By Tony Sokol
College students tell the Koch brothers they are not for sale.
(Photo : Unkoch My Campus website )
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 30 /Daily Offbeat/ — The Koch brothers may have bought themselves an election and an increasing number of media outlets, but college students across the United States are taking themselves off the market. A movement called UnKoch My Campus is growing as students declare themselves not for sale.
Earlier this month, college students at 30 different campuses across the country protested rising corporate influence on institutions of higher learning. When most people think of the Koch brothers, they think of polluting the regulatory commissions with political spending. The UnKoch My Campus administrators want to add educational patronage to that perception While the focus of the outrage is on the financial sway that the Koch brothers can exert, the movement is targeting a larger trend of corporate influence.
“It’s about accountability, transparency, and academic freedom. As unbelievable as it seems, multi-billionaire industrialists (through the power of their purse) are using your university to push their own philosophy, agenda, and economic interests,” according to the official UnKoch My Campus website (click here).
Unkoch My Campus began at Florida State University, where students were worried that the school’s relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation influenced the selection of the new university president, whose academic credentials were allegedly suspect.
The FSU student website cited a report from the Center for Public Integrity headlined “Koch foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions (click here)” which read:
“In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.
First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.
Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.
And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman – even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.”
Florida State University is only one of the colleges that have been named as taking cash from the energy congrolmerate.
In an earlier report entitled “Inside the Koch brothers’ Campus Crusade (click here),” The Center for Public Integrity reported that “in 2012, the Koch foundations sent six- or seven-figure donations to 12 colleges and universities, including big-name schools such as George Mason University in Virginia, Southern Methodist University in Texas, West Virginia University, Florida State University, Utah State University, Kansas State University and the University of Arizona.”
According to the official UnKoch My Campus website (click here), “The Kochs and their vast network of front groups … fund work tirelessly to undermine the issues many students today care about: environmental protection, worker’s rights, healthcare expansion, and quality public education, to name just a few.”
“The Kochs have donated to hundreds of colleges and universities – 254 from their tax filings from 2005 – 2012 alone, 390 if you include schools listed on their taxes and more recent archives from their website,” the website continued.
The Koch brothers, who control Koch Industries, reportedly have assets of more than $80 billion.
According to Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson in his piece “Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire (click here),” the Koch brothers’ “political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year’s midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.”
“Individual campus campaigns have begun to recognize the gravity of corporate influence and the Kochs on their campuses,” the UnKoch My Campus website (click here) reads. “We are here to provide information, guidance, and support to campus leaders and graduates who would like to get involved in this work.”
The magazine Inside Higher Ed reported that Charles and David Koch have been pumping millions of dollars into colleges for several years. The brothers have paid for faculty hiring and supported economic centers that focus on “capitalism and free enterprise,” according to the report, but “Critics say that some of the arrangement go beyond philanthropy to influencing curricular or hiring choices in inappropriate ways that colleges should reject.”
In an email response to Inside Higher Ed, John Hardin, a program officer with the Charles Koch Foundation wrote “Academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas are cornerstones of our philanthropy. When we support a school’s initiative, it is to expand opportunity and increase the diversity of ideas available on campus.”
The movement spread to Michigan to Virginia as students joined to protest their schools’ relationship with the Koch brothers. More than thirty universities are now demanding that their schools separate college from corporate interests.
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