Koch Brothers Buy Professorships at Florida State, I Can Has Academic Freedom?

This went down in 2008, but this is the first that I heard of it via BoingBoing: Billionaires role in hiring decisions at Florida State University raises questions – St. Petersburg Times. Apparently, Charles G. Koch, tea party and anti-union hobbyist, pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University in exchange for influence over the hiring of economic professors as well as for the creation of objectives that must be met if FSU wants to keep the cash. It is unfortunate that FSU administrators sought the further erosion of academic freedom of their faculty by taking this Trojan Horse from Koch. It undermines the economic faculty’s ability to shape their department’s direction, but it also creates a precedent that administrators will likely want to replicate in other departments. Granted, the sciences already accept these kinds of deals with the Devil where the corporate sponsor has final say over the release or publication of acquired research data. The case with Koch, however, is different in that it directly targets faculty decision making and academic freedom. Have similar deals gone down at other universities? Let me know in the comments.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.