Hard to believe, isn't it? Okay, it's not the entire department, just a few hires, $1.5 M worth:
A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.
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."
These are state employees, but Koch gets to pick them.
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.
David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences, defended the deal, initiated by an FSU graduate working for Koch. During the first round of hiring in 2009, Koch rejected nearly 60 percent of the faculty's suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates.
Now, rather than taking over entire academic departments, Koch is funding faculty who promote his agenda at universities where there are a variety of economic views. In addition to FSU, Koch has made similar arrangements at two other state schools, Clemson University in South Carolina and West Virginia University.
A letter in the Tallahassee Democrat by Ray Bellamy, a practicing physician and on the faculty of the Florida State University College of Medicine, and Kent S. Miller, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida State University, calls it for what it us: an attack on academic freedom:
Two of the more visible corporations making substantial contributions to universities are the Koch brothers and BB&T. The brothers are owners of the second-largest privately held corporation in the U.S. and are much in the news because of efforts to influence public policy, elections, taxes, environmental issues, unions, regulations, etc. BB&T is a large financial services corporation that frequently teams up with Koch
Both corporations have worked out agreements with colleges and universities across the country, many of them being controversial. James Mason University received over $23 million from Koch brothers foundations to hire seven libertarian professors, subjecting the college to the charge that the university had been "bought."
Guilford College accepted a 10-year, $500,000 grant from BB&T, along with the following strings: an upper-level interdisciplinary course requiring the assignment of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" in its entirety, and the commitment of the college to annually (until the year 2019) give a copy of the book to every student who majors either in business or economics when that student enters his or her junior year.
Meredith College faculty rejected a $420,000 "gift" that the college president had negotiated with a BB&T foundation on the grounds that the college needed to retain control over course curricula. Incidents of this latter kind abound, but fall far behind the number of instances in which the corporations have gotten the traction they wanted with the schools.
We turn now to an agreement between Florida State's Department of Economics and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
We see all of this as seriously damaging to academic freedom.
From our reading of the memorandum, the Koch Foundation has some say over who is hired from the grant and what will be taught. It gets academic cover and access to large numbers of students for a purely political effort. (Selected students earn $200 from the DeVoe Moore Center for reading certain books and attending four meetings over a semester.)
We should make it clear that we do not know the FSU economics professors and we are not impugning them or their qualifications, competency or motivations. Nor do we know what other departments at FSU have made similar arrangements with donors, but we are told that strings are common. The faculty senate should be watching the store with an eye to identifying and making transparent donor efforts to influence the curriculum and faculty selection.
People need to think critically, cause the right wingers are buying the professors. You won't get economics; you'll get Koch's ideology at a tax payer funded school.
FSU and the others should be ashamed of themselves.
Update I: More from Think Progress:
The three senior professors must come in with tenure, and FSU must continue to fund them for at least four years past the project period.
The Advisory Board of SPSFC and EEE is allowed to review all publicly provided material submitted by applicants for the Professorship positions.
The Advisory Board will determine which candidates qualify to receive funding.
No funding for a professorship position or any other affiliated program or position will be released without the review and approval of the Advisory Board.
An undergraduate program will be devised and funded for $30,000 per year for three years. The committee responsible for the program will report to the Advisory Board.
Other strings spell out the right of the [Charles G. Koch] Foundation to annually review the work of funded professors, publications, publicity, etc., and to pick up their marbles and go home if not satisfied.