FSU Whores Out Its Econ Department To Billionaire Activist Koch Brothers

Categories: News, Politicks
fsulogoreal.jpg
Basic values like "academic integrity" and "common decency" usually lead universities to accept big donations only under strict guidelines: namely, that the benefactors trust the school to use the money without meddling.

So it's really awful what's going on up at Florida State University, where the Economics Department took $1.5 million from the libertarian activist Koch Brothers -- a pair Gawker has christened "cartoonish evil billionaires" --  and in exchange given them total power to pick and choose professors who meet their strict political tests. WTF, FSU?

The Econ department signed off on the unusual deal in 2008, but most hadn't heard about it until this morning when the St. Pete Times dug into the mucky details behind the donation.

The contract signed with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation requires that a committee appointed by Koch himself gets to decide who can be hired with the money. And during the first round of hiring, his minions rejected 60 percent of the faculty's candidates outright.

David Rasmussen, the college's dean, defended the arrangement to the Times, noting that the school can offer eight additional classes thanks to the money. But, he conceded, "I'm sure some faculty will say this is not exactly consistent with their view of academic freedom.''

That's for sure. Here's Jennifer Washburn, an expert on university-donor contracts: "This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing."

The Koch brothers (sadly pronounced "Coke" instead of phonetically) are no strangers to throwing their cash around to further their libertarian views. The brothers, Charles and David, are each worth about $20 billion.

This excellent New Yorker piece paints a full picture of their political heft, including the Koch-funded Mercatus Center, which one expert in the story terms "ground zero for deregulation policy."

More recently the pair pumped millions into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to take collective bargaining powers away from state unions.  

So enjoy those ideologically sponsored Econ 101 classes, FSU! Hopefully you still feel good about yourself in the morning.


My Voice Nation Help
46 comments
David Walters
David Walters

Our nation has almost regressed into a new "gilded age" thanx to the Koch's and 1%-ers like them....

-If we keep on this course, we'll have NO public education at ANY level in 20-30 yrs. 

George Soros, PuppetMaster...
George Soros, PuppetMaster...

Unfortunately, Tim Elfrink, doesn't do his own fact searching, he just requotes an article from the St. Pete Times that is full of inuendo and baseless facts... Tim, just for the hell of it, why don't you do some fact searching on billionaire, George Soros, and see what his money has been used for as far as donations to American "causes" and universitys...? What would your opinion be when you find that he's a dangerous, left wing, anti-semetic asshole who runs Obozo's administration(PuppetMaster)...? 

Bill Dalasio
Bill Dalasio

Actually, this entire discussion is farcical.  Conditional donations have long been a feature in donations to schools.  All the Koch's arrangement has done is given the donors a credible enforcement mechanism for those donations.  Unless one believes that institutions should have carte blanche to abrogate their agreements with donors, this should be a non-issue. 

Jpm909
Jpm909

econ degree from fsu = tp

Renegade
Renegade

I agree with what Garnet and Gold has to say and am absolutely disgusted after reading this. Also as an FSU student with three majors (Economics being one of them), it is clear when you compare the funding that goes into each department that the economics department does not receive all that it should and am offended at the widespread disapproval with Florida State's decision to accept this money. This is a great opportunity for the FSU Economics department to utilize and put to good use some money that will benefit this already sensational program. Having professional relationships with many of the Economics professors both in and outside of the classroom at Florida State, I can assure everyone who reads this that not a single professor attempts to shove his or her own personal ideologies down students' throats. Sure, many of them have their own opinions on certain issues, in fact, who hasn't had a professor that doesn't take a stance on anything that they're teaching? But, this in no way affects the learning abilities of the students in these Economics classes nor the material that he or she may be teaching.

As for everyone who is worried that the Koch Foundation's ability to accept/reject a certain candidate, put yourselves in their shoes. If you gave $1.5 million of your own money to a university, wouldn't you like to know what that's going towards? Any benefactor of the school has certain criteria for what their money will be put towards. Randall Holcombe is right - their was a mutual interest for the money, so FSU would almost be vacuous as to not accept it.

Having both two FSU students in the Economics major and a professor in the Economics department declare this article to be both flawed and imprecise, you too must be flawed and imprecise if you believe anything from this nonsensical article. And to the author of this brilliant piece of nonsense, maybe you should get your facts straight before typing a big load of bull. Just because a department is granted over a million dollars doesn't mean they are going to use that money to hire just anybody.

To all the "minions" who are concerned about how FSU could "whore themselves out like this" - what a load of rubbish. It was a bold and astute move on Florida State's part to accept this generous donation and it will play very much to their advantage, both in the short run and long run. It will also give the department more publicity which will, in turn, probably lead to more donations over time.

Once again, bravo FSU.

Bbilling
Bbilling

Which is worse -- a university department receives a conditional donation that they may or may not use to hire an "approved" faculty member or a university department that hires an employee who holds to a particular ideology as revealed by their research (do you think that never happens?) using taxpayer money?

B.a.c
B.a.c

Selling their department for only $1.5 million??? If they were gonna sell their souls they should have gotten much more.

Jon Awbrey
Jon Awbrey

Just a Variation on the World's Oldest Joke —

Q. “What kind of economics department do you think we are !?”

A. “We've already established that. Now we're just haggling over the price.”

Maybe $100 Mil next?
Maybe $100 Mil next?

Charles Koch and his 3 brothers donate to thousands of charities and schools. It is their money. They can give to any worthy cause.

Randall Holcombe
Randall Holcombe

Apparently, as a long-time faculty member in FSU's economics department, I am one of the people who is being referred to as a whore in the article's headline. The facts in this article, and in the one in the St. Pete Times, are not correct. Neither the Koch brothers, nor anybody at the Koch Foundation, has told us who to hire, or rejected any candidates the department wanted to hire. Rather, our department decided who we wanted to hire using Koch Foundation money. They had the right to reject our candidates, which seems fair because it is their money, but in fact the three faculty members our department chose to hire were approved by the Koch Foundation, and are now a part of our faculty.

The Koch Foundation does not decide who we hire, they only have the power under their grant to tell us that if a candidate we want to hire is unacceptable to them, we'll have to make the hire without their money. The Koch Foundation and the FSU economics department had a mutual interest here, and our department is better off because of it.

Think about it. If our medical school took a grant from the National Institutes of Health for cancer research, the donor is directing the use of the funds. In both cases, if there is a mutual interest, we take the money. The Koch Foundation does not tell us who to hire, and they do not tell us what our faculty has to do after they are hired. Is that what makes us whores? I might also add, in these tough budgetary times, that the Koch grant augmented our university's budget and allowed us to hire additional faculty without spending any taxpayer dollars.

FSU is fortunate
FSU is fortunate

The Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions to foster common sense and financial independence. They oppose excessive Federal Deficits. They also oppose governments using Eminent Domain to take private property from one property owner to give it to another better connected property owner.

FSU is lucky to attract their attention.

anon1
anon1

What should we expect? It is the Economics Dept after all. Maybe rename it the Kockonomics Dept.

Texas Nole
Texas Nole

I'm a huge 'Noles fan but even I'm disgusted at this. This is just shameful and for what, a measly 1.5 Mill? I don’t get it.

Guest
Guest

FSU continuing to prove itself to being a Mickey Mouse school.

Hashim305
Hashim305

Anything that can be done to counterbalance the radical left Marxism that permeates today's college campuses is OK in my book. Almost makes me want to root for Florida State. Almost.

Alejandro Moreno S.
Alejandro Moreno S.

The people of this country need to realize that the Kock bros are in fact undermining the fabric and institutions of this country, and are therefore treasonous criminals. As such, we should demand their prosecution.

Matthew Earl
Matthew Earl

Spoken like a true scUM fan. I hope you all have another miserable football season. Just remember this, FSU is going to be kicking some cane ass this season.

K Hanger
K Hanger

The original article which this clearly summarizes was published in The St. Petersburg Times, an award winning investigative newspaper ranked among the nation's top ten and the recipient of 8 Pulitzers.

If only you were an Auditor
If only you were an Auditor

Too bad the individuals that will never be benefited (or for that matter affected) by this are the ones that feel the need to post and respond to this garbage in a negative way. Everyone will always try to put you down. I would like to think that many of you are just rivals of FSU and are not naive enough to think that FSU would willingly and knowingly subject their students to being brainwashed by a couple of billionaires, but something tells me many of you truly are uneducated, and base your facts off an opinionated and obviously biased article with incorrect facts. Good luck in life.

Jpm909
Jpm909

 Feces are very fortunate to attract flies.

EccoLa
EccoLa

Virtually all academic institutions are for sale on some level. Money drives research agendas, the creation of new fields of study, the creation of chairs, etc. Please join the real world. The naivete spewed in many of the comments here is  absurd. In any case universities were (historically) meant to be a marketplace of ideas and tenure was meant to PROECT unpopular minority perspectives from being pushed out of the universities. It has broken down in the past few decades as radical ideologues and political activist academics have pursued "revolution by search committee" and by tenure committee. So when a donor wishes to support the revitalization of a robust marketplace of ideas by providing funds to ensure some intellectual diversity, that is clearly in keeping with the original mission of the academy whether the frightened monopolistic ideologues like it or not. (NOTE: intellectual diversity does not equall intellectual corruption or inferior quality. To assert that is to insist that anyone who disagrees with YOU is by definition intellectually inferior. That kind of ideological rigidity has no place among genuine scholars.) To all those who are so frightened that their own prefered approach to economics will not be able to withstand engagement with alternative schools of economic thought: your outrage and your fears exhibit the very ANTITHESIS of intellectual confidence, genuine scholarship, and the stated purpose of the academy. If institutions of higher education are NOT diverse marketplaces of ideas then the entire rational for widespread societal support is undermined. No taxpayer should be held hostage to supporting a mono-cultural, ideologically monopolistic institution pedalling unchallenged and undebated ideas or professors who do not have to argue and prove their "discovered truths" through confrontation with alternative evidence-based arguments. Such institutions should seek support from those who share their un-diverse mono-cultural point of view. If educational institutions wish to maintain public support they MUST allow competition among a diverse range of intellectual pursuits and schools of thought. The less they do so, the more they undermine their own rationale for existance and ensure that public support will be withdrawn eventually. There is already a growing movement to end tenure in higher education because of the ideological lockdown displayed by so many tenured political activists.  What sanctimonious, self-interested hypocrisy.....

David Killion
David Killion

And academic institutions that value their integrity have the right to refuse donations that come with such strings, that's the point you are conveniently ignoring.

E.Vona-Mooney
E.Vona-Mooney

You are kicking sand over the truth.  You sold out for a measly million or two...for what?  So the right wing Koch brothers can tell you a professor is "acceptable" to them?I am now ashamed to admit that I graduated from FSU.  I no longer will donate money or leave FSU in my will.  What a disgrace the powers that be are.

frharry
frharry

"The Koch Foundation does not decide who we hire, they only have the power under their grant to tell us that if a candidate we want to hire is unacceptable to them, we'll have to make the hire without their money. The Koch Foundation and the FSU economics department had a mutual interest here, and our department is better off because of it."

Amazing how easy it is to rationalize wrongdoing. Of course, when state universities begin to be funded by private, strings-attached moneys, our gracious state legislature will cut state funding to give millionaires and corporations yet more tax moneys.

Private interests have NO business dictating any element of policy to a state university beginning with hiring. If FSU does not like being seen as a prostitute (and, as an alumnus of FSU who got my Ph.D. there, I certainly don't like it) it needs to stop selling its soul to the highest bidder. You all are a disgrace up in Tallahassee. What a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to be even a decent university.

Passion
Passion

How can you possibly claim that you hire "whom you want"? You have to hire someone that believes in libertarian ideology and will teach as well as advocate libertarian ideology. And hire not just one, but multiple hires off this influence-peddling money, irregardless of what specializations your econ dept actually needs.

How can the academic integrity of your dept not be skewed -- and deeply compromised -- as a result? (This is meant as a real question, albeit incredulous...)

David Killion
David Killion

If the Koch Foundation has a veto power on hiring, they do, in fact, tell the Economics Department who to hire. What that makes it a matter of 'whoring' is exactly that influence. If the Koch Foundation, instead, directed the funds toward a certain line of research would be one thing, but to keep a veto power over hiring is something altogether different.

I will admit, certainly, that not enough details have been revealed to thoroughly render judgment, but the extrapolated possibilities of public learning institutions selling off their autonomy to corporate bidders is particularly distressing.

Jpm909
Jpm909

In Saudi Arabia, the mineral wealth, eg oil,  of the country  belongs to the country or royal family,  America's oil wealth should belong to the country not John Birchers...  with that oil revenue there would not be a deficit except for Republican wars, unpaid medicare rx plan...

racetoinfinity
racetoinfinity

The Koch Bros are pursuing a John Birch agenda, wildly unpopular with most of the American people.

57 Nole
57 Nole

The Koch foundation is NOT fostering "common sense" but "Kochsense" which means my way or the highway! FSU has now become the proud owner of its personal Johns Committee

Guest
Guest

Don't start trash talking my University.. This is not place.

DL
DL

"Radical Left Marxism"?? LMAO!!! You sound like a crazy person.

hurtin1
hurtin1

This isn't Cuba. We don't prosecute for anti-revolutionary activities.

Besides which, the "treasonous" donations of the libertarian Kochs are dwarfed by those of the billionaire liberal donors like George Soros, whose existence is conveniently forgotten by the newly ordained Koch hunters. This controversy looks like a load of projection.

K Hanger
K Hanger

How will we talk about a marketplace of ideas when only the corporate sector is the one at the table with the money to buy a stake in the conversation. This is not one instance of one nice rich guy being allowed to have whatever he wants. I don't believe any of us would be naive enough to imagine that the reputation of the Koch brothers for buying political influence doesn't precede this event. You contradict yourself...Holmes' marketplace of ideas was about citizens, not corporations. It was about discussion and the best ideas rising to the top. When faculty postions and curricula are handed out according to the wishes of the highest bidder you have the opposite of dialogue. You have 19th Century style paternalism...and worse.

KHanger
KHanger

Thank you for speaking out. A state that allows its public institutions of higher learning to accept "influence money" from wealthy billionaires ... and let's be honest ... Mr. Koch is not doing this merely because he's a Seminoles fan ... he's done it at several other schools and reaped the rewards from it ... has no right to call itself "uninfluenced" and above aboard in its ethics. I for one would much prefer to see my State's universities funded by tax dollars so I could still believe that I have a voter's influence over the objectivity the schools that are educating future decision-makers in Florida. SO EASY to just pretend this a matter of civil rights for Mr. Koch who has a right to buy whatever he wants to buy and not one of undue influence over the use of state property. If Mr. Koch wants to influence the next generation of economists in this way, to paraphrase another commenter, why doesn't he go build and staff and populate one of his own?

Efalkner
Efalkner

"Amazing how easy it is to rationalize wrongdoing."

Amazing how easy it is to beg the question.

Amazing how easy it is close your ears to contrary thought and go "la, la, la, can't hear you."

Amazing that one can simply ignore evidence that disproves your point.

Amazing.  Not surprising for your ilk, but amazing.

 

Garnet and Gold
Garnet and Gold

Passion,

I am a student at FSU with one of my three majors being Economics. As a student almost done with my undergraduate career, I can assure you that they don't shove Libertarian views down our throats. No teacher that I have had will even tell a student their particular viewpoints, because they want us (the student) to figure ours out for ourselves. Furthermore, they teach us both Monetarist and Keynesian viewpoints, and from my experience, Keynesian is a lot easier to understand. The reason why prefer more Classicalist views, is not due to the Economics department, but actually due to a class I took in the Finance department from a professor who was a Keynesian (he told us the last day of class). This article is written by an idiot. If you don't believe me, then ask yourself why he read a St. Pete Times article, and instead of getting his own facts, he just based this off of theirs (like you are doing). I applaud FSU for taking this money, because it gives students like me more opportunities to learn about subject matter we actually care about. While you are sitting in your office, you have no idea the budget cuts that are causing my learning experience to diminish. If you have a problem with this, then donate your own $1.5M to the program so we don't have to accept money from people you do not like. Also, someone pointed out that only ~30% of funds at FGCU are from tax-payers money, and the rest can be attributed to donations. This may be true, but how much of that money goes to an Economics department? Most donations are written to Athletics, Business, Medical, and Law schools. If you think that the Economics program is getting all these funds from Alumni, you probably don't realize how small our Economics program is. Those of you who have enough negative opinions to voice them need to do some research first. Just because someone writes an article does not mean it is 100% factual. Hint: This one is not 100% factual.

Milton
Milton

David, thank you for sharing your rent seeking behavior. I seriously doubt there is a threat to 'academic freedom' at the FSU Economics Department or in all of FSU for that matter. Rent seekers can't be choosers too...

Randall Holcombe
Randall Holcombe

They don't have veto power over our hiring, David. We can hire whomever we want, and since receiving the Koch money we have hired several faculty without consulting them, but on state money (that is, using your tax dollars). They could have vetoed our using their money to hire someone, but we still could have hired that same person using money from another source. As a matter of fact, we proposed hiring three people on their money, and they agreed to all three hires.

When we took the money, we agreed as a department that if we could use the money to hire people we wanted, we would do that. If our choices didn't meet with Koch Foundation approval, then we wouldn't take the money. Looking back on it, the Koch grant worked out very well for us, and for you, the taxpayer.

Bill Dalasio
Bill Dalasio

Actually, Koch Industries is in the processing business, not in the energy exploration and development business.  Nationalizing (i.e. thieving) the energy resources would mean their work would still be necessary, unless you want to try heating your home or powering your car on the black tar that comes out of the ground.  Of course, I don't think we can expect much from someone who sees Saudi Arabia as a legitimate model for the republic.

T.Kane
T.Kane

You're right and wrong.  They are pursuing a John Birch/Ayn Rand agenda but, unfortunately it is not now anywhere near as universally understood to be awful.  Today it's called the Tea Party

hurtin1
hurtin1

Or like someone who's gone to college.

frharry
frharry

Hmmm. My "ilk" is a fifth generation Floridian. My ilk is being an instructor in the Florida state university system and having devoted over 30 years of my life to educating my fellow Floridians. In other words, my ilk is someone who actually knows first hand about the problems with this situation and has a life-long investment in the state in which it it occurring.

The problem is not that I have refused to hear the arguments here. Rather, it's that I've listened and found them uncompelling.  Stacking academic departments with ideologues as a condition of funding them is a recipe for academic fraud and failure. Florida deserves better than this.

Shona
Shona

I work for a state university. "Tax payer money" is no longer the bulk of the funds that a college has. FSU like FGCU probably has an annual report to show where all their income is derived from and for FGCU at least, state appropriations are only 31.5%. On top of that FGCU has the smallest alumni base of all of the FL public schools. FSU has a strong alumni base, well known sports program, research status...so basically even more income from sources outside of public support.

And why when it comes to education, are taxpayers so cheap anyway? Why moan about supporting education. Most of us with jobs wouldn't even have them if we didn't have access to a decent education. It is just sickening to see how misplaced people's priorities are!

cd
cd

Isn't it great that economist preach that money influences all decisions except for their own decisions? Really, it's laughable what a ideology-driven pseudo-science economics is.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Electronics

Loading...