THE BLOG
10/08/2014 04:20 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Higher Learning

The spirit of the People's Climate March continues to be felt across the United States, as concerned citizens continue to fight for a cleaner atmosphere and cleaner energy. Part of that fight involves pushing back against the arrogance and power of billionaire climate-change deniers Charles and David Koch. In Boston, for example, climate activists have pushed for David Koch to be removed from the Board of Trustees of Boston PBS affiliate WGBH, and have also fought to have Suffolk University sever ties with a notorious "think tank" known as the Beacon Hill Institute, where underbosses in La Kocha Nostra plan organized crimes against the planet by trying to shoot down efforts to expand clean power.

Suffolk isn't the only university that has signed a blood oath with the Kochs. Numerous universities are tied to this fossil-fuel family, and now a new group is out to cast a bright spotlight on this scandal.

Un-Koch My Campus, which was launched late last month, notes that the Kochs are not exactly interested in academic freedom:

The Kochs and their vast network of front groups they fund work tirelessly to undermine the issues many students today care about: environmental protection, worker's rights, healthcare expansion, and quality public education, to name just a few.

The Kochs have donated to hundreds of colleges and universities - 254 from their tax filings from 2005 - 2012 alone, 390 if you include schools listed on their taxes and more recent archives from their website.

But this isn't just philanthropy, we support and understand the critical role charitable donations play in higher education: there is mounting evidence to suggest that the Kochs are giving this money with strings attached. Their donations influence college research, the professors hired, and the coursework being taught, all in service of advancing their ideologies, building their reputation, and increasing their profits.

Of course, it isn't just about the Kochs - it's about accountability, transparency, and academic freedom. As unbelievable as it seems, multi-billionaire industrialists (through the power of their purse) are using your university to push their own philosophy, agenda, and economic interests.

Florida State University is one of many prominent universities known to have been influenced by Koch largesse. As the Center for Public Integrity noted last month:

In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University's economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman -- even though he told his wife he'd step down in 2009 after one three-year term.

The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson -- a self-described "libertarian anarchist" who asserts that every government function he's studied "can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector" -- in place...

In 2012 alone, private foundations controlled by Charles Koch and his brother, David Koch, combined to spread more than $12.7 million among 163 colleges and universities, with grants sometimes coming with strings attached, the Center for Public Integrity reported in March.

Florida State University ranked a distant second behind George Mason University of Virginia as a recipient of Charles Koch Foundation money. In a tax document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the foundation described its Florida State University funding for 2012 as "general support."

UnKoch My Campus is demanding accountability from Florida State University, as well as the University of Kansas. As Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a demand. Will these universities concede that they shouldn't have any involvement with the Kochs?

Universities are not supposed to provide a platform for propaganda, especially when that propaganda is on behalf of interests that will prevent students from having a livable economic and ecological future. By climbing into bed with the Kochs, the folks who run these universities are bound to contract a social disease.

The case against Koch involvement with these universities is the same as the case against Koch involvement with WGBH: the Koch name is a corrupting force, one that seeks to preserve and protect its own power at everyone else's expense. By hooking up with the Kochs, these institutions are declaring, in essence, that morality and integrity do not matter, only pecuniary prestige. Is that the message these institutions really want to send?

_______________________________________________________

In the wake of the People's Climate March, I've become irritated by the argument that somehow the organizers of the March didn't do a good enough job of reaching out to the political right. According to this argument, the overall tone of the March was somehow off-putting to conservatives, and more efforts should have been made to bring right-of-center folks into the fold.

Nonsense. Conservatives and Republicans weren't banned from the March. To the extent conservatives and Republicans didn't show up, it's because so many of them were brainwashed by the lawless arguments of the Kochs.

Koch brainwashing is still continuing at too many universities across the United States, and UnKoch My Campus is pushing back against such perversity. They deserve support. The brutal billionaires who scorn science and disparage democracy don't.