Student Association

SA passes bill denouncing Koch Foundation donation to Martin J. Whitman School of Management

Liam Sheehan | Staff Photographer

In November, the Whitman School announced it had received a $1.75 million donation from the Koch Foundation to establish the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society.

The Student Association assembly on Monday passed a bill calling on SU administrators to denounce the Charles Koch Foundation’s $1.75 million donation to the Martin J. Whitman School of Management until the terms of the contract are released to the public.

John Jankovic, a freshman political science major who presented the bill, said during SA’s Monday night assembly meeting that the donation was a threat to academic freedom.

“I want the contract … to be released because the chancellor has not done so, and in the past there has been strings attached. (The Koch Foundation controls) the faculty members that the institution picks and they get the personal information of the students themselves,” Jankovic said at the meeting.

In November, the Whitman School announced it had received a $1.75 million donation from the Koch Foundation to establish the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society, which would research the intersection between public policy and entrepreneurship. The donation raised eyebrows among Syracuse University students and faculty, who were concerned that Charles and David Koch — outspoken supporters of free-market capitalism — would have direct influence over research topics.

The bill calls for SU and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry administrations to publicly demand that SU Chancellor Kent Syverud release the terms of the contract for the Whitman School grant. It also calls for SU administration to denounce the establishment of the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society if the terms of the contract are not released.

The SA assembly passed the bill unanimously at its Monday meeting.

In a separate donation last February, the Koch Foundation gave a $40,008 grant to the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

In the past, the Koch brothers have donated tens of millions of dollars to universities to support research that has been used by legislators to advocate for policy supporting free-market capitalism and opposing environmental regulations.

“What they do is they influence the minds that go into their institutions, and then those people create research that is biased towards deregulation and free-market capitalism,” Jankovic said.

Officials at the Whitman School, including Maria Minniti, founding director of the IES, and Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation, said the donation does not allow the Koch Foundation to have influence over IES research.

However, SU’s contract with the Koch Foundation is not public.

“It’s not saying that the university should reject the donation, it’s just saying that the terms should be released because academic freedom is so important,” said Janine Bogris, chair of SA’s Board of Elections and Membership.

 

Other business

The SA assembly passed the “Diversity Affairs Committee” bill, which establishes a standing committee tasked with promoting inclusion and celebration of diverse backgrounds at SU.

The new Diversity Affairs Committee will not replace the Public Relations Committee, a change previously considered by assembly members.

The assembly also passed the “Accommodations Clause” bill, which will require recognized student organizations to provide contact information for students seeking special accommodations at RSO events. Contact information would be printed on posters for the RSO event.

Keelan Erhard, co-chair of the Student Life Committee who presented the bill, said he hoped the bill would help make RSO events more inclusive.

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