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Chapman U. President Doesn't Want His Campus 'UnKoched': Podcast

Daniele Struppa says progressives who would deny money simply because of who gives it pose "a grave threat to academic freedom."

"The demand that research funding be declined because of its origin poses a grave threat to academic freedom," Daniele Struppa, the president of Chapman University, wrote earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal. "I am being asked to turn down donations from the dreaded Koch brothers, even when...the proposal for funding was inspired, developed and fully fleshed out by my faculty, in the most important exercise of their own academic freedom."

In the culture wars playing out on the nation's campuses, Chapman University, a private university about 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, is one of the hottest combat zones. The university received $15 million to help fund The Smith Institute, which seeks to bring the study of economics and of the humanities together in a way that benefits both sides. The Smith Institute is named both for Adam Smith, widely considered the father of economics, and Vernon Smith, the 2002 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

Because some of the money to fund The Smith Institute came from the Charles Koch Foundation, some students and faculty are protesting the Institute and demanding that the university return the gift. Across the country, groups organized by "UnKoch MyCampus" are pushing for schools to return any money from libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch, arguing that the money comes with ideological strings. (Disclosures: Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this podcast, receives money from the Koch foundation and David Koch has been on our board of trustees for over 25 years.)

But do funders actually dictate university research and teaching? Or is this simply an attempt to quash ideological diversity? And in an age when the humanities—the study of history, literature, art, philosophy, and more—are rapidly declining at universities, what are the best ways to revive interest in the very activities that make us, well, human? Those are some of the questions I put to Daniele Struppa in a conversation recorded at FreedomFest, the annual libertarian gathering held each July in Las Vegas.

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Photo Credit: Chapman University

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Because some of the money to fund The Smith Institute came from the Charles Koch Foundation, some students and faculty are protesting the Institute and demanding that the university return the gift.

    Which is more valuable to the university and its goals? Research funding or virtue signaling staffers and students?

  • colorblindkid||

    Dick Cheney donated millions of dollars to my college when I was there, which was used to build a building for international students. A bunch of stupid protesters demanded that the college refuse the money. Lynne Cheney also came to give a speech, which was entirely about how great Wyoming was and it's important to give underprivileged kids opportunities to study there.

    So, of course, she was booed and yelled at the whole time. Dick wasn't even there.

  • Brian||

    The last thing we need is ideological money on campus!

  • ||

    Distinctly UnKoched.

  • Johnny Hit n Run Paulene||

    Kochblocked again!

  • General_Tso||

    Better stop watching/listening to PBS as well.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Unfortunately, many progressives have been conditioned to be anti-Koch because they've been told the billionaire libertarian brothers are "right-wing." As an advocate of the progressive / libertarian alliance, I've dealt with this problem firsthand. When I tell my progressive friends I'm a libertarian, sometimes they respond with "Isn't that just a philosophy devoted to making The One Percent even richer — like standard trickle-down conservatism only without the War on Drugs?"

    I've found the best way to combat this inaccurate characterization is to stress that the Koch Brothers, and libertarians in general, support an open borders immigration policy. This immediately establishes a sharp contrast between libertarianism and the modern GOP, which has been taken over by white nationalists. Further, with #AbolishICE becoming popular with mainstream Democrats, progressives can be convinced that the Koch agenda and the Democratic Party agenda have significant overlap.

    If I were a Chapman U student, I'd be printing out Shikha Dalmia immigration articles and handing them to the protesters. Then I'd ask them if the Koch Brothers can really be that bad if they're funding such passionate advocacy for immigrants' rights.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    #QuestionAuthority?

    What happened to the real OBL?

  • perlchpr||

    So... ignore the fucking whiners and move on. Seriously, are these snowflakes going to withdraw from the school? I doubt it.

  • Matthew Chalice||

    There's a strong argument to be made in opposition to organized education and in favor of more informal methods of learning. Schooling, after all, is frequently the enemy of knowledge. Imagine all the intellectual curiosity that's been drained from the world because of schools that turn learning into a chore.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Remove the degree aspect and it would be pretty fun.

    In an era where every bit of minutia can be permanently stored and easily made available, why aggregate a bunch of courses into something called a degree.

    Why not let the student hand out a URL to a JSON object with the classes and other experiences relevant to a potential employer / life-mate / credit agency and let them run whatever algorithm they feel most accurately evaluates it for their needs.

    The whole education system needs a huge kick from the 19th century into the 21st.

  • Happy Chandler||

    The Charles Koch Foundation had an agreement with George Mason University for approval of faculty hires. It's not a real mystery as to why people are worried that the funding would come with influence over teaching, because it already has.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And why are you concerned about what a private organization does? But the kkkochtopus!!

  • Happy Chandler||

    George Mason is a state university.

  • ||

    It's not a real mystery as to why people are worried that the funding would come with influence over teaching

    But government-funded universities are not a problem because ________.

  • Happy Chandler||

    It's bad practice to cut off quotes to change the meaning of the sentence.

    But, Scott Walker did show that conservative politicians interfere with academic freedom.

  • ||

    It's bad practice to cut off quotes to change the meaning of the sentence.

    I didn't change the meaning of the sentence at all. I'm suggesting that you're ignoring the fact that all education requires funding, and that there's nothing special about one source of funding versus another in terms of what "influence" it has.

    In which case, if we are concerned about funding sources influencing educational content, why is government funding of education not a concern?

  • Happy Chandler||

    Because the Koch funding came with an agreement that the foundation got a seat at the faculty hiring committee. That is the reason that people are worried, not because it's funding.

    You straw man my words to say that giving money is interference, but it's the agreement that they can interfere with hiring decisions that is interference.

  • ||

    You can't seriously be suggesting that government funding of universities comes with no influence, can you?

    I thought I could point out the disconnect subtly, but apparently not.

    That the Kochs want influence in return for their money is specifically and explicitly to counteract that "don't bite the hand that feeds you" relationship between government and the education system.

    Complaining about the Koch Brothers money in the education system because "influence" pretends that the Ivory Tower would be unspoilt and objective if it were only receiving the money it receives from people who aren't named "Koch."

    Rather than pretend modern universities are politically disinterested in a way they literally never have been in the history of mankind, be aware of who is funding which ones. You're aware of which ones are funded by political conservatives and what that means, but you have a little bit of a blind spot for the state-run universities.

  • Happy Chandler||

    They are funded by representatives of the voters.

    Most states don't put political tests for academic hires. They leave that up to the schools. The governor doesn't get a seat on hiring committees.

    What is three political leanings of the faculty at UT Austin?

  • Happy Chandler||

    If any funding comes with outsiders choosing faculty, that's wrong. Whether it's Koch, Buffett, Clinton or anyone.

  • Radioactive||

    why fund the little fuckers at all? if you want something, pay for it. I'm not responsible for the state of your education.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I think there's a fantastic market opportunity for a university that promises to expel snotty little shits when they act up. There have to be plenty of students who just want to learn, and don't want their time wasted by Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything (SWINE).

    -jcr

  • ||

    I think there's a fantastic market opportunity for a university that promises to expel snotty little shits when they act up.

    But you also have to factor in the cost of the fact that the snotty little shits probably have snotty big shit parents who are going to make expelling them more trouble than it's worth.

  • Happy Chandler||

    There are universities run by conservatives. They generally prepare people to join the Wingnut Welfare circuit, working for think tanks, and writing columns for townhall.com. However, an MBA from Liberty U won't get you much of a leg up in business, especially compared to one from a half-decent state school.

  • ||

    Are you suggesting that there's a paucity of conservatives teaching at state schools? Probably has nothing to do with the funding source, though, right?

  • Happy Chandler||

    I'm not saying anything about the politics of instructors at state schools.

    There is a network of explicitly conservative schools. By and large, they are a step up from Trump U, but not that big a step.

    State schools teach you things in general. Some more theoretical, some more practical. I got my biology degree at Cal. I also took a class in protest movements of the 60's. Learned a lot in both.

    Conservative schools teach you to be a conservative. Which is lucrative, in a small, self dealing world funded by a small number of donors. Wingnut Welfare.

  • ||

    State schools teach you things in general. Some more theoretical, some more practical. I got my biology degree at Cal. I also took a class in protest movements of the 60's. Learned a lot in both.

    This is totally explained by the progressive rise in loans that the students are unable to pay off. They graduate from college so generally learned and useful that they can't be bothered to disrupt their critical work in Protest Movements of the 60s to pay off their loans.

  • ||

    I'm not saying anything about the politics of instructors at state schools.

    Yet, weirdly, they trend strongly towards "pro-government, anti-free market."

  • Happy Chandler||

    Even in conservative states?

  • Bill||

    Yes

  • Bill||

    I have been a professor at a university
    in Louisiana for about 20 years. A private,
    religiously affiliated one and the ratio of
    Dem/Progressive/Leftists to Repub/Conserv/Libertarian
    is easily 5:1 if not 10:1

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    Progressives: Dont want money voluntarily given to them by the rich - would rather State take it at gunpoint and THEN give it to them.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Which pretty much explains everything.

    Coercion is so much easier than earning

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