Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Florida State University whores itself out

FSU has taken money from the Kochs and ceded academic freedom in return, all for $1.5 million:

A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they've funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it's not happy with the faculty's choice or if the hires don't meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations.

PZ Myers is diplomatic when he says:

If I were a faculty member who found my choice of colleagues dictated by Koch (or Soros, or Gates, or any similar filthy rich dilettante), I'd be a bit peevish, and I don't think the golden candidate would get much respect from his peers. On the other hand, if I were applying for a job and was rejected because I didn't fit the ideology of the Koch brothers, I'd feel darned good and also be well satisfied that I wasn't going to be affiliated with such a cheap brothel university.

On the third hand, if I were a graduate of the econ department of FSU, I'd be extremely embarrassed about my degree at this point.

Peevish? This is criminal, or should be. FSU alumni and faculty should be incensed, a labor strike and withholding of alumni contributions is certainly in order.

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