In 2016, a book called “Dark Money” chronicled how Charles Koch, who runs a philanthropic organization that has donated millions to colleges across the nation, and his brother have used their immense wealth to influence U.S. politics, control academic institutions, and, as a 2016 New York Times review put it, “hijack American democracy.”
Last December, Chapman accepted $5 million of that “dark money” from the Charles Koch Foundation, adding to a pool of $15.8 million that helped fund the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy, which attempts to combine the studies of humanities and economics.
The Panther Editorial Board believes that it is unethical to accept this money without being transparent about its donor’s intents. Chapman’s mission states that students should go on to lead “inquiring, ethical and productive lives as global citizens.” Accepting money from the Charles Koch Foundation calls that statement into question.
A Charles Koch Foundation representative said that the organization donates to colleges across the nation to create a “talent pipeline” of libertarian-minded students, according to findings by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative news organization. By accepting the foundation’s money, Chapman chooses to ignore the political implications of the foundation’s actions.
Education with a motive attached can be dangerous. Jerry Funt, an alumnus of Florida State University, which has received more than $2.3 million from the foundation, told The Panther that he felt like some of his professors were shaping his political ideology during his first semester at the school. It’s happened at other schools, and it can happen at Chapman.
Any professor can come in with their own political biases, but there is a lack of transparency in the way these professors were hired.
In September, the English department voted against hiring professors funded by the Smith Institute. In October, these same candidates were presented to the Argyros School of Business and Economics, which voted to hire them. Depending on Provost Glenn Pfeiffer’s final decision, these would be full, tenured professors – the highest level a professor can reach.
Typically, professors need to have taught at a university for at least a year to be eligible to apply for a tenured status, according to the Chapman website. Political views aside, while the candidates offered for hire by the Smith Institute may be qualified, offering them tenure immediately while many others have to go through a much lengthier process is unfair.
This process has made many professors uncomfortable – some told The Panther they were concerned that there was not a traditional search to find these candidates. On the day that a committee voted to give the professors tenure, Dan Kovenock, a professor in the Economic Science Institute, resigned from his position as chair of the committee.
A lack of transparency was evident when English professor Ian Barnard asked one of the candidates about the ethical implications of the Koch donations. When the video of the presentation circulated among English faculty members, Barnard’s question had been edited out. “Such a question during a job seminar was rude,” Director of the Smith Institute Bart Wilson wrote to the English department in an email obtained by The Panther.
But Barnard’s question was not rude. In fact, it was valid. Chapman places a heavy emphasis on open dialogue and discussion, but when Barnard asked an uncomfortable question, it was censored. If the university truly believes there is nothing wrong with accepting these donations, then there should be nothing to hide.
By choosing to hire these professors, Chapman makes a clear decision to become a certain kind of university – and this comes with ethical implications. We believe the university should think critically about whether this is the type of school it wants to become.
After months of reporting, The Panther Editorial Board came to the conclusion that accepting this money is unethical and wrong. But we believe that readers should make their own decisions about these donations – so read the story, look at the facts and form your own opinion.