George Mason University (GMU) and Charles Koch Foundation Fact Sheet

George Mason University (GMU) and Charles Koch Foundation Fact Sheet

Recent coverage of decade-old grant agreements with George Mason University has raised questions that deserve an answer. Here’s what we’d like our current and future academic partners to know.

  • Although our grant agreements have changed over time, we have always been committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and independence. Learn More.
  • We have given more than $400 million to colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations since our founding in 1980.
  • In 1985, the Charles Koch Foundation gave its first gift to George Mason University.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation has always followed each university’s hiring procedures and has never sought to influence them.
  • None of our current agreements contain donor representation provisions in faculty search committees.

Our relationship with George Mason University has spanned decades.

Charles Koch began supporting higher education more than 50 years ago. In 1985, the Charles Koch Foundation made its first gift to George Mason University (GMU).  Since then, we’ve given numerous gifts to support GMU’s various colleges and scholars working in economics, psychology, public policy, and other fields, as well as the Antonin Scalia Law School and the Mercatus Center, a university-based research center at GMU.

The Charles Koch Foundation does not have a say in “hiring and firing” at George Mason University or anywhere else.

In no sense did the Charles Koch Foundation have the ability to inappropriately influence university employment practices.

Expired agreements with GMU from a decade ago allowed us to have one seat on a five-member faculty search committee charged with recommending candidates for three positions. We were also able to designate one faculty member to serve on this committee. The agreements also required that the university followed its normal hiring procedures.

None of our current agreements contain donor representation provisions.

We continually review our grant making procedures and welcome constructive ideas for improving them.

A decade ago, we were following university procedures that allowed for donor representation on faculty search committees. Although this is still standard for many universities, we took seriously the criticism we received about a similar provision in a Florida State University grant from 2008, and we invited outside academics to help us evaluate and improve our procedures.  Our new grant template includes no such provisions.

In the case of Florida State University, the disputed 2008 agreement, which was later amended in 2013, also allowed for a donor representative to sit on a three-person advisory committee. That agreement has since expired.

We’re proud to have contributed to George Mason University’s growth and prestige.

GMU has grown into a well-respected research institution, with its economics faculty routinely earning international recognition and acclaim for their work. In 2017, a GMU economist won the Royal Economic Society Prize for best paper in the Economic Journal. Furthermore, two GMU economics professors have won Nobel prizes in 2002 and 1986. GMU’s economics department is one of the top economics programs in the United States and in 2017 Shanghai Rankings named it 26th in the world.

Grant recipients disagree with how the media has portrayed our relationship with GMU

“[O]ur faculty’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to academic excellence has indeed attracted outside funds. These funds enable us to do better that which we are committed to doing; they in no way direct our research, our teaching, our writing for professional or non-professional audiences, or our mentoring of students.”—Professor Don Boudreaux, Café Hayek

“You should know that one of my best days as Dean came in February 2016 when I received that unexpected call from that unexpected donor offering to provide us with $20 million in scholarship dollars for the naming the school after one of the most important Supreme court Justices ever, as long as the Charles Koch Foundation provided an additional $10 million for scholarships—no strings attached.”—Dean of Antonin Scalia Law School, Henry N. Butler, Law School Post

“The Mercatus Center is proud of our almost 40 years of support of faculty research and graduate education at Mason. In our time at Mason, we’ve helped attract more than a dozen faculty members, including two economists who received the Nobel Prize in Economics while at Mason. (The entire state of Virginia has had only three Laureates in total.) We’ve supported hundreds of graduate students who have gone on to prestigious careers both inside and outside of academia. The economics department has gone from unranked to #26 in the world by the Shanghai rankings, and is one of Mason’s most highly ranked academic units, if not the most highly ranked.”—Mercatus Center Faculty Director Tyler Cowen, Faculty Senate Written Remarks

This page was published on May 15, 2018.

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