The Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries have indirectly donated yet another large sum to higher education in Winston-Salem.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s Center for Advancing Opportunity, a creation funded by a $25.6 million donation from the Koch Foundation and Industries, will provide a $3 million grant to Winston-Salem State University’s new Center for the Study of Economic Mobility.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, named after the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, has historically supported and provided resources to the nation’s historical black colleges and universities.
The Koch Foundation and Industries grant follows a trend of similar grants awarded to other universities across the nation, including Wake Forest.
As a refresher: in June 2016, Wake Forest started the Eudaimonia Institute — an interdisciplinary institute designed to investigate the nature of human flourishing through the lens of political, economic, social and cultural constructs — after receiving a $4.2 million donation. Of this sum, $3.69 million was donated on behalf of the Koch Foundation. Due to the political ties of the foundation’s owners Charles and David Koch, controversy erupted last spring as professors from a variety of departments raised concern about the ability for the Eudaimonia Institute to remain autonomous and independent of political ties in its teachings.
Despite the Faculty Senate’s demands to reject the funding for the Charles Koch Foundation, as the Winston-Salem Journal reported, Wake Forest spokeswoman Katie Neal said the university is continuing to move forward with the Eudaimonia Institute.
We, as the Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black, do not condemn this decision on the condition that the students who are learning and interacting with this institute have equal access to political, economic, social and cultural ideologies that span the political spectrum and are not influenced by one ideology. What we would find unnacceptable is if it were found that the donors to the Eudaimonia Institute, or any institute for that matter, had an influence on the information taught under these academic establishments.
Academic flourishing is and should remain independent of outside influence.
Historically, the Koch foundation and its donations to different universities have met controversy, given the ties that David and Charles Koch have to conservative initiatives and their efforts in lobbying against federal spending on which historically black colleges and universities depend.
That is why we, as the Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black find it notable that the foundation is choosing to privately contribute to the same historically black colleges and universities that they have lobbied against federal funds being spent on.
That point addressed, we ultimately value education and commend those who genuinely donate to the betterment of society and help facilitate environments for students to flourish. Yet, we feel an issue arises when these donations are made on behalf of an inauthentic purpose, seamy scheme or on political grounds.
We understand the financial pressure that is placed on universities in this competitive economy, and especially on consistently publicly-underfunded historically black colleges and universities, but we continually urge Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State and all other higher education colleges and universities to investigate the source of their donations.
Ultimately, we encourage them to keep the student’s best interest in mind before they sign the contracts to accept large donations.