South Florida Sun Sen-Sentinel
June 5, 2011
by Andrea Castillo
Bizarre: It’s the word that best describes the brouhaha over the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation’s controversial grant to Florida State University, where I’m an undergraduate majoring in economics.
This controversy seems even more bizarre if you lean toward a free-market school of thought, as I do. That’s the perspective from which I have viewed the publicity and unfair criticism that FSU and its Economics Department have endured in recent weeks.
In 2008, FSU signed a contract with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation for an academic grant. In exchange for receiving $1.5 million for the department over a few years, FSU agreed to form a committee, comprised of two FSU economists and one economist representing the foundation, to interview applicants for teaching positions. Although none of the candidates ultimately hired came from the committee’s list of recommendations, some people have accused FSU of allowing a private group to influence hiring decisions.
Many critics don’t realize what one observer might call “undue corporate influence in education” is what I would call “a coveted academic opportunity.” Continue reading
June 3, 2011
by Manuel H. Johnson
As state governments around the U.S. struggle with weak economies and structural budget crises, funding available to higher education is likely to continue to come under severe pressure. To meet this challenge, public universities across the nation will need to seek new sources of financial support to fill the gap.
Repeated budget cuts have been particularly hard on my alma mater, Florida State University, which this year alone faces another $19 million reduction in funding.
Given the severity of FSU’s cuts, I am concerned about the recent criticism the institution received for accepting a $1.5million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to explore the nature of free societies. Critics have denounced the agreement as “damaging to academic freedom.” Others have accused FSU of “selling out” to corporate interests.
Nothing could be further from the truth. President Eric Barron deserves credit for defending the details of the grant agreement, which seeks to expand academic freedom, not restrict it. Academic freedom is an individual right, not a collective one. The agreement does not prevent anyone from researching, teaching, learning or expressing an opinion. Continue reading
The Tallahassee Democrat
May 31, 2011
By Michael Munger
Florida’s universities, and media, are in an uproar about the Koch Foundation’s “strings” on grants to FSU’s Economics Department. But I’m not sure why.
As chair of Duke’s Political Science Department for the past ten years, I have competed for dozens of grants, large and small. And I have dealt with the reporting requirements of funders including the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and George Soros’ “Open Society.”
These organizations, not surprisingly, want to make sure their money is spent legally and fruitfully. But the media has been shocked that “information on publications, presentations, courses taught, students supervised and outreach activities” was to be provided by recipients of Koch grants. Continue reading
The Charles Koch Foundation issued the following statement on May 19, 2011:
“The Charles Koch Foundation’s goal in supporting colleges and universities is to provide resources to faculty and students to facilitate a deeper understanding of the nature of free societies and the reasons why they foster the highest levels of well-being for the overwhelming majority of people.
“Our support of Florida State University stems from their decades-long record of innovative research and teaching on the ideas of economic freedom and societal progress. We are excited that our funding enables FSU to continue its tradition of academic excellence.
“When FSU faculty spoke to us about supporting its economics department, we welcomed the opportunity to work with such distinguished scholars. Our agreement with FSU is consistent with faculty governance policies and procedures, and at every step in the recruitment process, FSU faculty control the selection and hiring of professors.
“Opposition directed at respected FSU administrators and faculty undermines the very academic freedom that critics claim to defend. We affirm our support for academic freedom and consider it foundational in fostering a vibrant academic environment. Faculty should be allowed to pursue the research and teaching of their choice. Regardless of ideology, everyone should be supportive of research and teaching dedicated to understanding the conditions that create the most opportunity and prosperity for individuals.
“The Charles Koch Foundation appreciates President Barron’s leadership on this issue and Florida State’s commitment to academic freedom. We look forward to continuing our work to support the efforts of some of this country’s finest universities and their researchers and teachers.”