June 16, 2020

Teaching Greed: Koch Influence on Campus

The Koch brothers' oil empire is done with just poisoning the planet, and would now like to poison higher education as well

Teaching Greed: Koch Influence on Campus

The Koch Brothers (well, just Charles Koch now) were/are two right-wing oil tycoons and known for owning Koch Industries and donating to many right-wing causes. They have repeatedly used their money and power to influence, create, take over, and control political groups, news organisations, “think” tanks, and universities. Charles Koch has a net worth of 46.8 billion dollars as of 2020. He inherited Koch Industries with his brother from their father, with the company itself focuses on manufacturing and refining petroleum, various other chemicals and materials, and finance and investing.

Charles Koch is the most political (as far as we know) of the family, being a registered libertarian and giving money to various organisations and schools. His biggest university donations have gone to George Mason University, Texas Tech University, and Florida State University, and that’s just the top three on a very long list. Those three universities alone consist of around 105,323 students. The contributions add up to more than 136 million dollars, however, they do not stop at just donations, they: ‘raise and coordinate hundreds of millions of dollars to funnel through the “Kochtopus” network of front groups, bankrolling political campaigns to advance the business interests of Koch Industries’. The schools get these donations so long as they do something for the Koch family. The Koch family essentially takes over the universities’ economics department, teaching a twisted version of the subject meant to benefit the Koch family and their companies.

The Koch family through their Foundation can also review potential teachers, who then must follow specific “Objectives and Purposes” like at Utah State University. In some cases, the Foundation was even able to get personal information of the students. The two main Koch funded campus groups are the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies. The IHS claims to be a center of the classical liberal tradition, advocating for things like limited government, economic freedom, and free speech. The Mercatus Center focuses on policy research, Ph.Ds and student fellowships that promote right-wing philosophical and economic ideas. Charles Koch can be found listed as a board member on the Mercatus website but cannot be found on the IHS. Instead, a lady by the name of Emily Chamlee-Wright is the CEO of IHS, who just happens to be a Senior Affiliated Scholar at Mercatus.

The Koch family has also donated and routinely contributes to right-wing student group TPUSA. These donations are not met without resistance, however. A student group by the name of UnKoch My Campus has formed in reaction to their takeovers of college campuses. Other colleges have outright denied any more donations from the Koch family, such as the University of Dayton. In some cases, there have been splits between the teachers and staff and the board of universities on whether to accept the donation money and all that it brings. However, this does not seem to be the majority, there are still around 270 (at the time of writing) universities that accept Koch donations and they still are spreading to other campuses. According to the Facing South organisation, they actually spread quite like a parasite. They start by giving to the school to do one or a few lectures (typically on how beneficial capitalism is or how Europeans are the main advancers of the world), should that be successful, they will give a professorship. After this, there is rapid expansion and takeover of the economics department and sometimes the philosophy and political science departments as well. This includes establishing one of their centres on campus, influencing who the college hires, and starting a pipeline of their ideology through the campus. They even have classes that use pre-approved textbooks (one includes works by an author who wrote a piece defending eugenics and another piece painting democracy as evil).

This is quite literally indoctrination and infection of learning. It is odd how the right claims that evil Marxists have taken over universities all over the country when oil tycoons are literally funnelling money into them to indoctrinate students in order to make them more money. It is also hard to know exactly how much time and money is being spent doing this, as donations are really all that are directly recorded or publicly available. It is not like someone can just ignore this either, most colleges require their students to take at least one if not multiple economics classes. The Koch family makes sure these classes teach ideas that will benefit them. Those students are not learning economics, they are learning how to support policies that will make the Koch family more money. These sources are really only concerned with U.S. colleges; however, I do not believe that this incredibly powerful family would reduce or limit their influence to just the United States. These sources seem to point out that the donations and everything else is kept in the dark as much as possible. All of this was found only as a result of backlash by a combined force of students and faculty staff.

There are plenty of issues concerning the US education system, however, this web of influence,money and power presents an active and real threat to students and the rest of the country, and is especially concerning considering the threats of climate change and late-stage capitalism. This is an ever-spreading issue that most people seem to know nothing about. It is doubtful that this is exclusive to the US either, college campuses are the perfect place for billionaire influence and right-wing propaganda.

We all know that young people are the future, but what will that future be if they are all being tricked and manipulated by billionaires?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

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