US Oligarchs Own and Control Institutions of Higher Learning

The people who control schooling control the public mind.

Documents reveal that major universities around the US are accepting money from billionaire oligarchs. They use donations and foundation networks to wield control over higher education.

Billionaire donor influence at George Mason University (GMU) has finally been exposed. The donor agreements between GMU and the Koch foundation follow years of denials by the university administrators that donations were impacting academic freedom.

The documents were released to a former student, Samantha Parsons, under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed this year after years of having similar requests denied. The documents are incredibly similar to agreements the Koch Foundation made with Florida State University that caused a similar uproar. Provisions that give wealthy foundations control over which professors are hired or fired are especially alarming to activists concerned about oligarchic control over education.

In an email last Friday (April 27) to faculty, staff, and students, university president Angel Cabrera, wrote:

“Last week I was made aware of a number of gift agreements that . . .raise questions concerning donor influence in academic matters. . . [T]hese agreements fall short of the standards of academic independence I expect.”

Cabrera explained how donor agreements provide the perks of “participation in faculty selection and evaluation.” Some of these faculty selection documents have also been released. Koch foundation influence was found particularly in the university’s economics department and law school.

The donor agreements require creation of selection committees to choose the professors and grant the donors the right to name some of the committee members. The Koch Foundation enjoyed similar appointment rights to advisory boards that had the right to recommend firing a professor who failed to live up to their expectations.

Universities accepting various forms of massive million dollar donations are subsequently corrupted by it and turn over control of hiring and firing professors to these powerful foundations and their agendas.

The newly released agreements from GMU also reveal details of million-dollar deals in which the Koch Foundation endows a fund to pay the salary of one or more professors at the university’s Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank. Similar agreements are thought to exist for possibly hundreds of other universities.

The Koch foundation is not the only foundation that is wielding their power over US universities, but the volume of their particular influence has been recently exposed. Between 2005 and 2017, the Koch foundation donated $256,780,623 to a long list of respected universities.



Image adapted from: “Accomplishment celebrate ceremony – Credit to” by David Stewart  is licensed under CC BY 2.0