ICYMI: Washington Post Discusses Charles Koch Foundation Higher Education Philanthropy

In his August 1 “PowerPost” column, The Washington Post’s James Hohmann discussed the principles behind the Charles Koch Foundation’s higher education philanthropy and the organization’s stance on organizations that harass faculty. The Post noted the Foundation encourages engagement with a host of texts and ideas. Director of University Relations John Hardin said:

“If people don’t know and understand all the ideas that have influenced history, then how in the world can we have any hope of making progress in the future? Innovation and discovery depend on the collision of different ideas … This is going to be even more important with the future that we’re heading into, where change comes rapidly and students are going to need the skills to adapt quickly.”

Hardin expressed concern with tactics coming from activists on the left as well as the right, including Turning Point USA:

“Instead of supporting groups that put professors that they disagree with on watch lists. [The Foundation supports] folks who take those professors to lunch, who co-teach … and who collaborate with those professors.”

Foundation director of Free Expression Sarah Ruger added that efforts to silence debate are “truly McCarthyism 2.0 … It’s a platform that exists to put the names and the profiles of self-identified progressive professors out there and encourages conservative students to intimidate them.”

The Post’s coverage also discussed the increased outreach from scholars to the Foundation along with plans to publish all future multi-year grant agreements. Charles Koch himself has contributed generously to universities since 1963, and the Foundation now supports around 800 faculty members at 300 institutions, with annual giving of about $90 million. Foundation President Brian Hooks noted, “We’re prepared to substantially increase giving based on the quality of the proposals we receive.”

In response to activists that criticized the Foundation’s agreement announcement, Hardin said:

“Rather than applaud this effort and suggest others consider it, they’re panning it … Sadly, it suggests that they are no different from those on the right that harass scholars simply because they don’t like their ideas. They’re two shades of the same gray.”

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