Elite schools must leave Koch’s money

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Many universities, such as Harvard earlier this year, have been recognized for removing their fossil fuel endowments and pledging to tackle climate change.

While Duke University has yet to give in, school president Vincent Price was recently prompted by pressure from activists to recognize Duke’s responsibility in tackling climate change. “We will work to leverage our significant research and policy resources toward sustainable environmental solutions,” Price said.

But in February, Duke announced a talk by author Bjørn Lomborg on his favorite topic: exposing climate change as a hoax. Why did Duke agree to harbor this oft-debunked climate denier? It may be a question of who was paying.

The invitation came from Duke’s “Center for the History of Political Economy”. The host Lomborg’s lecture series, along with its expanded staff and programming, are funded by a $ 5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. The foundation is the tool of billionaire fossil fuel tycoon Charles Koch, a well-known backer of right-wing politics.

Besides Lomborg, the centre’s other recent conference topics included “economic freedom and the wealth and health of nations” and “free market liberalism is human”.

Duke, Harvard and other universities that advocate for climate justice also continue to receive money from the Koch Network, which denies climate change, and their right-wing allies. Some have followed their acceptance of these donations with overt support for academics or research that supports Koch’s political views. To truly keep their word, these universities must stop giving academic legitimacy to fossil fuel apologists.

Charles Koch declared in 1974 that “the educational path is both the most vital and the most neglected” in advancing his radical capitalist philosophy. One of the main tools of the network is the funding of campus centers and think tanks, and their efforts are accelerating. Research from my organization, UnKoch My Campus, revealed that Charles Koch, from 2005 to 2019, donated more than $ 458 million through his foundations to universities and colleges across the country.

New research we supported by George Washington University student Jake Lowe found that the Koch Network resulted in increased funding for the Center for Regulatory Studies at GWU – nearly $ 7 million, most In the past four years, only four right-hand donors, including the Koch Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

In response, the RSC has almost universally argued against government regulation, with 96% of its public comments on federal regulation arguing for relaxed standards.

Duke and George Washington are not alone.

George Mason University and its right-wing think tank, the Mercatus Center, have long been the top academic recipients of the Koch Network.

The state of Florida came under fire in 2014 when it was revealed that the university had accepted millions of dollars from the Koch Foundation in return for aligning its program with Charles Koch’s philosophy, thereby giving it its have a say in the hiring of teachers.

The money these universities accept from the Koch network is, in some ways, more damaging and insidious than the university’s investment in fossil fuel companies. Money is fungible, but academic credibility is not.


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