Reply to John Thrasher on Koch agreements and Transparency at FSU

sarah oh sarah

On January 14th, one day before a scheduled meeting with students to discuss concerns about academic freedom and the influence of the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) on FSU’s campus, John Thrasher cancelled the meeting and stated that he “saw no point in sitting down with his students” on the issue.

Thrasher’s refusal to meet raises a lot of red flags; especially since experts on academic freedom around the nation consider the issue of grave importance.  In a recently signed “Letter of Support” the President of American Association of University Professors (AAUP),  Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum, urged university administrators to “take immediate action to stop all academic interactions with CKF” and “move to immediately disclose university relations… and create review processes that prevent such influence from being granted in the first place.”

But FSU’s transparency issues don’t stop here.  In fact, the issue of transparency is further complicated by the President of Faculty Senate Gary Tyson’s statement that FSU’s Faculty Senate Steering Committee undertook a review of the 2013 “memorandum of understanding” (MOU) and came to the conclusion that the MOU neither “interferes with faculty governance, nor restricts academic freedom of faculty or students.”

In a meeting with an FSU Faculty Senate Steering Committee (FSSC) member on the day Thrasher cancelled the meeting we learned that 1) no official report was released by the FSSC on the review of the 2013 MOU and its findings 2) copies of the MOU were not present or analyzed in the meeting where the 2013 MOU was discussed 3) no MOU was distributed by email prior to the FSSC meeting 4) some members of the FSSC may not even have had copies of the 2013 MOU prior to this informal meeting and 5) no minutes were taken during this meeting.

This troubling “review” process leaves unresolved the areas of the 2013 MOU that have not addressed the 2011 Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Committee Report.  Furthermore, the review ignores the complete disregard of policy and process changes called for by the Senate report and President Eric Barron in order to guard academic freedom, facilitate transparency and protect the university system from undue outside influence.

Department of Economics Chair Dr. Mark Isaac’s claim to the Tallahassee Democrat that “it would be a violation of academic freedom to tell faculty members they could not seek funding from the Koch Foundation” seems odd to say the least.  According to a recent statement released by United Faculty of Florida at FSU the Koch Foundation agreements pose a threat to academic freedom and shared governance.  UFF argues that “funding must not come with strings attached, including hiring and curriculum decisions or other demands based solely on the ideological motivations of the funding organization. Undue outside influence on academic and hiring decisions violates the principles of higher education that we hold so dear.”

Last week Thrasher stated to the Tallahassee Democrat that the agreement is almost at an end “in any event” and that he doubts that the CKF would want to continue with the agreement “given everything that’s gone on.”  This brings our point all the way home.  Thrasher seems to be saying that we should just wait out the violations until the Charles Koch Foundation’s agreement expires, but this “plan” does not address the weaknesses in the university system that allowed for the violation in the first place.

In fact, we have waited four years for the recommendations of the FSU Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Committee Report to be processed with little to show for it. Instead, secrecy and corruption spread. In 2014, during his tenure as Senator, John Thrasher voted “yes” on a piece of legislation that closed public access to meetings between private donors and public university foundations thereby further shutting down university transparency.  This is in line with Thrasher’s argument that the review and approval of gift agreements by “Deans and Vice-Presidents” is somehow enough.  Without democratic faculty-led committees to review the gift agreements there is no guard for academic freedom.  Quite the opposite, the very people “bought out” by the CKF influence end up administering the undemocratic reviews.

For instance, the Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy, Dr. David Rasmussen, signed the 2008 and 2013 agreements with the Koch Foundation.  In a memo written by the Chair of the Department of Economics in 2008, Dr. Rasmussen is implicated in fundraising for the 2008 agreement.  Dr. Rasmussen has been the past Director of the DeVoe Moore Center, which is Koch funded, and benefits from the Koch agreements in his position as Professor of Economics. A review by this Dean is clearly not a neutral or democratic review process.

In order to restore democracy at FSU we call on John Thrasher to take immediate action to guarantee transparency and protect the university’s standards for academic freedom and faculty governance.  We urge John Thrasher to institute a faculty-led and governed review process of donor agreements, to make public the agreements between private donors and the FSU Foundation that exceed $100,000 as well as create clear, transparent policies regarding what donors can and cannot expect regarding hiring and curriculum decisions in order to prevent future agreements with “strings attached”. We continue to request an open meeting with John Thrasher to discuss the issues at hand.  We urge him to view this as his first and most important Public Relations project.

FSU, Charles Koch Foundation and Academic Freedom: Tragedies of Our Past and Fears for Our Future

stop the corporatization

As citizens of the US many of us worry over our right to free speech. But how often do we get stressed over academic freedom?  What is academic freedom anyway?  I know, it sounds like convoluted University mumbo jumbo. It isn’t though. Trust me.

Students gather to mourn the loss of academic freedom at FSU.

Students gather to mourn the loss of academic freedom at FSU.

Academic freedom wasn’t even on my radar until FSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee voted to fast track John Thrasher as President of FSU.  After that, academic freedom became my obsession. Why? Because, it protects the professors’ and students’ right to seek, research and publish the truth. It guarantees us a role in the democratic governance of the university’s institutional life.  Without academic freedom there is no truth.  Without truth –  tyranny and corruption are all but guaranteed. Why should you care?

In 2011, after discovering the highly controversial 2008 contract between the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) and FSU’s Department of Economics, FSU’s Faculty Senate (FS) put together a committee to address concerns about the CKF agreement and its challenges to academic freedom.  The concerns arose because the 2008 agreement gave undue outside influence to CKF in areas of faculty hire, faculty oversight and curriculum control; issues that are central to academic freedom. The Faculty Senate Review Report gave recommendations that appeared to be ignored and forgotten until a second agreement (signed in 2013) was uncovered.  The 2013 agreement was signed in secret, and many of the FS Committee concerns were unaddressed.

Faculty Senate recommendations included a suspension of faculty hiring under the agreement until the advisory board included two faculty members and worked by majority.  The 2013 agreement includes two faculty members and one CKF member, and demands a unanimous vote.   The 2013 contract says that the selection of Professorship Positions must go through normal university processes of hire but before the hire takes place the information on the candidate must be put past CKF and CKF is under no obligation “to provide funding” to their selection. This means that CKF still has veto power over who gets hired in the department with their money. It doesn’t take much to realize that this means the department must put forward someone CKF approves in order to get the position funded.

The Faculty Senate Report also notes a host of concerns in regards to the agreement’s language about the “Undergraduate Program” in the Department of Economics.  Of primary concern is the language which implied that CKF had intentions of creating an “alternative” undergraduate program at FSU that would set forth only the “Objectives and Purposes” of the Charles Koch Foundation.  Nothing about this concern was addressed in the 2013 contract. In fact, the “creation of the Undergraduate Program” language has not changed at all.  None of the Senate Report’s concerns about textbook selection, undergraduate teaching, the new certificate program, the Teaching Specialist position, and reading groups funded by CKF have been addressed; nor has the name of the CKF funded “Economics Club” changed to reflect what it really is: a CKF funded club promoting free market capitalism and free enterprise.

It is unclear that ANY of the final recommendations of the Senate Report have taken place at the University.  These recommendations include College, Department and University Foundation collaboration in the review and development of language that creates more clear guidelines on private donor funding.  Specifically, it recommends that the Provost’s Office and the University Foundation “create a mechanism to review multiple articulated donor agreements.”   Did this happen?  It does not appear so.  Furthermore, Provost Garnett Stokes signed the 2013 contract – and she did so in secret.

On July 15th, 2011, shortly after the Faculty Senate Ad-Hoc Committee released its Report and list of “Recommendations,” the FSU President Eric Barron sent a series of letters to key players involved in the 2008 agreements, FSU university administration and Faculty Senate.

In a letter to Dean of the College of Social Sciences, Dr. David Rasmussen, Dr. Barron put forward the following:

(Note: Dr. Rasmussen signed the 2008 and 2013 agreements with Koch.  According to documents released earlier this year,  Rasmussen was a primary actor in securing the initial funding from CKF).

  1. A request that tasked Vice President Jennings to review Foundation policies and “to take actions to ensure that all gift agreements adhere to our academic principles.”
  2. That “no additional hiring occur using the MOU unless it is modified.” This is in line with the Faculty Senate Report.
  3. He notes that “In the process of gathering information about the implementation of the MOU, the Committee reflects on several areas related to faculty governance, departmental bylaws, and the faculty involvement in the development of the curriculum.  These issues are not related to the language in the MOU.  However they suggest weaknesses in faculty and departmental governance that should be addressed.”

As far as we can tell, no report was published by VP Jennings that reviewed the Foundation policies.  If this procedure was done, it was done like many of the University practices, behind closed doors.  As to not hiring any additional faculty under the 2008 MOU, as far as we can tell it took over two years after the Faculty Senate Report for a revision of the 2008 agreement to occur. Furthermore, the 2013 agreement (due to expiry dates on the 2008 contract) is actually a whole new agreement with extended contract dates for new hires. As noted earlier, this 2013 MOU leaves many of the basic concerns of the Faculty Senate Report and Dr. Barron unaddressed.

In a letter to Dr. Jennifer Buchanan, Interim Dean of the Faculties, Dr. Barron puts forward the following:

  1. That some of the Committee recommendations “reflect on improvements that can be implemented by the Dean of Faculties” and should be looked into.
  2. That the situation with Matt Brown, Graduate Student in the Department of Economics who drew up the agreement, and who had the Department Chair Bruce Benson as the Co-Chair of his Ph.D. committee at the time, drew egregious concerns.  Dr. Barron states: “Please refer to the body of page 7 of the report, which cites a conflict of interest between the faculty member in negotiating the agreement and the role of an active student in facilitating the agreement.  This is a clear conflict of interest and it should have been revealed and then avoided. I would appreciate a review and/or greater clarity with regard to university policy on transparency and potential conflicts of interest.” (Italics are my own)
  3. His final comments are: “Please refer to the section beginning at the bottom of page 7, which cites the issues related to faculty responsibilities (recommendations 6 and 10).  Recommendation 6 requests a change in departmental by-laws related to supervision and staffing of courses and programs.  Recommendation 10 requests a review, with the deans, of the principles of faculty responsibilities associated with the curriculum. Again, I would appreciate a review and/or greater clarity with regard to university policy on the issues raised by the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee” (Italics are my own)

As far as we can tell no review or report by the Dean of Faculties was done.  Furthermore, we have uncovered evidence that during his tenure at FSU as a doctoral candidate Matt Brown received $492,125 for his services to CKF.  This was money paid directly to the student and is an additional conflict of interest to the one cited by Faculty Senate and President Barron.  The “conflict of interest” noted by President Barron and Faculty Senate appears to have been completely ignored and no review or clarity of university policy on transparency and potential conflicts of interest have been undertaken.

In a letter to Dr. Tom Jennings, VP for University Advancement, Dr. Barron puts forward:

  1. The MOU included language that suggested that the donor evaluation should be a part of the annual evaluation of the faculty member.  This is not permitted as part of FSU’s annual review process.
  2. “In any case where a donor to provide input on academic hiring, this should be for the sole purpose of providing the donor with a level of confidence that their gift is being used in a manner consistent with the intent of the donor, and therefore, in every case,
    1. Advisory Board membership should have a majority consisting of FSU faculty.
    2. Advisory Boards should be limited to providing review and advice.
    3. Advisory Boards should offer recommendations based on a majority vote.”

Although the 2013 MOU rectifies the outside input on the annual evaluation of the faculty member it retains the unanimous vote on the Advisory Board which still gives CKF veto power over faculty hire.  Furthermore, the 2013 contract includes Section 7(a)(vi) which actually demands input in the evaluation of the entire SPEFE and EEE Programs.

Section 7(a)(vi): FSU agrees to take the input of the SPEFE-EEE Advisory Board into consideration when evaluating the performance of the SPEFE and EEE Programs.

and

Section 7 (b): The decision rule of the SPEFE-EEE Advisory Board in all matters will be unanimous vote of all three members.

Of final concern, not to the Faculty Senate Report, but to me – is this:  The Charles Koch Foundation offers funding for five professor positions but only funds these tenure-track positions for 5 to 6 years.  That is exactly the amount of time it takes to gain tenure.  At the time of tenure, CKF funding disappears and the 2013 agreement mandates that FSU agree “to assume full responsibility for the continued maintenance and funding of the Professorship Positions”.  In other words, Charles Koch Foundation puts their people in and then the taxpayers are required to keep them until their tenure expires. Five years of CKF funding to guarantee a lifetime taxpayer position.  What?  This sounds a lot like stacking influence at taxpayer expense to me.

When will this stop? On Jan. 15th at 3:30 in Turnbull Conference Center, I am going to ask John Thrasher this question at an open meeting. Join me in the meeting and sign the petition (http://bit.ly/1FzagGO).  Academic freedom is just as important as free speech.  In the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren in the majority opinion for Sweezy v. New Hampshire: “To impose any straight jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation … Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.  Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.” 

Lakey

FSU Progress Coalition

FB: FSU Progress Coalition

Twitter: @FsuProgress

fsu.progresscoalition@gmail.com

List of #UnKoch and Transparency Demands for John Thrasher

In an effort to bring Academic Freedom Back to Life:  We DEMAND:

Photos by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. Academic Freedom, Hope, Student Power and Shared Governance answer the student call and come back to life.

Photos by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. Academic Freedom, Hope, Student Power and Shared Governance answer the student call and come back to life.

LIST OF DEMANDS for JOHN THRASHER

WHEREAS the Charles Koch Foundation has corrupt contracts (2008 and 2013) with Florida State University’s Department of Economics that give them power over faculty hire, graduate assistant hire and curriculum control, and

WHEREAS these contracts are in direct violation of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure and the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and

WHEREAS the Florida State University’s “Policy on Academic Freedom cites AAUP’s 1940 Statement on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure and adheres to the concepts outlined by AAUPand

WHEREAS the 2008 Koch contract with the FSU Department of Economics was established as a violation of academic freedom by former AAUP President Cary Nelson, and

WHEREAS Koch affiliates (including, but not exclusive to, American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity) have advocated legislation that restricts transparency between university foundations and private donors essentially hiding the public’s access to the creation of further corrupt Koch-FSU contracts, and

WHEREAS Koch Industries, Inc., and its Koch funded affiliates (including, but not exclusive to, American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity), have collaborated with politicians and Florida State University’s administration to exert further influence over Florida State University’s institutional governance by installing Koch affiliates within FSU’s administration at the highest levels, and

WHEREAS the National Education Association has stated that “Money for influence is the Koch’s stock-in-trade” and “their political agenda is clear: It’s about promoting the interests of the 1 percent” through “attacks on academic freedom on university campuses,” and

WHEREAS Florida State University states that academic freedom and tenure are linked and are essential to teaching and learning, and

WHEREAS the Koch affiliate group American Legislative Exchange Council has promoted legislation that limits faculty’s academic freedom and tenure in the “Academic Bill of Rights”, and

WHEREAS the administration of Florida State University has failed to rectify the threats to academic freedom inherent in the continued relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation and all Koch affiliated groups and individuals.

Photo by Christina Rodriguez de Conte.  The funeral and mourning of academic freedom at F$U because we have a Koch funded President.

Photo by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. The funeral and mourning of academic freedom at F$U because we have a Koch funded President.

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, acknowledge in a public statement that you have accepted Koch funding and admit that you lied to students about your Koch funding on September 15, 2014, and

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, acknowledge that Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) contracts violate academic freedom, and that the 2008 contract with FSU’s Department of Economics is a specific threat to academic freedom, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher,  publicly renounce the Charles Koch Foundation for the signing of corrupt contracts with Florida State University and that you make a good faith gesture of returning the Koch funding you have received, and

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, agree to donor disclosure, review, and investigation and that you work to create policies as well as ethics and transparency boards within Florida State University and the State of Florida that will guard academic freedom.  These policies and boards will be created so that the community and public can rest assured that FSU is not being unduly influenced by private interests, and

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, create and support transparency policies that make all gifts, grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements between Florida State University, and the FSU Foundation, accessible to the public, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, create a review process, with a student/faculty majority, to assure that all existing and future private donor contracts are in line with AAUP and Florida State University’s policies and statements on academic freedom, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, reject any future agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation, Koch Industries, Inc., and their affiliate non-profits, and

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, will commission a Faculty Senate investigation into Koch conflicts of interest and the circumstances leading to the authorization of the 2013 contract.  This will include an investigation of the administration’s failure to follow through with Faculty Senate and presidential recommendations following the Faculty Senate investigation into the original 2008 Koch contract, and

WE DEMANDthat you, John Thrasher, reject the current FSU contracts with the Charles Koch Foundation and create the processes that will dismantle and destroy those contracts.

FINALLYBE IT RESOLVED, that we, the students of Florida State University defending academic freedom and transparency, WILL NOT recognize you as the President of Florida State University until you accept these demands.

List of #UnKoch and Transparency Demands for John Thrasher

Photos by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. Academic Freedom, Hope, Student Power and Shared Governance answer the student call and come back to life.

In an effort to bring Academic Freedom Back to Life:  We DEMAND:

Photos by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. Academic Freedom, Hope, Student Power and Shared Governance answer the student call and come back to life.

Photos by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. Academic Freedom, Hope, Student Power and Shared Governance answer the student call and come back to life.

LIST OF DEMANDS for JOHN THRASHER

WHEREAS the Charles Koch Foundation has corrupt contracts (2008 and 2013) with Florida State University’s Department of Economics that give them power over faculty hire, graduate assistant hire and curriculum control, and

WHEREAS these contracts are in direct violation of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure and the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and

WHEREAS the Florida State University’s “Policy on Academic Freedom cites AAUP’s 1940 Statement on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure and adheres to the concepts outlined by AAUP, and

WHEREAS the 2008 Koch contract with the FSU Department of Economics was established as a violation of academic freedom by former AAUP President Cary Nelson, and

WHEREAS Koch affiliates (including, but not exclusive to, American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity) have advocated legislation that restricts transparency between university foundations and private donors essentially hiding the public’s access to the creation of further corrupt Koch-FSU contracts, and

WHEREAS Koch Industries, Inc., and its Koch funded affiliates (including, but not exclusive to, American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity), have collaborated with politicians and Florida State University’s administration to exert further influence over Florida State University’s institutional governance by installing Koch affiliates within FSU’s administration at the highest levels, and

WHEREAS the National Education Association has stated that “Money for influence is the Koch’s stock-in-trade” and “their political agenda is clear: It’s about promoting the interests of the 1 percent” through “attacks on academic freedom on university campuses,” and

WHEREAS Florida State University states that academic freedom and tenure are linked and are essential to teaching and learning, and

WHEREAS the Koch affiliate group American Legislative Exchange Council has promoted legislation that limits faculty’s academic freedom and tenure in the “Academic Bill of Rights”, and

WHEREAS the administration of Florida State University has failed to rectify the threats to academic freedom inherent in the continued relationship with the Charles Koch Foundation and all Koch affiliated groups and individuals.

Photo by Christina Rodriguez de Conte.  The funeral and mourning of academic freedom at F$U because we have a Koch funded President.

Photo by Christina Rodriguez de Conte. The funeral and mourning of academic freedom at F$U because we have a Koch funded President.

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, acknowledge in a public statement that you have accepted Koch funding and admit that you lied to students about your Koch funding on September 15, 2014, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, acknowledge that Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) contracts violate academic freedom, and that the 2008 contract with FSU’s Department of Economics is a specific threat to academic freedom, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher,  publicly renounce the Charles Koch Foundation for the signing of corrupt contracts with Florida State University and that you make a good faith gesture of returning the Koch funding you have received, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, agree to donor disclosure, review, and investigation and that you work to create policies as well as ethics and transparency boards within Florida State University and the State of Florida that will guard academic freedom.  These policies and boards will be created so that the community and public can rest assured that FSU is not being unduly influenced by private interests, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, create and support transparency policies that make all gifts, grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements between Florida State University, and the FSU Foundation, accessible to the public, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, create a review process, with a student/faculty majority, to assure that all existing and future private donor contracts are in line with AAUP and Florida State University’s policies and statements on academic freedom, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, reject any future agreements with the Charles Koch Foundation, Koch Industries, Inc., and their affiliate non-profits, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, will commission a Faculty Senate investigation into Koch conflicts of interest and the circumstances leading to the authorization of the 2013 contract.  This will include an investigation of the administration’s failure to follow through with Faculty Senate and presidential recommendations following the Faculty Senate investigation into the original 2008 Koch contract, and

WE DEMAND, that you, John Thrasher, reject the current FSU contracts with the Charles Koch Foundation and create the processes that will dismantle and destroy those contracts.

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the students of Florida State University defending academic freedom and transparency, WILL NOT recognize you as the President of Florida State University until you accept these demands.

Rick Scott’s Forgotten (and Deleted) Higher Ed Agenda

stop the corporatization

Recent reporting on Rick Scott’s Higher Education record has left out some interesting things.

In 2012, if you visited FLHigherEd.org, you would have found a report by Gov. Rick Scott’s Blue Ribbon Education Task Force (BRTF) on State Higher Education Reform. The link is dead now, but in 2012 it lead to an undownloadable report [pdf]. The task force was made largely of Florida Chamber of Commerce representatives and outlined a highly aggressive attack on the State University System. In a set of recommendations on accountability, funding, and governance, the report details a power grab by the Executive Branch and Florida’s political-corporate elite over the State University System.

Some of the most extreme recommendations involve transferring power over the State University System (SUS) to the Board of Governors (BOG),  82% of which is Governor appointed. The report suggests that university funding be entirely performance based using metrics created by the BOG, and that the BOG have total budgetary control over the SUS, an authority that lies constitutionally with the legislature.

The report also suggests that universities realign their goals and mission statements to meet BRTF recommendations. These recommendations have accountability metrics that include measures of how many bachelor’s degrees are created in areas of “strategic emphasis”. The majors that are considered “strategic” are conveniently left to the BOG and the voices of industry in Florida.

Another accountability metric is the average salary of graduates, which invariably deprioritizes many (and increasingly more) courses of study. The report also states that degrees in majors of “market determined demand”, tuition should be lower, and state funding higher.

The BOG was to create “rewards” for universities who complied with their metrics, and was to have more influence in Presidential searches. See a quick breakdown here. Though the report received little media attention, it was rejected in full by the Florida State University Student Government Senate in a series of resolutions, and was opposed in the Florida House and Florida Senate by FSU Progress Coalition.

In the 2013 legislative session that followed the BRTF Report, a brutal 83 page education bill passed through the House and Senate with little notice. This legislation took considerable steps toward accomplishing Gov. Scott’s Blue Ribbon recommendations, most notably giving the BOG the power to cut off state funding to any university that it deems out of compliance with it’s operational directives, effectively giving it veto power over a legislative appropriation (sec. 1, 28). It authorizes the BOG to designate majors of “high demand” and strategic emphasis (sec. 5, 8) which are then used as criteria for performance funding. Additionally, the bill:

  1. establishes bonus pay for public university employees (sec. 3) [think University Presidents]
  2. allows preeminent universities to charge “Market Rate” tuition, different tuition for different majors (sec. 9)
  3. require that the BOG create a new college placement test (sec. 26)
  4. restructures the Higher Education Coordinating Council to be increasingly Governor and Industry appointed (sec. 11)

Rick Scott’s Market Based University System

This makes pretty clear the specific Higher Education goals of a second Scott administration. Coerce  universities into conforming to the demands of private interests. Majors picked on “market determined demand”, and then subsidized, and cranked out as cheaply as possible under threat of executive audits.

Market Based Missions/Tuition/Curriculum/Governance and the creation of rewards and punishments for compliance… this is a system by which the universities have no choice but to conform to BOG/corporate demands. Industry determined “strategic interest” is simply private interest. The justification for this is the false assertion that the education system is to be held responsible for “economic growth”.

Rick Scott’s entire Blue Ribbon Education Task Force, and his 83 page education bill, are in line with Charles Koch’s statement in 1974 that industry should support “only those programs, departments or schools that “contribute in some way to our individual companies or to the general welfare of our free enterprise system.

Rick Scott’s Higher Education agenda creates an environment where universities have to compete for funding by striving to satisfy industry demands.  This competitive capital-driven model corrupts the nature of the traditional liberal arts public education system and subjects it completely to the will of corporate and political interests.

But this style is all too familiar to anyone acquainted with the ideology of Charles Koch’s free market organizational philosophy Market-Based Management®.

In fact, the system of performance metrics are not new for Rick Scott either, as this system of management is what cultivated the culture of fraud and corruption while he was CEO of HCA.  It resulted in $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for Medicare fraud.

AND, Rick Scott did meet with Koch in 2011 to discuss education, remarking that “it was very interesting”.

If Rick Scott wins a second term, we will see just how interesting things become.

Ralph Wilson

Call for Solidarity: Stand with FSU on Nov. 3rd

On November 3rd, my friends and comrades at Florida State University are calling on you to stand with us, the Foundation Against the Corporatization of Education and UnKochMyCampus.org in a National Day of Action Against the Corporatization of Education.

3women solidarity signsSince 2011, when several professors uncovered a 2008 contract between Florida State University and the Charles Koch Foundation, which effectively gave CKF discretion over several faculty hires, we have been shocked to learn how much further the undue corporate influence extends in our university–and beyond. When our President, Eric Barron, left his position in April for Penn State, FSU’s Board of Trustees voted to fast-track Sen. John Thrasher to be the SOLE candidate considered for the presidency with hopes of him bringing in big money, ignoring his lack of academic credentials.

The Florida Senator is a past ALEC Legislator of the Year recipient, has been running Koch-backed Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign and at a recent forum with FSU students, Thrasher detracted from a question about climate change and flat-out LIED about receiving money from the billionaire Koch brothers. Thrasher also has a concerning history of supporting structural racism, homophobia and anti-environmental policies. Despite 72% of polled FSU students, faculty and staff saying Thrasher is unqualified for the position, the corporate majority BOT voted on Sept. 23 to appoint Thrasher.

On Nov. 5-6, we will call upon the Florida Board of Governors at their scheduled meeting to decline Thrasher’s appointment and have promised to strike and occupy the President’s office if/when he is approved. We have realized that the system that governs the entire Florida public higher education infrastructure is flawed, favoring the corporate elite appointed to university and state-level Board positions by Rick Scott. We want to make sure that FSU administrators and the BOG know that the corruption and corporatization of education are not going unnoticed, and we will continue to fight to take back our education.

Please join us on November 3rd and stand in solidarity with the Florida State students by taking the following actions:Red Square

  1. Change your profile picture to our red square symbol and/or wear red felt squares in solidarity with the international student power movement, the anticipated strike and occupation at FSU, and the ongoing protest against the corporatization of education.
  1. Take a group photo, or individual photo, holding a sign that says ‘We support FSU students in their fight against corruption’ or another message that speaks against the corporatization of education or it’s impacts on your own campus/alma mater. Share your solidarity pics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr tagging all social media posts with #UnKoch.
  1. 390 campuses are now listed as receiving “support” from the Charles Koch Foundation. Ask friends and allies on Koch-funded campuses to join in the above actions and check out our toolkit for investigating Koch’s influence on campus.
  1. Organize a rally, vigil or speak out!

This is just the beginning.

For more information please contact faceusnow@gmail.com, fsu.progresscoalition@gmail.com or call 850-345-0018. Follow us on twitter for campaign and day of action updates: @FsuProgress, @FACEusnow, @UnKochCampus.

In solidarity always,

Lakey

FSU Progress Coalition

Foundation Against the Corporatization of Education

Response to BOT Decision

Throughout the presidential search process at Florida State University, students were told that their voices were being heard. But really?  Who was listening? The media was listening, the nation was listening, FSU alumni, faculty, and staff were listening. But the corporate/political elite, the 11 members of the Board of Trustees that voted for John Thrasher as FSU’s President – closed off their ears and turned off their minds.  Why should they listen really? Their decision was already made for them. Their votes were gleaned through Florida’s own sordid “good ol’ boy” system.

So… When students spoke up at the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) meetings, we were ignored.  When we started national petitions and sent thousands of emails calling for more student votes on the PSAC, we were infantalized and dismissed. When we collected support of national organizations (AFT, NEA, USSA, AAUP, and others), the Board of Trustees cancelled its meeting, closed its doors, ignored our emails, and blatantly dismissed our comments on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee website.  When we researched and passed out information, the FSU administration threatened to arrest us on forty year old posting statutes developed to regulate war protestors in the 1970’s.

All of this so that the Board of Trustees could do exactly what it set out to do all along –  to install a three time Koch funded “ALEC Legislator of the Year” as FSU’s President.  All of this to create a “sham” process designed to look on the surface like democracy.  All of this to hide closed door negotiations, back room deals, and dark pat-on-the-back conversations not covered by Florida’s “Sunshine Laws”.   All of this so that a Thrasher created Board of Trustees could reinsert their “maker” as CEO of Florida State University, Inc.

But the cronyism and lack of transparency runs deeper than this.  Senator John Thrasher voted in favor of 2014’s latest Florida Sunshine Law exemption, namely SB 318/HB 115.  This “Thrasher supported” statute closes off public access to private donor-public university agreements like the corrupt 2008 and 2013 contracts signed between Florida State University and the Charles Koch Foundation.  These contracts give Koch power over faculty hire, graduate assistant hire and curriculum control in FSU’s Department of Economics.  The FSU-Koch agreements are unprecedented in private donor-public university agreement history and they violate FSU’s own academic freedom policy.

We find it essential to point out that:

1) Senator John Thrasher accepted funding from Koch three separate times and then LIED to the FSU community about doing so.

2) The Chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees is also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Koch funded James Madison Institute and has business connections with the Koch funded legislative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

3) Chair Bense appointed the Presidential Search Advisory Committee which had more Koch funded and ALEC connected members than faculty or staff.

4) Unlike the 2008 Koch agreement, the 2013 FSU-Koch contract was signed and sealed with Presidential and Provost signatures. The stamp of approval at the highest level of FSU administration clearly demonstrates the power Koch now wields at all levels of FSU governance.  There now exist faculty, graduate assistant, administration and even Presidential alliances with Koch corruption.

FSU’s Board of Trustees acknowledges that “Shared governance and academic freedom are inextricably connected. The Board and the UFF recognize the necessity of a strong system of shared governance involving faculty members in areas of academic concern and that elected bodies are the primary vehicle for such shared governance.”

Furthermore, FSU’s statement on academic freedom espouses the intent to “protect members of academic staff from influence, from within or without the University”.  As shared governance and academic freedom are inextricably connected, ANY corruption within the governance of Florida State University serves as a violation of academic freedom and the university’s own responsibility to “protect members of academic staff from influence” against and from corruption.  This failure of governance defies that protection, and leaves the university as a whole open to exploitation by corporate and political interests. As students, this means that the structures of our academic system and the access to “free and true” study of knowledge has dissipated at all levels. Florida State University is now willfully unprotected. The Administration, and the Board of Trustees, have forfeited the integrity of FSU’s educational system, its loyalty to truth and academic freedom, and its democratic alliance with shared governance by perpetuating the “Thrasher System” of power that attacks the very foundation of the education we came to FSU to pursue.

We do not accept a “Thrasher System” of power.  We do not accept and will not recognize John Thrasher as President of Florida State University.  We do not accept the corporatization and politicization of our education.

We demand a return of academic freedom and shared governance and will accept nothing less than this as our present and our future.