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Community members sign petition calling on Chancellor Kent Syverud to release contract terms of Koch grants

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

Over 50 Syracuse University students and faculty signed a petition asking Chancellor Kent Syverud to disclose the contract terms of a gift from the Charles Koch Foundation

UPDATED: May 2, 2017 at 1:20 p.m.

More than 50 Syracuse University faculty and students have signed a petition, as of Monday afternoon, calling on Chancellor Kent Syverud to release the contract terms of gifts the university has received from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The university is currently looking into the grants and compiling a report based on them.

Earlier this academic year, the Martin J. Whitman School of Management accepted a $1.75 million grant from the Kochs to create the Institute for an Entrepreneurial Society. The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications later accepted a small grant from the Kochs for the Tully Center for Free Speech.

The grants have raised concerns among some faculty, who worry that the grants could come with strings attached and threaten academic freedom.

Syverud said in a recent interview with The Daily Orange that Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly is currently looking into the grants.

“I know she gets counsel from sources on it, including counsel from faculty groups,” he said. “… I haven’t seen the final report, but I suspect we’re following what is appropriate with academic freedom.”

Though the grants were each accepted months ago, the university community has recently begun to come together in opposition to the grants. About two weeks ago, the Student Association passed a bill denouncing the Whitman School’s grant. And at last week’s University Senate meeting, faculty clashed over the grant as the research committee addressed the grants.

The petition currently circulating among faculty and students states that students, staff and faculty fear the donations “undermine the values upon which our institution was built.” It also states that although the university, as a private institution, has no obligation to make the donation contracts available to the public, the University Senate and “other governance institutions” will be evaluating the contracts.

“For these reasons, we, the undersigned, strongly urge Chancellor Syverud to make these contracts public for the sake of transparency and to ensure the protection of academic freedom,” the petition states.

In the recent interview, Syverud said that academic freedom in research is important to him.

“There are all sorts of threats to academic freedom in research that could occur and have occurred historically in the United States, one of which one would be efforts of funders to put ideological blinders on what the findings of research could be,” he said. “I do think that we have policies and procedures in place for how we accept grants.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud was misquoted. Said Syverud: “There are all sorts of threats to academic freedom in research that could occur and have occurred historically in the United States…” The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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