A Case Study in Academic Crime:
Koch at Florida State University
Members of UnKoch My Campus and FSU Progress Coalition have released a book-length report shedding new light onto Florida State University’s relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation and BB&T.
Based on a year long investigation and hundreds of new documents obtained through public records requests, we have reconstructed a picture of donor influence at FSU from 2007 to 2017. There is good news, and also very bad news.
THE GOOD NEWS
In 2015, under pressure from our organization and the university community, FSU administrators decided to secretly discontinue (“sunset”) the controversial Koch agreement. This agreement gave the unprecedented donor influence over FSU's academic activities and administration in department of economics, including the creation of a program focused on "markets and institutions."
THE VERY BAD NEWS
Nearly all of the programs and professorships affiliated with the Koch agreement have been reassembled under the L. Charles Hilton Jr. Center at FSU. In July 2016, FSU announced that the Hilton Center will receive $539,000 from the Koch Foundation to support “Ph.D. students” and “research in the area of markets and institutions.”
On the same day we released this report, the Tampa Bay Times reported that FSU’s Hilton professor lobbying (literally) side by side with Koch lobbyists before the Florida legislature.
Our report reveals new details about the corrupt means used to leverage Koch's influence, and reveals the range of Koch's influence over academic activity, including:
- Records requests reveal that Koch’s advisory board has control over graduate fellowship selection and dissertation topics in Koch’s graduate and Ph.D fellowship program, which has nearly doubled in funding every year since its inception. DonorsTrust, the "dark money" fund used by the Koch network, has also begun funding fellowships.
- Administration interfered in two faculty reviews of the Koch agreement, suppressing the top findings of the first 2011 faculty investigation.
During the initial implementation of the Koch agreement, faculty in the Department of Economics described “threats” from the Dean and Department Chair creating an “atmosphere of intimidation and administrative dictate.”
Koch’s “Undergraduate Program” involved donor creation of several new courses, donor influence over at least nine courses, and donor control over introductory “principles” courses. The “principles” courses specifically are estimated to reach approximately 7,000 students per year, both majors and non-majors.
Key administrators (including the president, trustees of FSU, and trustees of the FSU foundation) had ties to Koch and BB&T while the 2008 agreement was being negotiated, including the chair of FSU's board of trustees, Jim Smith, whose son became a registered lobbyist for Koch Industries in 2007, and BB&T's Nan Hillis, a trustee of the FSU foundation whose husband Mark was a trustee of FSU.
Koch’s 2016 donation to FSU includes $150,000 for the Project for Accountable Justice (PAJ), a corporate funded “criminal justice” think tank. The PAJ holds ties to corrupt private corrections contractors and pro-corporate criminal justice efforts known as “Right on Crime,” led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network, and the Charles Koch Institute.
The James Madison Institute’s Sal Nuzzo, who infamously bragged about the intentional use of misleading language in Florida’s anti-solar Amendment 1 in 2016, claimed to receive support from faculty at FSU’s DeVoe Moore Center while crafting the controversial amendment, for which we provide greater context.
Charles Koch’s spending has shaped the political and cultural context of the entire country. His network is expanding its programs not only at FSU but at dozens of universities across the nation.
Florida State was the first campus where the Koch foundation's influence was exposed in 2011. It was also the site the earliest faculty/student dissent.
See our 2015 PROGRESS COALITION REPORT THAT REVEALS HOW THE CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION VIOLATES FSU'S DONOR POLICY
See our 2016 report on Koch's criminal justice reform in Florida
Campuses are the key to Koch’s theory of political change. As key members of Koch''s network continue to fill the Trump administration's appointments, it is vital that we continue to expose the abuse of our public institutions by those with the power and money and motive to do so.
PROGRESS COALITION IN THE NEWS:
"Koch Foundation proposal to college: Teach our curriculum, get millions," Center for Public Integrity, September 12, 2014
"Adam Weinstein: Presidential search is latest battle for free-market lobbyists trying to transform FSU," Context Florida, September 1, 2014
"Koch Foundation criticized again for influencing Florida State," NPR Morning Edition, May 23, 2014
"My View: Don't let Koch hurt academic integrity," Tallahassee Democrat, April 4, 2014