Request for report on Koch funding denied by senate

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Chapman’s faculty senate denied a request made by seven professors asking for the senate to create a “fact-finding” report by November about donations made by the Charles Koch Foundation in 2016, saying there is “no need” for the report, according to a Sept. 17 email provided to The Panther.

“This is a major choice that Chapman University is making that’s going to affect us for decades, and we should give it some due diligence,” said Tom Zoellner, an English professor who spearheaded the effort to request the report.

In December 2016, Chapman received a $5 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation to help establish the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy, which aims to combine the studies of humanities and economics. Some Chapman professors have questioned the transparency and integrity of the donations to the university, since before May 8, administrators had only shown excerpts of the agreement with the Koch Foundation during faculty presentations.

The Koch brothers have also been criticized for their plans to funnel up to $400 million into conservative policy issues and political campaigns aimed at helping Republicans keep the senate majority in the midterm elections, according to the Washington Post.

The requested report, which would have been put together by an impartial faculty senate committee, aimed to strengthen Chapman’s faculty manual procedures for “selecting, vetting and hiring faculty,” obtain a copy of Chapman’s grant agreement with the foundation and set guidelines for similar donations.

After denying the report, the faculty senate cited the fact that the Charles Koch Foundation recently made its grant agreement with the university public as one of the reasons the report wasn’t necessary – something that Zoellner disagrees with.

“The only thing that matters here is that the faculty of Chapman University take a look at this in some meaningful fashion,” Zoellner said. “The senate’s going to do what the senate’s going to do. Why we wouldn’t want to do this is beyond me.”

The grant’s publication in August marked unprecedented progress for the donations’ transparency at Chapman, where previously, the agreement had only been viewed by The Panther and David Pincus, the former faculty senate president.

Zoellner was asked to rephrase the proposal for the report in a Sept. 21 closed faculty senate meeting to make it less specific to the Koch Foundation, said a faculty member who attended the meeting but did not wish to be identified.

Paul Gulino, president of the faculty senate, wrote in a Sept. 28 email to The Panther that the rephrased request has not yet been discussed as the executive board is “awaiting further input from senators.”