Arguably no one has exerted more effort or poured more money into pushing a political agenda in United States schools than Charles Koch and his brother, the late David Koch. They have donated millions upon millions of dollars to a rapidly growing list of schools in order to push curricula in a distinctively right-leaning direction. Koch money has been quietly infiltrating the educational world for decades, and now, it’s coming to a political science program near you.
The Charles Koch Foundation, named for the living brother who controls it, has offered Boston College funding for a new program within the political science department. Though it is still in the process of getting approval from the provost, the ongoing deal between Charles Koch and the school has already stirred up plenty of controversy. It has been met with resounding condemnation, even from within the political science department itself.
For the Koch Industries, an offer of this nature usually comes with the expectation that the school will push libertarian business practices and conservative politics into the curriculum. A recent New York Times investigation revealed that at George Mason University (an institution that has by far received the most from the Koch Foundation), donations from Charles Koch earned him the right to influence the hiring of professors and candidates for an on-campus economic think tank.
There is no reason to believe that such an arrangement would be any different at BC, which has already accepted a total of $15,000 from the Kochs since 2015. Accepting this offer is a gross blunder in fundamental ethics at any college or university, but at Boston College in particular, it goes against everything we purportedly stand for as a Jesuit school. University officials reinforce the importance of a holistic education time and time again. It is an aspect of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s mission, and we are consistently reminded of the Jesuit spirit of curiosity and thinking deeply about our class material. Yet, what the school is considering is no less than a betrayal of those same values.
Any education that comes bound with limitations on what should and shouldn’t be taught isn’t education at all; it is indoctrination. Given Koch’s well-documented reputation of inserting his political opinions into education, a school that accepts Koch money effectively bows down to the ideology of a corrupt crook. If I wanted to learn what Charles Koch believed, I would look him up, or go to George Mason, but I signed up for a Jesuit education that champions Jesuit values.
The only way this offer could hold with BC’s motto of “men and women for others” is if the proposed program did some obvious good. If it were aimed at helping combat the school’s reoccurring issues with racism by promoting education and resources towards diversity, it would seem less insidious. If the money were going to For Boston, or Appa, or any number of the charitable organizations on campus, there would surely be less discomfort.
The example set by other Koch funded universities and the fact that the proposed program is specified to the political science department don’t paint the program in a promising light. This is especially true for a school that has grappled with controversy over its refusal to divest from fossil fuel companies in a time when climate change has been internationally confirmed as a global crisis.
One of the more well-known political sticking points for the Koch brothers has always been the issue of climate change. Aside from interfering with students’ rights to an unbiased education, the Kochs have also specialized in bribing politicians to block proposals that would enforce environmentally friendly business practices. In 2011, the Koch brothers even promoted a pledge signed by over 100 members of the House that promised the signers would not pass legislation that focused on fighting climate change with federal money without an “equal amount in tax cuts.” That same year, the House voted to cut the EPA’s budget by 27%.
If this does not illustrate the enormity of the Koch brothers’ influence, I’m not sure what does. The details of the program have not yet been made completely public, but there is plenty of reason to believe it would have absolutely no room for climate change and would more than likely discourage any discussion pertaining to the environment.
It would be a complete embarrassment for BC to continue touting its Jesuit values if this proposal goes through. It is painfully obvious that this kind of a deal has nothing to do with St. Ignatius and more to do with the board of trustees. However, we are not voiceless. Growing campus dissent has included a petition calling for the university to refuse the deal. Even if the administration chooses money over its own motto, we as students can still be men and women for others.