Original Link: http://www.independentmail.com/news/2011/may/13/gift-clemson-comes-strings/
By Anna Mitchell
A $1 million gift to Clemson University has bought a private foundation access to the hiring process of faculty in capitalism studies there.
Critics assert that a four-year deal in 2009 between Clemson and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation established a relationship cozier than usual for respectable institutions, but Clemson officials maintain that outsiders have not compromised academic freedom at the school.
The foundation, founded 31 years ago by conservative industrialist Charles Koch, has funded or established free-market research programs at nearly 150 campuses nationwide. Its agreement in 2009 with Clemson University established payments of $250,000 annually for four years to create two faculty positions within Clemson’s existing Institute for the Study of Capitalism.
The agreement lets Koch revoke the money if the foundation finds sponsored faculty are out of line with the academic “purposes and objectives” laid out in the agreement. It also requires Clemson to submit candidate credentials for review by Koch Foundation officials.
That last stipulation is in line with a change last summer to the Clemson faculty manual, which now allows opinions from university sponsors during faculty interviews. However, university officials said the manual also emphasizes that sponsors can have no official vote when someone is hired.
Under the agreement between the Koch Foundation and Clemson University, provided by request to the Independent Mail, Clemson will recruit candidates for one full-time tenure position and one full-time lecturer. The final hiring decision, the agreement says, belongs to capitalism institute director Brad Thompson and Claude Lilly, Clemson’s dean of business and behavioral science.
Reached by email this week, Lilly said nothing in the agreement restricts academic freedom at the university or among faculty in Clemson’s capitalism institute, which is housed in the economics department.
“The agreement stipulates that faculty positions will be recruited and hired in a manner consistent with both the Clemson University faculty manual and the CGK Foundation’s intent to support the CISC,” Lilly wrote. “Though information is shared with the Foundation, the agreement does not include or allow for selection or prior approval by the CGK Foundation of the faculty members hired by Clemson.”
A similar agreement between the Koch foundation and Florida State University has drawn criticism from some faculty members there and the president of the American Association of University Professors, Cary Nelson.
But Raymond Sauer, chairman of Clemson’s economics department, said it’s not uncommon in academia for professors to receive grants to study certain things. Charles and David Koch, because of their deep pockets and openly conservative views, have become a target, he said.
“It’s political,” he said. “Right now the left is really after the Kochs. They see this and say, ‘Oh boy.’”
The Koch agreement requires Clemson to provide an annual summary of the publications, presentations, courses taught, students supervised and outreach activities undertaken by the two Koch-supported faculty members.
Sauer said he doesn’t know how Koch might revoke funding, “but it gives the appearance of more donor control than usual.”
Greg Scholtz, an academic freedom expert with the American Association of University Professors, said any agreement that allows personnel influence from a donor deviates from generally accepted academic principles.
“At most respectable or reputable institutions, the primary responsibility and authority for faculty appointments belongs to the faculty,” Scholtz said. “So it would be very unusual for outsiders to be involved in the selection of a faculty member for any sort of appointment.”
Like Clemson’s $1 million deal with Koch, Florida State’s $6.6 million agreement lets the Koch foundation review work produced annually by supported faculty and also requires the university to continue to bankroll those faculty members once Koch’s sponsorship ceases.
But the Florida State agreement goes further than the Clemson deal and lets the Koch Foundation appoint an advisory board of faculty to review and recommend professor candidates. Florida State President Eric Barron said in a statement this week that the two people ultimately hired there did not come from this advisory board’s short list.
“To be crystal clear: The Economics Department Executive Committee initially screened the candidates, and the Economics Department Executive Committee had the final vote,” Barron wrote. “The Koch Foundation does not hire faculty. Nor does it exercise control over course curricula. Academic freedom has not been compromised in any way.
The American Association of University Professors’ Nelson disagreed.
“While the amount of money at stake pales by comparison with other recent corporate grants, the FSU agreement both reinforces and adds disturbing new elements to the growing corporate influence over academic research,” he said. “Academic freedom and shared governance are both threatened by these trends.”
Clemson University is in the midst of a multi-year campaign to raise $600 million from private sources as state and federal support has deteriorated in recent years.
Scholtz, director of the professor association’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, & Governance, said he has encountered several examples of colleges and universities pushing hard for faculty members and administrators to go after donations.
“What it indicates, I suppose, is the power of money — you could say the corruptive power of money,” Scholtz said.
Beyond the Koch deal, critics of corporate influence over academic freedom at Clemson University point to the change last summer in the faculty manual, a document that establishes university policies and procedures with respect to faculty.
On Page 13 of the amended manual, it says the sponsor of an endowed faculty chair may act in an “advisory capacity” with a faculty hiring committee.
“After an endowed chair proposal has been approved, a sponsoring party representative may interview the final candidates and offer opinions about the candidates’ qualifications to the search-and-screening committee,” the manual says.
The same passage goes on to say the sponsor shall not “be involved in making the final decision to hire,” but Scholz said no outsider should be in the room in the first place. He spent 26 years in academia as a professor of English.
“I sure would not have wanted a lay person involved in our faculty search procedures,” Scholz said. “People are very susceptible to pressure. If Clemson had asked us to review it — we do a lot of reviews — we certainly would have flagged that change as a matter of concern.”
Bill Surver, the immediate past president of the Clemson Faculty Senate, said the senate’s intention by changing the Clemson faculty manual was to protect academic freedom by assuring that sponsors not vote.
“There was some concern about that happening,” Surver said. “The university should solicit input but not have them vote.”