In July the University of Utah announced an agreement to accept $10 million from the Charles Koch foundation in order to fund a new economics institute within the David Eccles Business School. The decision to work with the conservative billionaire Koch family has met pushback from some university faculty.
Earlier this week at a monthly academic leadership meeting on the University of Utah campus some faculty members voiced concerns that have been building for over a month.
Political science professor Mike Button said while he agrees the university should be open to all types of donors but is concerned with the Koch family in particular.
“Our concerns refer to this foundation’s pattern of interfering with the conduct of faculty governments and the meaningful exercise of academic freedom," Button says.
There was all worry expressed about the way the funds will be divided. Although there is a $10 million commitment, the Koch foundation is able to divide the donation in one-year increments until 2024.
This gives the Koch’s the chance to reassess the progress of the new institute and decided whether or not they want the funding to continue. Possibly giving the Koch’s leverage to influence the direction of the school.
Taylor Randall, the dean of the business school, says this is not unusual.
“First of all this was not a type of contract that was foreign to us," says Randall. "We have other agreements with other donors that act in the same way. So we understand the risks that we take."
Randall says the school has financial reserves in place and that if they were ever asked to compromise their academic freedom they would walk away from the funding.
While some faculty still believe it should have been negotiated to get all of the funding up front, Randall says he’s comfortable with the agreement as it stands.