Koch higher education grant comes with strings attached

March 19, 2015

The Charles Koch Foundation has signed on with Papa John’s founder John Schnatter to fund the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville, donating nearly $2 million to the program. So… what’s the catch?

The contract with U of L allows the donors to walk away at virtually any time, says Insider Louisville:

The contracts also allow Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation to pull their funding at any time if the center is not living up to its mission, which the contracts say is “to engage in research and teaching that explores the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship in advancing the well-being of society.”
According to the agreements, which were signed by U of L president James Ramsey on March 10, if the donors want to pull funding, they must “make a good faith effort to meet within sixty (60) days to discuss” the reasons with the university. If the donors don’t change their minds, they only have to provide a 30-day notice that they’re pulling funding.
Perhaps the most concerning part of the contract is that funds can be pulled if their “mission” is not upheld and since finding millions of dollars in funding in a month’s time would be nearly impossible, the U of L could ultimately be forced to change their academics as the Kochs see fit or be faced with paying the bill.

This is hardly the first time the Kochs have used their money to influence the curriculum in schools. By their own count they had allocated money to more than 250 schools, including Florida State University. Although FSU President John Thrasher has repeatedly insisted that the funding has not effected academic freedom, the faculty tell a different story.

From a Letter to Tallahassee Democrat:

Note the following candid statement from Bruce Benson, acting chairman of the FSU Economic Department: “These organizations have an explicit agenda. They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring. If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”
U of L Vice President Keith Inman and other officials told Insider Louisville that “they aren’t concerned about undue influence coming from the donors.” But with the billionaire brothers’ track record of buying influence, the university should be concerned. In all likelihood, the money comes with an agenda and it isn’t to ensure academic freedom.

Paid for by American Bridge 21st Century Foundation