people for specific purposes, e.g., to start a particular institute or program, it’s quite another to let them tell you which faculty you can hire. Florida State has utterly debased itself. The details:
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.” [emphasis mine]
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.
This is a surprisingly well written article coming from the St. Petersburg times, adding in the context to let the readers know just how egregious this is:
Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors’ influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was “unheard of.”
Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU “truly shocking.”
Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.”
We’ve certainly had issues with this here at NCSU as there is a wealthy conservative “think” tank in Raleigh that has tried in numerous ways to get more involved with the PS and Econ programs here. (Among their goals: “Encourage respect for the institutions that underlie economic prosperity and freedom of action and conscience”). They actually sponsor a speaker series where thoughtful conservative speakers (yes, there are a few out there) are typically brought in. I have no problem with this, as obviously left to our own devices, we will certainly bring in more liberal speakers. They’ve attempted to have more influence over curriculum matters in various ways here and at UNC over the years, but have generally been rebuffed. In a program they stopped doing, they were actually providing grants for undergraduate research with no strings at all (I wonder if they stopped that because one of the recipients used the money for a godless, liberal study about how women politicians are treated differently by the media).
I just hope (probably in vain) that other academic institutions do not take this Koch U. approach.