To the Editor:
I was deeply disappointed to read that the political science department (of which I am a graduate) is considering a proposal to take funding from the Koch Foundation.
I treasure the time I spent at Boston College and the intellectual development fostered by the professors of that department. They have had a profound impact on the person I am today and how I view the world; and I truly believe (perhaps conceitedly) that the education provided to me and other graduates produces the kind of informed, responsible, and introspective citizens necessary for a well-functioning society.
It is therefore sickening to see some of those same professors actively consider funding from the Koch Foundation. This is a nakedly political organization, masquerading as a charity, that, for the last 30 years, has done as much or more to undermine the scientific consensus behind climate change than any private institution on earth.
A quick visit to the Foundation’s website reveals a worryingly long list of colleges and universities that it has “supported.” (“Supported” here can be taken to mean varying levels of “exerted academic control over”). One needs to look no further than your article to see the impact this support has had on George Mason, Florida State, and Arizona State, among others.
The Foundation’s agenda is no secret. They have been actively attempting to wield control over institutions of higher education for decades. As professor Juliet Schor wisely points out in your article, “[F]or the Kochs, investing in universities is about transforming them to conform to their mission.”
Perhaps the department will receive the funding with no troublesome strings attached this time around, but what happens in the future? Are we naive enough to believe there will be no further requests for input on behalf of the Foundation in perpetuity? Will the department and administration then be willing shutter the proposed program or seek funds elsewhere if the Koch Foundation does make requests that impede on academic freedom? Or will small concessions start to be made?
I am not worried about a sudden, wholesale change in academic mission. What worries me and other alumni I have spoken to is the slow, creeping evolution of the department to more closely match the ideas of its benefactors, no matter how dangerous and destructive they may be. The Koch Foundation is exhibit A of this phenomenon and has exerted it with terrifying precision at the expense of our climate’s health at other colleges and universities. I urge the political science department in the strongest possible terms to avoid the same fate and reject this proposal.