Remove Influence of the Koch Network from the University of Arizona!

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The Charles Koch Foundation contributed $1.8 million to found the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom (Freedom Center) at the University of Arizona (UA).  Additional millions have been contributed by other members of the Koch donor network, such as the Templeton Foundation. 

The "Freedom Center" is an ideological operation that is instrumental in the Koch brothers' effort to co-opt our universities to help the billionaire class achieve control of our country, as documented in Dark Money by Jane Mayer and Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean.

To support the political intent of the Freedom Center, the Koch-influenced Arizona State Legislature dedicated $6.3 million dollars of Arizona state funds to the Freedom Center in 2016 and 2017, while severely cutting state funding for other university programs. 

Last year, a new “Department of Political Economy and Moral Science” was established at the University of Arizona to house the Freedom Center. Having departmental status will allow the Freedom Center to offer undergraduate programs and graduate degrees.  It will also help place the Freedom Center’s high school education course in more schools, including in foreign countries.  

The Department of Political Economy and Moral Science

On the first Monday of the 2017 Fall Semester, the UA Philosophy Department asked the UA Faculty Senate to consider a proposal to create a new “Department of Moral Sciences.”  The Philosophy Department proposed that the Freedom Center and the Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL) program would move from the Philosophy Department to the new Department of Moral Sciences.

Faculty senators had little time to review this proposal before the vote, and UA Provost Andrew C. Comrie cut short their questions and discussion by calling for a vote.  Apparently the new department was a foregone conclusion in the provost’s mind, as he had already moved the Freedom Center into a much larger, more central office suite in July 2017, and the new department’s first hire, PPEL instructor Jonathan Anomaly, was on board before the department was even created.

After the Faculty Senate vote, the Freedom Center petitioned the Arizona Board of Regents to change the name of the new department.  The Regents agreed, and the department’s name now includes the words “political economy.”  Clearly, the Freedom Center took this roundabout route to name the new department in order to prevent “NO” votes from UA’s Economics Department and School of Government and Public Policy.  With the new name, the department can hire economics and political science professors without approval from UA’s bona fide economics and political science departments.

In 2018, the University of Arizona has a new president and a new provost.  This provides a window of opportunity to undo the wrongdoing perpetrated by the previous president and provost.

High School Course in Ethics, Economy and Entrepreneurship

The Freedom Center has instituted a dual-enrollment course entitled “Philosophy 101: Ethics, Economy and Entrepreneurship” into various high schools throughout Arizona and in Mexico.  The teachers of this course are not required to have a Masters degree in either philosophy or economics, as is normal practice for dual-enrollment courses; instead, the Freedom Center gives high school teachers a summer training class in how to teach the course their way. 

The Freedom Center’s high school course uses a self-published textbook authored by former Freedom Center director David Schmidtz, Cathleen Johnson (Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Political Economy and Moral Science and also Schmidtz’s spouse), and a now-deceased colleague.  As the Arizona Daily Star says, it is a “biased textbook” with “ties to the Koch network.” The textbook neglects crucial topics such as successful government management of the economy, the growing problem of wealth concentration, and the fact that entrepreneurs often seek monopoly power.  

Although the Freedom Center’s high school course was never approved by the Tucson Unified School District, it is nonetheless being taught in several TUSD high schools this semester.  After Kochs Off Campus! members  brought to the School Board’s attention the fact that the course was never approved and the course content is extremely one-sided and ideological, the School Board voted in December 2017 to discontinue the course effective Fall Semester 2018.  The Freedom Center has vowed to go through the proper channels and seek approval so that the course can be offered in Fall 2018.  With your help, we will keep this course from becoming more than a shameful episode in TUSD’s past.