Learn more. Subscribe today!

Brooklyn College Defends Academic Freedom By Saying No To Koch Millions For Its Business School

By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet

Unlike an estimated 150 colleges and universities that have taken $56 million from the billionaire libertarian industrialist Koch brothers since the 1980s—and then integrated their extreme right-wing agenda into business classes while censoring other views—the New York City college keeps rejecting Koch cash, an aggrieved libertarian business school professor complained in a detailed report by InsideHigherEd.com.  

The libertarian professor, Mitchell Langbert, apparently approached the Charles C. Koch Foundation twice—in June 2013 and again this January—seeking multi-million dollar grants to expand Brooklyn College’s business faculty. Langbert’s effort, however, were apparently rejected by his supervisors, who did not want to pursue the grants.

“The professor said that in the summer of 2013, he was in unofficial but promising talks with representatives from the Koch Foundation about a $4.3 million grant to advance market-based economics at Brooklyn College,” Inside Higher Ed reported. “The grant would have funded the hiring of multiple faculty members and graduate students, and established an honors program and an institute on markets at the college.”

“The professor said that in January, after more months of administrative “dithering,” he tried again to talk to Hopkins about creating an institute for the study of financial regulations on campus—this time funded by a possible $9.7 million grant from the Kochs,” they continued. “He said he was largely ignored, until earlier this month, when the dean told him via email—a copy of which was obtained by Inside Higher Ed—that he would have to “cut bait” on the project to focus on getting the business school accredited.”

Brooklyn College and the Charles G. Koch Foundation would not comment for Inside Higher Ed’sreport. Langbert, however, accused business school deans of imposing their politics by not pursuing the Koch cash. “You wouldn’t think the administration would act in a devious way and develop a political stance,” he said.

Langbert’s accusations are completely upside down. But the matter goes beyond a lone professor who often feels like an outsider, as demonstrated on his blog where he takes great offense at anyone who does not share his smarmy views.

The Kochs have been giving millions to academic institutions with a deliberate agenda to promote pro-corporate and anti-government philosophies, and hiding those requirements in their private grant agreements, said filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who just released Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Editionwhich discussed the education grants.  

“The Koch brothers have a long history of giving grants with strings attached,” he said. “Our research for Koch Brothers Exposed found numerous examples of universities that took money with academic requirements. And students and teachers have been resisting, saying that requiring any kind of ideological litmus test runs counter to the very ideals of free and open education and learning.”

Universities taking Koch funds vet whom lectures in business classes, Greenwald said, presenting mostly libertarian viewpoints to the students. Those requirements also include the books and other materials that are used in class, Greenwald said, saying that these materials—often funded with Koch grants—oppose regulation, government and labor.

Brooklyn College is not the only school that has said no to Koch cash. Late last year, 50 educators at The Catholic University of America signed a letter protesting a $1 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation to help start a business school. They noted the “stark contrast between the Koch brothers’ public policy agenda and our Church’s traditional social justice teachings.”

“Given the troubling track record the foundation has in making gifts to universities that in some cases include unacceptable meddling in academic content and the hiring process of faculty, we urge you to be more transparent about the details of this grant. Charles and David Koch have an ideological agenda when it comes to shaping the national debate over economics and politics that is not simply academic in nature,” their letter said.

“The Koch brothers are billionaire industrialists who fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship. As you well know, Catholic social teaching articulates a positive role for government, an indispensable role for unions, just tax policies, and the need for prudent regulation of financial markets in service of the common good. We are concerned that by accepting such a donation you send a confusing message to Catholic students and other faithful Catholics that the Koch brothers’ anti- government, Tea Party ideology has the blessing of a university sanctioned by Catholic bishops.”

The faculty’s letter was followed by an online petition drive that gathered 33,000 signers. In late February, however, the university’s top dean and president wrote an essay for The Wall Street Journal defending the Koch grant, saying that the objections to the Koch via their political work to defund anti-poverty programs and cripple unions was “a rather strong form of guilt by association.”

To its credit, the leaders at Brooklyn College’s business school know better.