3. Donor Influence over Programming

B. Curriculum, Certificates, Minors, and Majors

In addition to stipulating the hiring and function of their academic programs, the Koch foundation and their donor partners are also directly effecting the classroom and the degrees that students are granted. In some cases, like Florida Gulf Coast University, entire majors are created by the donor.  


At Florida State University, the Koch foundation's programs influenced the creation of extensive curricular programs. Chapter 4.C of our 2017 report on Koch at FSU details how the Koch/BB&T agreements granted donor influence over at least nine courses and two certificates, one in the College of Social Sciences, one in the College of Business.

The Dean of the Faculties wrote a 2011 letter to President Eric Barron in regarding the Charles Koch Foundation’s agreement and the findings of the Faculty Senate’s investigation.

There are several curricular issues mentioned in the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee report related to the specific circumstances of the Koch gift, and many more could occur at any time under our current procedures for faculty review of courses, certificates, majors, and degrees. This results from the fact that once a gift agreement is settled by the donor, the Foundation, and the academic unit, that agreement becomes invisible in the faculty governance processes designed to make decisions regarding the shape of the curriculum. There is simply no information available to those committees to indicate that any request is tied to a donor’s wishes. (Buchanan to Barron, 2011)

In the Department of Economics, the description of the Certificate Program in Markets and Institutions lists the requirement of “a two-semester sequence in principles of economics,” “three elective courses from the curriculum,” and one “capstone course” (ECO 3004: Debating Economic Ideas).

In the Department of Finance, the BB&T Program for Free Enterprise allowed BB&T to create a minor, by providing “funding for the college to offer the Minor Program in Free Enterprise and Ethics.” It is available “to undergraduates currently pursuing one of the majors in the College of Business.”

Both certificates require the same “principles sequence,” consisting of the introductory courses:

• (ECO 2013) Principles of Macroeconomics
• (ECO 2023) Principles of Microeconomics

Additional courses developed (or in some cases redeveloped) as part of the Koch foundation's agreement: 

• (ECO 2000) Introduction to Economics
• (ECO 3130) Free to Choose
• (ECO 4504) Public Sector Economics
• (ECO 3131) Market Ethics
• (ECO 3004) Debating Economic Issues
• (ECO 4132) Economics of Compassion
• (GEB 4455) Perspectives in Free Enterprise

The 2011 Faculty Senate investigation into the 2008 MOU revealed that:

Since the MOU was signed in the summer of 2008, the department has created and now offers a new undergraduate certificate program, the “Certificate in Markets and Institutions.” Although the new “Market Ethics: course prescribed by the Donor Partner agreement is not required of the Economics majors generally, the course is a requirement for the new Certificate program. The concern expressed to the committee is that this Certificate program was not vetted in proposed form by a department-wide mechanism, but there is disagreement on this point. There is an Undergraduate Committee in the department bylaws: “The Undergraduate Committee has overall responsibility for the Department’s undergraduate program. This committee must review all academic policy changes affecting the undergraduate program prior to their final consideration by the Executive Committee or the Department faculty as a whole” . . . .
We conclude that the process of establishing the new Certificate must have fallen short of a usefully functioning standard of transparency and openness. (2011 Faculty Senate Investigation, pg 13)

At the University of Louisville, a 2015 MOU creates a Center for Free Enterprise and allows for the creation of curriculum that is aligned with the Donor stipulated “Center’s Mission”:

The Center will sponsor new courses in the College of Business (the "College"), lectures, reading groups, and other activities. Through Ph.D. fellowships, four new faculty members, and various academic programs, the Center will become a hub for scholarship on the role of enterprise and entrepreneurship in society and the ideas and institutions that lead to well-being. (UL 2015 MOU, Preamble)

At the University of Kansas, a records request revealed that the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation (one of several Koch family foundations controlled by Charles Koch) provided funding in 2009 to support the creation of a “Capitalism course”

SThe 2009 grant of $100,000, dedicated to payroll, allowed the Center to continue the work made possible by the 2008 grant—as well as inaugurate a Capitalism course in the KU School of Business for honor students university-wide. (KU records request, pg 3)

At Florida Gulf Coast University, the activities of the BB&T Distinguished Professorship of Free Enterprise Economics, Dr. Bradley Hobbs, are stipulated by donor partnership between BB&T and the Charles Koch Foundation. These activities include the development of an Economics Major, and the implementation of donor stipulated curriculum.

The 2009 report describes that specific stipulations require that a “primary duty of the position is to regularly teach a course titled The Moral Foundations of Capitalism. [...] all students read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This course was used as the basis for an economics major that was created the same year the professorship was first instantiated, as well as affecting Finance major:

The professorship will also play a significant role in the development of the major: all economics majors take The Moral Foundations of Capitalism as their capstone course.
All economics and finance majors receive a copy of Atlas Shrugged in Intermediate Price Theory (a required course for both majors). [...] Professor Hobbs is the professor for this course on campus and is able to explain to students the reasons for reading the book and also to interest students in the Moral Foundations of Capitalism course.

According to Hobbs’ 2009 report:

The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has provided operational seed funding in the first two years of activity. [...] The primary mission of this Professorship is one of advocacy: To encourage the study of the contributions that free enterprise and individual freedom and responsibility provide for human flourishing through teaching, research, and service involving students, the university, and the broader community.

At Troy University, the Koch foundation, BB&T, and Manuel Johnson founded the Manuel Johnson Center for Political Economy in 2010. In 2016, several professors were recorded during a panel discussion moderated by the Koch foundation, describing how the funding was used to "take over" several departments by gaining control over hiring and curriculum, including the creation of an economics major .

In 2016, the Johnson Center's George Crowley remarked:

At Troy we basically had, economics didn’t have a major. It had a major, that had died, and what fundamentally, first thing that needed to be done was actually just getting some of this stuff into the actual curriculum. We had this weird smattering of courses, we were predominantly a discipline that had disinterested faculty members that had been there forever and were basically serving the business [students] by and large. Our task really was, in a lot of ways, to kind of fundamentally change what Troy was doing. . .

Moving beyond some kind of just concentration within the general business program to actually an econ major both in the college business and arts and sciences. We actually at a later point were able to kind of take over the finance major as well. It is still a straight finance major, but they actually have to take intermediate micro and macro. Again, just trying to get the ideas to as many people as possible by laying that foundation. If you don’t have that struggle, then hats off to you, but at Troy we really did. (APEE 2016 Transcript)