George Mason Students Get Their Day in Court

  George Mason University students have taken their school to court over the release of donor agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation. Photo: Samantha Parsons

George Mason University students have taken their school to court over the release of donor agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation. Photo: Samantha Parsons

In February of this year, a group of students from George Mason University sued their school and its private university foundation over donor agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation.

Between 2005 and 2015, the Koch Foundation has given almost $100,000,000 in donations to GMU — that’s more than their contributions to every other school in their network combined. George Mason is the crowning jewel of the Koch academic network. GMU is home to the Mercatus Center, Koch’s leading anti-regulatory think tank and “talent pipeline” hub.

We have strong reason to believe there are strings attached in the fine print of those donor agreements. However, despite George Mason being a public university, donor agreements with the Koch Foundation have been kept from students, faculty, and Virginia taxpayers. The donations are funneled through GMU’s private foundation, which they claim is not susceptible to open records laws. So the students took action and sued their school to release the documents.

In October, the students finally got their day in court. Thanks to support from people across the country — and even from Canada — we were able to shine a national spotlight on the fight at GMU and why it’s important that we end donor influence there and at every university. You sent in your messages of support, showing how many people are standing on the side of students. The night before their second court date, the students projected your messages on a campus building named after the late James Buchanan, who was key to rise of the Koch network.

Now, we wait to hear what the next stage will be in what presiding judge, Justice John A. Tran, called a “historic case.” In the meantime, we wanted to share some of our favorite messages.

Thank you, students, for demanding that Mason act like a truly public university. I am a faculty member at Mason, and I can tell you that the vast majority of the faculty support your demand for transparency. We’re behind you! Thank you again for your activism. 
Anonymous, Virginia
From FSU to GMU and beyond! Fighting for academic freedom is a fight for the future! Keep up the fantastic work - what y’all are doing is important!!
Aaron, Florida
I commend and thank you for standing up to the GMU Foundation and the Koch brothers and their foundations. It is refreshing to see a group of people do this. The fact that you are younger than many of us who should be doing more to fight the destruction these evil people and their cronies are trying to push on our country, makes me extremely proud of you. I truly wish you the best.
Susan, Alabama
I definitely support your struggle for transparency and academic freedom at GMU. As a Canadian academic, I also thank you for bringing awareness to the insidious and corrupting influence of the Koch brothers on US campuses, but I suspect they are also infiltrating on our campuses here too as public support for our public universities continues to decline, as it has in the US. I care deeply about public education and thank you for your resistance to private interests impacting on education.
Jennifer, Ontario, Canada
What you’re doing is meaningful and pivotal in our efforts to protect public universities from private interests. Thank you for all you do. You’re courageous and leading the way! Go Transparent GMU!!!
Anonymous, Virginia
Thank you for your service to our Mason community. Your pursuit of transparency is generous and admirable.
Kristin, Virginia

The fight for transparency at George Mason is far from over. But thanks to support from people like you, we have the power to keep going. Make sure to keep up with the campaign by following UnKoch My Campus and Transparent GMU on Facebook and joining our email list!


By: Kyli Wagner - Digital Organizer, UnKoch My Campus
November 2, 2017