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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Kochs control who gets hired at FSU econ dept.

   
Author Topic: Kochs control who gets hired at FSU econ dept.
Destineer
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http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/billionaires-role-in-hiring-decisions-at-florida-state-university-raises/1168680

This is not OK. I've never heard of a donor holding this kind of veto power.

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BlackBlade
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I guess, but if the University doesn't like the strings attached, don't accept their money.
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Destineer
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Right, the real misconduct here is definitely on the part of the university.
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BlackBlade
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I'm not saying the university did anything wrong consciously. They probably took the money expecting tradition to hold some sort of sway and now Koch is tightening the leash. They can't exactly return the money at this point, so everything sucks.

Hopefully other universities will wise up when a rich man offers their riches.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I guess, but if the University doesn't like the strings attached, don't accept their money.

While this is true, in the current economic climate, it is REALLY hard for a university to turn down a large donation with -- at least in theory -- relatively harmless strings.
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SenojRetep
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Dave Weigel's take on it.

Your title is, IMO, pretty misleading. The advisory board holds veto power over their endowed chair and program, not over the FSU econ dept. Endowed chairs often come with strings attached, and while the Koch's strings are thicker than I've seen before, I doubt it's really as unprecedented as the article makes out.

I think the bigger concern is the role of outside funding of universities in general. I haven't read University, Inc. which is cited in the St. Petersburg Times article, but Derek Bok, the former President of Harvard, wrote a great book called Universities in the Marketplace that raises very challenging questions about the role funding has come to play in the current higher-ed system. Particularly troubling IMO is the role of companies in funding on-campus research and then holding the subsequent intellectual property rights (including the right to publish or not) to that research (which is also part of the Koch's deal with FSU).

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by SenojRetep:
I think the bigger concern is the role of outside funding of universities in general.

Agreed.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I guess, but if the University doesn't like the strings attached, don't accept their money.

While this is true, in the current economic climate, it is REALLY hard for a university to turn down a large donation with -- at least in theory -- relatively harmless strings.
That sounds like the opening of an explanation of how a scam works.
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Foust
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quote:
Said Rasmussen, "I have no objections to people who want to help us fund excellence at our university. I'm happy to do it."
quote:
A separate grant from BB&T funds a course on ethics and economics in which Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is required reading.
Lollerskates. Funding excellence, right.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
quote:
Said Rasmussen, "I have no objections to people who want to help us fund excellence at our university. I'm happy to do it."
quote:
A separate grant from BB&T funds a course on ethics and economics in which Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is required reading.
Lollerskates. Funding excellence, right.

ahahahahahaha
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Tresopax
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This seems like murky waters, although I'm not sure its any more damaging to academia than the other forms of internal political maneuvering that sometimes impact hiring decisions at universities.
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SenojRetep
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Andrew Gelman is concerned.

He feels his grants from the DoD aren't morally (or practically) equivalent, because they're based on "the work" rather than ideology. But I think he's missing the point a bit. He has incentive to pursue an agenda that makes his funding agency (aka sugar daddy) happy. This inherently biases the work done. I agree it doesn't seem to be as blatantly ideological as the Koch-funded program (or others of its like), but to me arguing that the realities of funding don't impact research directions and results seems naive.

To his credit, he does conclude that "it’s not clear exactly where to draw the line."

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Destineer
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quote:
Your title is, IMO, pretty misleading. The advisory board holds veto power over their endowed chair and program, not over the FSU econ dept.
Right, it's not entirely precise. "Kochs control who gets hired for one particular job at FSU econ dept" is a bit awkwardly long, though. How would you have titled the thread more accurately?

quote:
Endowed chairs often come with strings attached, and while the Koch's strings are thicker than I've seen before, I doubt it's really as unprecedented as the article makes out.
This is what Weigel says, too, but I do see it as over the line when it's someone other than faculty at the hiring institution deciding whether the candidate meets the criteria set down in the guidelines for the chair.

Also, it's quite rare for chairs to come with political criteria. Usually the criteria are something like an area of research interest (regardless of the candidate's stance within that area). So for example, a chair in philosophy of religion could be held by a believer or by an atheist as long as their work is in that field.

Of course there are cases, especially in politicized areas like women's studies, that are more problematic.

quote:
Particularly troubling IMO is the role of companies in funding on-campus research and then holding the subsequent intellectual property rights (including the right to publish or not) to that research (which is also part of the Koch's deal with FSU).
I didn't realize that. So it won't be entirely up to the Charles Koch Professor of Economics whether to publish the research he completes while he holds the position?

quote:
But I think he's missing the point a bit. He has incentive to pursue an agenda that makes his funding agency (aka sugar daddy) happy. This inherently biases the work done. I agree it doesn't seem to be as blatantly ideological as the Koch-funded program (or others of its like), but to me arguing that the realities of funding don't impact research directions and results seems naive.
Obviously bias will never be entirely eliminated. It's a matter of degree. And if your grant depends on pleasing some agency, that's a bit less severe than a situation in which you owe your entire job to someone who selected you for it on political grounds.
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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I guess, but if the University doesn't like the strings attached, don't accept their money.

Someone should tell this to my school.
[Wall Bash]

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Destineer
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What's your school?
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theamazeeaz
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MIT. I will leave searching for the sheer number of things here that say "Koch" as an exercise to the reader.
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AvidReader
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The Tallahassee Democrat (who doesn't do free online content, sorry) did a big article on this yesterday. They say the Koch guys got to put one person on the three person hiring committee, that the entire department got to vote on who was hired, and that Koch only had veto power.

The professors who were hired are supposed to be well respected and not terribly conservative. From what I understand, FSU is pretty tweaked about the St Pete article.

I'm just surprised that a paper in the land of retired well-off folk would go with an anti-Conservative slant for the article. [Wink]

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The Rabbit
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Anti-conservative and anti-libertarian are not synonymous. Libertarianism tends to be the domain of the young and foolish. Its a lot less common among retired folks who've had decades to consider the implication and who have a vested interest in the continuation of social security, medicare and medicaid.
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The Rabbit
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I don't think its all that unusual for donors to have veto power over who is hired to fill an endowed chair, which is understandable really. If someone were going to be known as "The Rabbit Professor of Economics", I'd want to be confident that person wasn't going to embarrass me. I also think that the "veto power" is a very rarely used formality, invoked only if the criteria outlined in creation of the chair would be violated.

Allowing Koch to appoint one member of the search committee is the part that raises my eyebrows. That is highly unusual and dramatically different from the level of involvement I would normal expect from a donor. This part of it makes me suspect that Koch's "veto power" may be far more than the usual formality.

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