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More than 8,000 sign petition calling for FSU to dump Koch contract



Florida State University President Eric Barron got an e-mail this morning from the progressive advocacy group Progress Florida, calling for the university to rescind its controversial contract with the Koch Foundation.

The university came under fire earlier this year after it was revealed that the foundation, controlled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch, pledged $1.5 million for positions in FSU's economics department, as reported in the Times. In return, Koch's representatives got to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."

Amid public outcry, FSU launched a faculty review of the contract. Faculty Senate President Sandra Lewis said the review would likely be completed by mid-July.

While waiting on that conclusion, Progress Florida collected 8,841 signatures, including more than 1,000 from FSU faculty, staff, students or donors, on a petition urging Barron to dump the deal.

Barron, who was not in office at the time of the decision, responded to the letter late Thursday, sending the following message to Progress Florida:

If we wish to ensure the future of public education and the future of this nation, it is extremely important that our discourse and debate be based on fact. Presented with a statement given as fact that Florida State sold off its hiring decisions, I am not surprised that Progress Florida collected a number of signatures. But, the facts are that we have not done so, and we would not do so. I am confident that the independent faculty review will demonstrate that Florida State hired top scholars through a hiring process that was fully governed by our faculty.

Here's the text of the Progress Florida petition. See the attached file for the complete list of those who signed.

President Barron:

We, the undersigned, call on you to cancel the pay-to-play contract
Florida State University signed with Charles Koch's foundation that has
brought shame and controversy to one of Florida's proudest institutions.
To sell off the hiring decisions of the university's economics department
to a radical ideologue is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

As Floridians, we understand the impact of the legislature's devastating
cuts to public education and we will be there with you to fight arm-in-arm
against those cuts. But allowing one of Florida's most prestigious
academic institutions to be bought off and used as an incubator for
extremist propaganda is not the solution.

This public university is ours, President Barron, not Charles Koch's. And
we will fight for it.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2011 6:00pm]


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