5. Bypassing transparency and dissent

B. Circumventing Faculty Governance and Dissent

The Koch foundation's programs are consistently created without faculty approval and behind closed doors. In other instances, faculty and/or administrators have helped the Koch foundation force the programs on the campuses against the dissent of the faculty, at times overtly using misinformation to obscure the Koch foundation's objectives.



At Florida State Universitya 2011 faculty investigation found that, despite “extreme dissent” from faculty in the Department of Economics, the agreement with the Koch foundation was forced through “threats” and “intimidation” of the faculty. The Koch “gift” violated academic freedom and faculty governance. A “two-fold conflict of interest,” it was executed through “administrative dictate,” with the dean and department chair Bruce Benson (former APEE president):

The committee found that there was extreme dissent among faculty on this issue at its inception which continues to this time some 3 years later. Dissenting faculty reported an atmosphere of intimidation and administrative dictate by the Dean for a “done deal” that prevented faculty input on academic integrity or curricular issues. During the discussions on development of the Koch proposal, no formal process for considering these opinions was allowed. Faculty specifically requested a vote on accepting the Koch agreement and this was rejected by the Dean who told us he did this because he did not intend to take their input. The Faculty Senate Constitution and generally accepted discourse on academic freedom place curricular issues under the province of faculty. The Dean erred in not allowing established faculty governance process to function.

It should be noted that each department within the university establishes its own by-laws for faculty governance. Traditionally, the Economics department has elected an Executive Committee and left all issues of curricular development, faculty hiring, and departmental development to this group. This trusting, governance at a distance process functioned well when issues were within established, traditional bounds, but was inadequate to handle the intense controversy of the Koch issue. Attempts to move into a more active governance mode by the faculty on the Koch issue were stifled by the Dean and by the Department Chair who regularly emailed interpretations of the Dean’s wishes.

It was repeatedly stated by faculty that an atmosphere of intimidation was thus generated. It was reported that the Dean made threats about future teaching assignments if Koch money was not available, that dissent with the Koch agreement was viewed as faculty disloyalty by the department chair, and that memos from the department chair were argumentative and angry. Many faculty were loathe to speak to the Koch issue in this atmosphere, particularly the untenured ones. (2011 Standley report, Finding 2)

The extent of donor influence has included the ability to veto tenure hires, or any programming, with as little as 15 days notice, aside from an annual donor review of curricular/extra-curricular programs, and the annual ability to withhold funding for non-tenure track hires and graduate fellowships.

At Auburn University, a Koch center established under Dr. Robert Lawson (former APEE President, now at Southern Methodist University) was found to have been the result of a foregone hiring process that took place without faculty knowledge, largely outside of Auburn’s hiring procedures.

Among the "irregularities" found in the Koch foundation's hire was the near absence of a job announcement, as reported by the Auburn Villager:

When they learned of the center, some faculty members asked if a national search had taken place and started looking for the job announcement. The job was not advertised on the AU Web site or on any of the recognized venues where economics faculty are usually recruited, they say”.

One professor said he finally found the job advertised only once on a Web site called Social Science Research Network. The advertisement was posted Nov. 4, 2007, with enquiries to go to [Dean] Jahera. Review of applications was to take place Dec. 1, 2007. On Nov. 9, however, [Robert] Lawson was already going to be on campus to give a seminar, according to an e-mail to a College of Business faculty member on Nov. 5, one day after the job was advertised.

In light of this, it does not seem likely or possible that there was a search committee mandated by Auburn’s own policies:

According to a faculty recruitment checklist posted online by AU's Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity, a search committee is mandatory. The search committee reviews the advertisement and sets a timetable to review applications. The search committee then screens applications on the basis of advertised criteria, requests letters of reference and prepares a short list of candidates to be interviewed. Then candidates are interviewed and a candidate is selected.
After learning of the center in December and finding out that many senior faculty did not even know about the project in January, Gogue purportedly urged more openness. On Feb. 12, the center was included on the agenda for that month's University Senate meeting.
By that time, however, Lawson had already been hired and the center was a fait accompli. He is now an associate professor in the department of finance. [Auburn Villager, Sept 2008]

At Western Carolina University, the agreement to accept $2 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to create the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise was made despite overwhelming faculty dissent. The Smoky Mountain News reported:

Western Carolina University leaders bucked concerns of faculty when they voted last week to create a free enterprise center funded with outside money from politically-charged mega donors.

The WCU faculty senate voted overwhelmingly against the creation of such a free enterprise center in October — three in favor and 21 opposed. The majority who weighed in during a faculty forum and written comment period also opposed the free enterprise center. (SMN Dec 2015)

During the campus deliberation, Dr. Ed Lopez (former APEE president) misinformed faculty and administrators by sharing a “campus version” of the Koch center proposal, omitting key deliverables that were shared with the Koch Foundation, including language about a student “pipeline.” 


At George Mason University in May 2016, faculty asked for the ability to review a $30 million Koch-backed deal so that they could review the terms:

The grant agreements require the university to make complex organizational changes the exact nature and implications of which are not clear. . .

The grant agreements link the funding of the promised scholarships to the ongoing service of the current Dean, Dr. Henry N. Butler: “if the individual holding the Dean position changes, the University shall immediately notify the Donor.” This constitutes a violation of longstanding practices of faculty governance.
It is the responsibility of the Law School Faculty and the GMU Administration, not outside donors, to determine who is appointed and continues to serve as Dean. To tie gifts totaling thirty (30) millions of dollars to the ongoing tenure of Dean Butler is unacceptable. . .

The grant agreements also appear to be somewhat risky for the University and to give too much leverage to the Donors. All of the money is not given up front: it is to be made in five annual installments. If the Donors decide the Foundation and/or University are not living up to any of the “provisions set forth in the agreement,” then the Donors can end the agreement within 30 days and demand the return of “all unexpended Contributed Amounts” within an additional 15 days. (GMU Faculty Senate Resolution, April 2016)

At the University of Kentucky, (October 2016) administrators disregarded two consecutive faculty votes (one) (two) against proposed governance in the contract for the new Koch center.

At Texas Tech Universityjournalists found that the Free Market Institute, under Dr. Ben Powell (former APEE President), was established in the business college after being rejected by three departments. Economics faculty said Powell “didn’t satisfy the minimum criteria for a tenure position,” had a ”weak vita,” and an “Austrian bent” that “wasn’t consistent with the culture in our department. We are mainstream economists.”

At Troy University, Koch, BB&T, and Manley Johnson founded the Manley Johnson Center in 2010. That same year, Manley Johnson attended the 2010 Koch summit. The mission statement of the Johnson center mirrors the content of the summit, which included a session on “the moral imperatives of free markets”:

Winning the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government:
America was built on the free enterprise system. That’s how America became a prosperous nation with abounding opportunities for all. Now, freedom is under a relentless attack. What happens if it slips away? Arthur Brooks will share with us how free enterprise is more than an economic system - it is a moral imperative, and we must defend it at all costs.
Arthur Brooks, American Enterprise Institut

Troy’s now infamous George Crowley remarked at APEE 2016 how “We had a big gift…that let us hire a whole bunch of people all at once, and we kind of were able to take over, for lack of a better term.”

At Montana State University, there are concerns that a Koch center “bypassed the standard public review process and public input,” as the center is operational without having received Board of Regents approval.