$10 Million Koch Gift to University of Utah Raises Concerns

$10 Million Koch Gift to University of Utah Raises Concerns

A $10 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation to help establish an economics institute at the University of Utah is raising concerns among faculty and students, the Associated Press reports.

As of Wednesday, eighty-five faculty, students, and alumni had signed a letter authored by political science professor Mark Button expressing concerns that, in general, gifts from the foundation are aimed at funding academic work and student activities aligned with the views of Charles Koch and his brother David, and that the school, by accepting the money, could become a vehicle for a political agenda that embraces things like climate change skepticism.

Charles and David Koch are known for backing conservative and libertarian causes and have built a network of political and social groups that have funneled tens of millions of dollars into support for Republican politics and candidates. A spokesperson for the Koch Foundation told the AP that the foundation supports a variety of research and ideas at more than three hundred colleges around the country and disputed the idea that it supports climate change skepticism.

A spokesperson for the university, which had approached the foundation with the idea for an economics and quantitative analysis institute, told the AP that it does not take into consideration a donor's political beliefs when evaluating a gift, and that the gift contract with the foundation includes a number of provisions designed to protect the institute's autonomy in hiring and research. However, anti-Koch activists point to provisions in the contract that require annual reviews and allow the foundation to withdraw its money at any time, so long as it gives thirty days' notice. According to Ralph Wilson, co-founder of the UnKoch My Campus campaign, those provisions give the foundation a kind of "veto power" over the institute's activities not usually attached to university gifts.

John Hardin, director of university relations, disagreed with that perspective, telling the AP that it was not unusual for donors to insist on periodic reviews and that the foundation does not seek to promote a particular ideology. "What's so cool about education is [that] it provides a place, a platform, an incubator, for human discovery," he added, “because it's a place where people can come with lots of different perspectives and questions and ideas.”

"$10M Koch Donation to University of Utah Raises Concerns." $10M Koch Donation to University of Utah Raises Concerns 08/02/2017.