Via Erik Loomis comes this report of a university engaging, not to put too fine a point on it, in the world's oldest profession.
The case involves
That sounded a little propaganda-ish to Loomis. As it happens, the appointment is in ASU's new Center for Political Thought and Leadership, which was seeded in part by a five-year grant of $1.129 million from the Charles Koch Foundation. The center's director is Donald Critchlow, a historian who calls himself an "American conservatism expert" and whose works include a book about conservative influences in Hollywood dating back to the 1950s and an admiring biography of Phyllis Schlafly.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except that a university's connivance in what sounds to be a predigested outlook on intellectual history raises obvious questions, the main one of which is: If ASU was to sell its intellectual soul, couldn't it have gotten more than $1.129 million for it?
There's nothing new about academic institutions bowing down before major donors. Usually the quid pro quo is the donor's name on a building or an endowed chair, but it's not uncommon for other strings to be attached. Donors from across the intellectual and political spectrums have demanded that their money fund overly narrow research, or require their approval of appointees. Some object to university activities that have nothing to do with their grant or bequest.
That's where a responsible university draws the line.
As public funding for higher education grows scarce, the line has gotten murkier. A couple of years ago, the Washington Post and NPR reported that about 60 universities had accepted grants from the
According to the Telegraph, in 2012, Britain's
Pitfalls arise with corporate donations, too. Stanford got into a mess when Stephen Bing, a donor with a strong environmentalist bent, withdrew a $2.5-million gift to protest the school's acceptance of a $200-million, 10-year grant from Exxon.
And UCLA accepted a donation from the supplements marketer
There's no indication that universities feel much embarrassment about the affiliations forced upon them by aggressive fundraising.
A fairly supine 2011 profile of Charles Koch in Philanthropy magazine acknowledged that "protests flared around a $1.5-million grant" to
However, the profile asserted: "What is really significant is not the opposition that Koch's academic efforts provoke. It is their widespread acceptance -- in universities like Brown, Dartmouth and Duke.
That's good for Koch. For Brown, Dartmouth and Duke, it looks more like a black mark.