FSU Faculty Approves Koch Deal, With Caveats

Sharon Rieger's picture
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Florida State University did nothing wrong when it allowed the input of the right-leaning Koch Foundation in the hiring of two professors, said a faculty report released Friday.

The Koch Foundation agreed to give FSU $1.5 million over 10 years for the university’s economics department in 2008.

In exchange, Florida State agreed in an unusual deal to give the foundation some input over faculty hiring, a say in job evaluations, and the creation of a new economics course with Ayn Rand as required reading.

The deal sparked controversy earlier this year when two FSU professors — one retired and one current — wrote to the Tallahassee Democrat and complained about the deal infringing on academic freedom.

Following several newspaper articles about the unusual Koch deal, FSU President Eric Barron asked a faculty group that includes a past Florida State president to review the arrangement for any improprieties.

That review was released Friday.

“We acted with a high level of academic integrity and followed the normal course of events, in that the faculty picked the faculty they wanted to work with,” said Barron.

But he said the agreement “leaves open the possibility” that Koch could have more influence over hiring and course development than was intended, he said in an interview.

“The instruction is: let’s be more careful about how we write these agreements,” he said.

The Koch Foundation also cheered the report’s findings.

“We are pleased that this review of the facts by the faculty committee confirms what FSU administrators have said — that the agreement with the foundation protected academic integrity and added significant value to FSU,” said Ryan Stowers, the director of higher education programs at the Koch Foundation, in a written statement.

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