Photo via cultureandpolitics.org
“I would like to thank everyone who has made this night possible, and a lot of the stuff that we do here — which includes the UNO student government association, Charles Koch Association, and the UNO Founders Club,” said Professor Chris Surprenant on Thursday night’s political discussion panel with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and The American Conservative Rod Dreher.
“So think about what we have tonight. We have the American Conservative Magazine and the Charles Koch Foundation sponsoring a discussion with Melissa Harris-Perry. Perhaps it’s the case that things are not as bad as they seem, not as toxic as they seem,” said the associate professor of philosophy and director of the Honors Program.
You may not be aware of who Charles Koch is and his connection to some of the other speakers invited to speak on campus, but he and his many foundations have a powerful hold on content on college campuses across the country.
Surprenant was awarded a three-year $1.8 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The Templeton Foundation is one of the foundations the Koch brothers use to funnel their money into different forms of grants, which are distributed to professors and entrepreneurial programs.
With this grant, guest speakers such as Christopher Wolfe are able to lecture on campus without funding from the university itself. On Feb. 21, Professor Wolfe visited to speak about “legislating morality,” and while his lecture did pertain to the government’s place in regulating moral behavior, Wolfe also has some controversial articles and books published; namely, “Same-Sex Matters” and “Homosexuality and Public Life.” These books reveal his philosophical views on same-sex relations as a disease that can be “cured.” While these beliefs were not publicly stated during his lecture, Wolfe still received a platform on UNO’s campus.
The Koch brothers are second-generation libertarians who use their multi-million dollar platforms to insert their political and educational influence on certain curricular and extracurricular content in their colleges of choice. In 1980, David Koch ran for vice president as a libertarian candidate, publicly sharing the views of his party, family and foundation. These views included the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs, deregulation of the medical insurance industry, the belief of separation of education and state, and support for repealing the minimum wage. While these beliefs are not unique when associated with the libertarian party, the Koch brothers are running a platform that benefits the top 1 percent and puts middle-class people’s livelihoods in jeopardy.
In 2011, the Charles Koch Foundation pledged over $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, a donation which came with contractual obligations that bound the university to guidelines made by the foundation. The university was obligated to allow a Koch-appointed advisory committee to select professors and conduct certain evaluations of programs as they deemed fit. These donor agreements have occurred with multiple grants and scholarships from the Koch brothers and their affiliated foundations at many other universities. The contractual grants allow the Koch brothers to give faculty that agree with their political views a platform in academia.
UnKoch My Campus is a national movement between universities and students whose mission is to protect democracy within campus grounds. Co-founders Samantha Parsons and Connor Gibson started the UnKoch My Campus movement in 2014 in an effort to maintain political freedom and safety in education for all students regardless of political alignment. This campaign was started in response to the Koch brothers, Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch. Multiple universities such as Florida State University, University of Arizona and George Mason University have started their own campaigns to challenge how much influence they give to outside donors and to monitor the insertion of political agendas into curricula.
“Charles Koch’s political activities consist of a large and rapidly growing network of wealthy corporate and ideological donors that coordinate funding to achieve policy change by leveraging universities, think tanks, front groups, and politicians,” UnKoch My Campus stated in a press release.
Multiple UNO professors declined to be identified and to speak on the record regarding this topic. Given a limited time window, the UnKoch My Campus team were not able to comment directly on the Koch brothers’ funding campaign as it pertains to UNO.