Faculty Senate at Wake Forest Explains Opposition to Koch-Funded Institute

To the Editor:

The Chronicle has recently run two stories and a letter about the establishment of the Eudaimonia Institute at Wake Forest University and its primary funder, the Charles Koch Foundation (“Koch Money Brings Distress Over a University’s Well-Being Institute,The Chronicle, April 4, “Wake Forest’s Eudaimonia Institute Tries to Turn From Controversy to Scholarship,The Chronicle, April 26, and “Efforts by Group at Wake Forest to Restrict Open Inquiry Are Distressing,” Letters to the Editor, April 19). As chairpersons of the two WFU faculty senate committees that reviewed the Institute and its Koch funding, we feel some correction of distorting facts is needed.

The Senate Ad Hoc Committee, in reviewing the new institute and its $3.7 milling funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, uncovered the foundation’s “integrated” strategy that “leverages” university centers, think tanks, and the Koch grassroots political apparatus for overtly political ends. As outlined by two leading Charles Koch Foundation administrators at a 2014 Koch Summit, the foundation has built “a robust freedom-advancing network of professors that is producing research at university centers across the country.” This research serves as the “raw material” for Charles Koch Foundation-funded think tanks to convert into legislative policy recommendations. Regarding the students taught in these centers, Kevin Gentry notes, “we’ve been able to produce two million or so grassroots.” The network professors “help these students see the message to fight for freedom.” So “not only does higher education act as a talent pool stream,” but these students go on to “populate our program, these think tanks, and grassroots.” Gentry concludes: “It’s not just work at the universities with the students, but it’s also building state-based capabilities and election capabilities, and integrating this talent pipeline.” Based on this evidence, the Ad Hoc Committee’s Senate motion to prohibit Charles Koch Foundation funding for all WFU centers or institutes passed overwhelmingly (19-7).

Secondly, the Committee on Academic Freedom was charged to review WFU’s university conflict of interest and gift acceptance policies and procedures. As a result, the committee presented two motions, both of which passed 19-4. The first called for the creation of a joint university committee to devise a university-wide conflict-of-interest policy in accordance with AAUP guidelines. The second motion called for faculty representation on the University Gift Acceptance Committee and a review of that committee’s policies and procedures.

Contrary to these facts, John Hardin, Charles Koch Foundation director of university relations, claimed in his letter to The Chronicle that “a small group of faculty at Wake Forest is insisting on censorship of one of its chaired professors.” He further asserted that this is part of a broader faculty effort to limit open inquiry on our campus. Both claims are patently false. In fact, the two motions passed by the Senate assure the academic freedom and responsibility of all our faculty by calling for the elimination of the secret stipulations of the donor agreement (as imposed by the foundation). It is these secret stipulations that prevent full faculty governance, in partnership with our trustees and administration, necessary to maintain public trust.

James Ford
Chair, Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, N.C.

Ulrike Wiethaus
Chair, Committee for Academic Freedom and Responsibility
Wake Forest University

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