Chapman community reacts to Charles Koch Foundation donation

Chapman received a $5 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation to help establish the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy. Photo by Gracie Fleischman

Some Chapman professors were concerned that the university accepted a $5 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. The philanthropic organization has donated millions of dollars to colleges across the nation to create a “talent pipeline” of libertarian-minded students, according to findings by the Center for Public Integrity.

After The Panther’s article about the effects of the donation, some students now share a similar perspective as these professors, while others aren’t concerned. Sophomore business administration major Charlie Story called the donation “outrageous” and was concerned that the university did not openly disclose information about the donation to students.

“It was advertised as big news when it was the Keck Center donation, or with (Dale and Sarah Ann Fowler) making another donation,” Story said. “But because (the Charles Koch Foundation) donated a hefty sum, it was kept kind of quiet – that felt kind of concerning to me.”

The school received the donation from the foundation – part of $15.8 million from multiple donors – to help establish the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy, which aims to combine the studies of humanities and economics.

“When you go to learn from a private institution, you want to get both sides of political ideology, and, in a way, we do need a second opinion and a second perspective,” Story said. “But this is the most skewed way we could learn about the ‘other side.’”

In response to the article, both University President Daniele Struppa and philosophy professor Bas van der Vossen, who was hired using the donations to the Smith Institute, wrote guest columns for The Panther.

Struppa wrote that he communicated with the English department with “full detail” about how the gift had developed.

“Only by sleeping under a stone could anybody claim to be unaware of the funding behind the Smith Institute,” Struppa wrote in his column.

Van der Vossen wrote in his column that there have never been any “ideological expectations or content” in his teachings.

“Philosophers try to formulate the strongest possible versions of arguments on different sides of a debate,” van der Vossen wrote. “It’s part of our mission to help students better formulate positions, including ones that they hold but we don’t.”

Sophomore business administration major Danielle Hillman isn’t concerned about the donation.

“I trust the university wouldn’t take money from someone who was trying to change the mission of the administration’s existing professors,” she said. “I know these guys are kind of (suspicious) because of their intentions, and what they’ve said about wanting to change the way students learn, but I think the tangibility of that goal is pretty minimal.”

Junior strategic and corporate communication major Lindsey Hill said she didn’t know the donation was made.

“I heard about the Smith Institute, and assumed a donation helped make it happen, because that’s how it worked with the new school of engineering and new Keck building,” Hill said.

“This one wasn’t really advertised or set up as an announcement to the students.”

Read Struppa and van der Vossen’s columns.

1 Comment

  • The Panther is still going on about this?!

    They’re just going to keep talking about this as if it were a big win and not a big embarrassment until people just stop paying attention (but I think that was four Koch articles ago).

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