Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Florida State University and Koch Brothers … significant or not

A post by Dan Crawford at Angry Bear today titled "Florida State University and Koch Brothers … significant or not" reads:
Via Alternet and the St. Petersberg Times:
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."

The agreement is here.

Since readers include university professors, what is the deal? What is usual or setting a new bar for funding in a public institution?

I’m not a university professor, but here’s the comment I posted:
The John M. Olin Foundation did something like this for decades with sponsorships of “Law and Economics” chairs at law schools, but, to my knowledge, these were all at private universities and, also to my knowledge, the foundation had no formal say in who was hired for these positions. The foundation apparently disbanded in 2005. The Wikipedia article about the foundation is here.

It’s one thing for a private university such as Stanford to house an ideological think tank such as the Hoover Institute, which is not part of one of the university’s academic departments. It’s something else entirely, and something really pernicious, I think, for a university—especially a state university—to delegate to a party unaffiliated with the university the authority to approve hires for one of the university’s academic departments in exchange for funding the professorships.

This is a VERY big deal, in my opinion. But then, a hallmark of this era in America is the abandonment of even the pretense of ethical standards of conduct by this country’s traditional pillars of those standards. At least this abandonment is public knowledge from the outset.

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