Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FSU's review of Koch deal suggests future donors shouldn't have power over faculty decisions

Nothing went wrong, but it could have.

That was the conclusion of a Florida State University review of a controversial contract with a conservative billionaire that came under fire earlier this year.

FSU "maintained its integrity" in its hiring of two faculty members — funded by libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch's $1.5 million donation — but that was partly because the school didn't follow the stipulations spelled out in the 2008 donation agreement. If it had, members of the foundation would have had the power to approve or deny the hires, as well as have a say in annual faculty evaluations.

And, according to FSU president Eric Barron, "We don't do that."

"Every donor out there wants to make sure their money is used the way they've intended," said Barron, who was not in office when the agreement was signed. "We just have to make sure that involvement is advisory."

FSU faced harsh criticism of the deal after a Times investigation revealed that it gave Koch representatives power to influence hires and evaluations, a major stray from fundamental principles of academic freedom.

The deal also set up an undergraduate "market ethics" elective that used Ayn Rand works as required readings and established a vaguely named "Economics Club" that narrowly promoted free-enterprise ideas, the review said.

What ended up happening, according to the review, was that the faculty members hired with Koch money were evaluated and approved without outside influence. In accordance with normal FSU policies, no input from the wealthy donor was considered in their evaluations, either.

The problem was, the Koch agreement left open the possibility and perception of outside influence, even if it didn't come to bear, Barron said.

"We did the right thing, but we've got to make sure there's no question," he said.

He said that kind of donor agreement would not be allowed in the future. Though the school isn't amending the Koch agreement at the moment, Barron said the clause about the donor's involvement in faculty decisions would be changed the next time someone's hired.

Other recommendations from the review remain up for consideration, including that the elective course be suspended and resubmitted with an indication of its relationship to Koch, that the "Economics Club" be renamed to better match its focus and that the FSU Foundation further review its gift policies.

The Koch Foundation issued a response to the findings Friday, too.

"We agree with the committee that the (partnership) has solid guiding principles, and we are open to modifying the agreement as long as it continues to ensure a strong commitment to academic freedom, faculty governance and donor intent," said Ryan Stowers, the foundation's director of higher education programs.

The scandal made waves far beyond the FSU community. The day before the review was released, advocacy group Progress Florida sent Barron a petition signed by nearly 9,000 people, including about 1,000 FSU faculty members, students, alumni or donors, calling for the university to dump the deal.

Barron responded to the group, saying, "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."

Reach Kim Wilmath at kwilmath@sptimes.com or 813-226-3337.

FSU's review of Koch deal suggests future donors shouldn't have power over faculty decisions 07/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 10:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst

    Business

    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.