Buying the Right to Hire New Professors

Last week, the economics department at Florida State University received a great deal of publicity about a deal granting Charles G. Koch the right to decide who will fill two new teaching slots:

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

(A copy of the agreement can be found here.)

Some people are defending this, saying deals like this are not unusual. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert at how universities strike deals with donors, and it may be naïve to even think this could be possible, but I believe activity in state institutions should not be run by private interests.

Readers, how do you feel about this deal?

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