By: Morgan Aprill
BLOG– It’s fall 2017, a year and a half since the announcement of the 3.5 million dollar deal between Charles Koch, John Schnatter, and Ball State to found the Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
Students were voicing concerns over the announcement and the aura of secrecy and suppression that seemed to surround the timing of the announcement (via press release right before Spring Break and after the mysterious resignation of the previous president). Concerns were brought up again at presidential search forums by students, faculty, and community members.
So what is the Institute doing now? Is it causing as much controversy as its announcement? Must we worry of impending indoctrination?
Based on my research, the academics coming to interview, work, and present at the Institute are just as entrenched in the Koch network as critics feared. Take this past Thursday’s first speaker of the Entrepreneurs and Economics speaker series, Michigan State University’s Ross Emmett.
Emmett presented on public choice theory, which promotes the sufficiency of the market to influence policy and public goods and services, rather than government regulation. He told students that, when deciding how to govern the commons, they must act as though every moral point of view has equal value. Considering the current political climate wherein, white nationalists feel emboldened; I’d say that’s an erroneous and dangerous assumption.
There are moralities that are more desirable and better for us all than others, especially when it comes to managing the public commons and the environment. The absolutist Libertarian views of a fossil fuel company like Koch Industries are completely counter to the healthy maintenance of our planet just as much as racists and Nazis counter a healthy social structure.
Speaking of fossil fuel-funded perspectives, Emmett was also a visiting scholar at George Mason University’s Center for the Study of Public Choice and received a grant from Koch’s Institute for Humane Studies. GMU, of course, is the epicenter of Koch’s network of pro-corporate professors, receiving nearly $100 million from Koch.
Emmett himself has received over $200,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation and was a 2015 fellow at the Charles Koch Institute.
Perhaps a tighter connection to the Koch family is Emmett’s $270,000 grant for an annual Hans Sennholz lecture. Sennholz and (Charles’ father) Fred Koch were members of the white supremacist John Birch Society, who fought against the 1960’s civil rights movement in the name of “liberty.”
One can assume Emmett is receiving money from the Charles Koch Foundation and John Schnatter to speak at Ball State as well, as the contract stipulated some of the yearly money would be used to fund speakers.
We know that Koch’s contract with BSU allows the donors to pull their funding if they disapprove of the programming. But is the Koch foundation committed to funding a “diversity of ideas” at Ball State University?
We found that all the professors interviewed for positions at the Schnatter Institute (Abigail Hall, Dan Smith, David Thomas), and at least one OF THOSE hired (Todd Nesbit), are active members of Koch’s network of academics advocating for an unrestricted free market, the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE).
Recordings of Koch officials at APEE’s 2016 conference revealed how Koch’s academic programs have overtly political goals. Koch’s Charlie Ruger describes “arranging state legislative testimony to make sure that, you know, these kinds of ideas have a seat on the table in public policy.”
It seems as though the output of BSU’s Koch/Schnatter center has been predetermined by influential donors. Hopefully, this does not imply the same for Indiana public policy.
In the spirit of transparency, a buzzword on campus for some time now, I thought it was worth putting this information out there. Of course, the public should decide whether or not the monetary connections between the Koch network and Emmett and his friends are worth some criticism or not. I’m sure Emmett would agree.