Koch Brothers on campus: HBCUs in the cross-hairs


These aren't the opportunities you're looking for, move along:

The concept for the efforts the Koch gift will fund is in place, but many of the details have yet to be established. Broadly, the $25.6 million will go toward original research, creating three campus research centers and funding research efforts. It will also go toward scholarships and fellowships for students in education, sociology, economics and criminal justice. It will also support on-campus programming, funding speakers like educators and entrepreneurs. And it will pay for research and polling, helping Gallup create an opportunity index and survey fragile communities, which are defined as those where residents face barriers to economic advancement and which exhibit high crime rates, low-quality education options and limited mobility.

Attempts by the Koch Brothers to infiltrate universities and expand their free-market ideology has been spotty at best. Where they have succeeded, these entities have been under harsh scrutiny by faculty groups (rightly) concerned about interference and the reputation of the school itself. But Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been (for the most part) also historically underfunded, which presents a prime opportunity for the oil-drenched billionaires to poke their noses in. But not everybody is gung-ho for this "partnership" to proceed:

“I continue to question the ethics of taking money from the Koch brothers/philanthropies given their systematic and long-term disenfranchisement of minorities, including African-Americans,” she said. “It’s important to look at their history of pollution in minority communities, their busting of unions that support minorities, their disenfranchisement of minority voters and their support of ultraconservative candidates and organizations that support the defunding of programs and policies that support African-Americans.”

Gasman wondered whether the donation could come with unspoken expectations.

“It is important in terms of money -- HBCUs need donations -- but what are the long-term ramifications of the gift?” she said. “Do the Koch brothers inadvertently shape the research? Do HBCUs feel pressured to conform to the whims of the Koch brothers in terms of the research products? Regardless of having an official role, funders always have influence, and the Koch brothers are deeply powerful.”

The Koch Brothers have been doing "philanthropy" like this for a long time, and they know how to conceal their influence. They will groom a few African-American educators and/or entrepreneurs to run the DC office and be the face of the program, but they will be pulling the strings, nonetheless. It's how they roll. And even their toned-down "Impact" statement reveals some likely goals:

The Center is working to advance opportunity through the following activities:

Original Research: Supporting faculty at HBCUs working to develop research centers studying critical issues.
These campus research centers will help bring together multiple faculty members interested in education, criminal justice, and entrepreneurship.
Support for the campus research centers will include funding for research initiatives and undergraduate students studying these topics.

Scholarships: Awarding scholarships to HBCU students pursuing careers in education, sociology, economics, and criminal justice research and awarding fellowships that will allow graduate researchers to study and research issues related to barriers to opportunity.
On-Campus Programming: Supporting HBCU faculty working to bring speakers such as entrepreneurs, educators and economists to campus to facilitate conversations for students about removing barriers and advancing opportunity.
Research and Polling: Partnering with Gallup to create an opportunity index that will capture real sentiments of individuals living in fragile communities and foster public dialogue.
The State of Opportunity in America Forum: Convening annually HBCU researchers and other national thought leaders to examine research findings and develop solutions.

The "economics" portion is the easiest to predict, with Ayn Rand leading the dance troupe. You can expect a withering assessment of government-sponsored and -regulated programs to assist the poor, while also seeing some glowing examples of private-sector (or church) efforts to ameliorate poverty. In education, no doubt private school vouchers and charters will be the "change agents" sorely needed in these economically depressed areas. As far as sociology and criminal justice, there will likely be many references to the first two subjects, but there may not be enough money left for everything. Which brings us back to the "who decides" question. Which is really just a rhetorical question, frankly.