Campus

Faculty Votes to Strip Eudaimonia Funding in Purely Symbolic Vote

At its monthly meeting, the Faculty Senate convened Wednesday, March 15th to discuss the course of action regarding the Eudaimonia Institute (EI). EI is a new initiative on campus founded by Thomas W. Smith Presidential Chair in Business Ethics James Otteson, which, according to its website, “is [meant] to explore the elements of and institutions that support eudaimonia, or genuine human flourishing.” Members of the University Faculty Senate voted 17-9 in favor of a resolution to strip the Institute’s funding from the Koch Foundation.

According to a report obtained at the meeting, “In September, 2016, the University announced that the Charles Koch Foundation committed $3.69 million to support the newly created Eudaimonia Institute over the next five years.” Furthermore the report states that, “Questions were raised by a group of concerned faculty, prompting the Provost to host a forum October 4, 2016. This was followed by a Faculty Petition, signed by 189 University faculty, calling for Faculty Senate to create an Ad Hoc committee to review the formation of the Eudaimonia Institute, and its funding, governance, and mission.”

At the Faculty Senate meeting, an Ad Hoc committee made of Jay Ford (Committee Chair), Doug Beets, Simone Caron, Claudia Kairoff, and Kathy Smith, submitted and presented the report, officially called “Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Senate of Wake Forest University on the Eudaimonia Institute,” on their findings on the Eudaimonia Institute, specifically focusing on the source of funding: the Koch Foundation. In a report and presentation full of speculation and conspiracies, Ford questioned the Koch Foundation’s commitment to higher education, specifically in institute’s such as the Eudaimonia Institute.

Mr. Ford, a registered Democrat, along with the rest of his committee, seemed very concern about the fact that the Koch Foundation supports free markets and generally libertarian principles. But concern for a Sharia law-supporting speaker was nonexistent.

In the report, Ford “paraphrased” language from Koch Foundation to fit the left-leaning committee narrative that the Koch Foundation is trying to “convert” students into a certain conservative and libertarian ideology. Much of the information in the report seems to twist the mission of the Koch Foundation, which on its website lists the mission as, “Supporting the study of free societies and the ideas, institutions, and values that maximize well-being,” into being a threat to students and faculty as a means to, “co-opt higher education for ideological, political, and financial ends.” Yet, this happens on a daily basis in the classrooms in favor of the liberal opinion, with members of the committee and Faculty Senate being some of the most out-spoken indoctrinators. Indeed, these faculty members seem to be completely unaware of their bias, as shown when an English professor was “insulted” by the idea that they indoctrinate students.

Senators called into question the fact that the committee was not granted permission by the university to view the institute’s institutional agreement. In what Ford called, ” a gratifying experience with disappointing results,” liberal faculty members crafted a conspiracy theory based solely on speculation. Using statements that have no factual evidence, the Faculty Senate Committee formed an argument based on how the Koch Foundation allocated their funding to other universities. These universities include top universities such as Brown University, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, George Washington University, Northwestern University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While a majority of the senator’s agreed with the motion brought about, some were vehemently concerned with the possibility of limiting the freedom of ideas. Business School faculty member Page West called into question many of the arguments that the report makes as well as the sources the report uses. While presenting his opinion, the more “tolerant” members of the Faculty Senate would roll their eyes and even try to argue with Dr. West while he was speaking, again trying to silence a dissenting opinion. West called into question the statements made by the report citing respected economists and faculty around the country. In the report it also cites SoundCloud clips from an initiative called “UnKoch My Campus,” started Florida State University by a Ph.D. student. While the sources produced in the report progressed the Committee’s argument, many appear to be biased and of questionable origin.

In the report, the committee fails to acknowledge the other institutes on campus and where their funding comes from. Some senators called into question the university’s ability to accept funds from groups that hope to advance progressive ideology. Yet when it comes to the Eudaimonia Institute, they question where the money from the Koch Foundation comes from. According to United States tax law, non-profit organizations under section 501(c)(3), such as Wake Forest University, are not required to disclose individual funding sources, only the dollar amount. This calls into question the funding that is being pumped into the university as well as organizations such as the Anna Julia Cooper Center and the Pro Humanitate Institute which promote far-left social justice and intersectionality ideologies.

The Review has reached out to the Pro Humanitate Institute about direct and indirect funding for their institute as well as the Anna Julia Cooper Center and is awaiting a response.

While the Senate meeting covered the Ad Hoc committee report and approved the recommendation made by the report to prohibit the university from accepting money from the Koch Foundation, the group did not, however, vote on some of the other motions on the agenda. These motions included creating a committee of faculty members that oversee and control everything that is being produced and taught in the institute. Not only does the proposed motion allow the faculty committee to control what is being taught in the committee, but it also prohibits the faculty members who work for the institute from speaking, lecturing, and publishing without prior approval from the committee.

The Faculty Senate has taken a step that has further progressed the liberal agenda of the University. They have drawn upon tinfoil hat like conspiracies and statements without facts and sources to back them up. The group of faculty members that are ideologically liberal brought forth a motion that tries to further progress their ideological agenda, and eliminates any possibility that their ideology could be questioned.

6 Comments

  1. So sad to read your article. A well known University losing its identity to educate all students in a non biased way. The administration and the alums should put a stop to this biased vote. They need to return to their core reasons for existence, namely educate the whole person with all ideas. It is then up to the individual to take the information, digest it and think for themselves. The US is the US because we come from many backgrounds and bring to the table a multitude of ideas. The very reasons so many people do all they can to come here. In our Constitution we have freedoms that with this vote Wake Forest professors are trying to take away.

    Congratulations to those students who are trying to let others know what is being attempted by their vote.

  2. Anthony,

    I don’t understand why the Review is framing this as a political issue. Obviously the committee is going to be full of registered democrats, it’s representative of higher education. And I agree that this is and has been a problem at Wake.
    I don’t believe that the Eudaimonia Institute and Koch funds are aimed to indoctrinate students, and Ford was misguided in making that one of his main talking points.
    However, there are other concerns. Although Koch funding may appear harmless, there are reasons to believe otherwise, as other schools that received similar amounts of money from the Kochs experienced the following:
    -Curriculum from Koch network of professors being integrated (without oversight on its quality/objectiveness)
    -Hiring/Firing powers of faculty given to the Koch organization
    People only found out about these practices because FOI requests (I assume you know what those are) were fulfilled at Florida State after some faculty caught wind of what was going on. Wake Forest isn’t a public institution, so we’re not entitled to know the stipulations/conditions of receiving the funding. The details of the agreement could be either harmless or more similar to what happened at Florida State, and if I was a professor I would have cause for concern.
    Otteson, in my opinion, is a prolific writer and a tremendous asset to the Wake Forest community, and his involvement legitimizes the Eudaimonia Institute and Koch funds to an extent. He is considered to be part of the Koch network, participating in their summit in DC last year, among other associations. So although I have faith in his ability to run this program, the history of the Kochs in higher education justifies some greater oversight by the faculty as a whole.
    If the Review wants to look into the possible shadiness and indoctrination efforts of Thrive or other more liberal institutions, please release those findings. Personally, I am glad that my faculty has decided to scrutinize the Eudaimonia Institute, given what has occurred at other campuses.

    So what do you think, Anthony? Was yesterday’s vote a liberal overreaction from the faculty? Or do you appreciate their desire for transparency?

  3. Anthony,
    Just to be clear, I expressed absolutely no concerns about Koch support for “free markets and generally libertarian principles” in my remarks to the Senate as you assert. I understand that those in support of Koch or the Eudaimonia Institute want to characterize the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation as an effort to restrict conservative or libertarian views on campus. But a fair and careful reading of our report would not support such an interpretation. If you don’t trust our paraphrasing of how Koch officials articulate their aims in higher education, I would encourage you and your readers to peruse the words of Ryan Stowers and Kevin Gentry (both Koch Foundation VPs) in their presentation at a Koch summit in June, 2014. Here is the link to a transcription of their remarks:
    https://archive.org/details/FreedomPartnersLeveragingScienceAndUniversities
    Kevin Gentry, VP of CKF and VP for Special Projects for Koch Industries, literally brags about the fact that their centers/institutes have “produced over 2 million grassroots”—those are students he is talking about as “grassroots.” They also talk of creating a “talent pipeline” that will feed the Koch thinks tanks and grassroot political apparatus. Higher education is not about converting students to a particular ideology or teaching students WHAT to think. It is about teaching students HOW to think critically and analytically. It is difficult to imagine that anyone would claim that this CKF agenda in higher education aligns with the mission of Wake Forest University or that it enhances the school’s institutional integrity or academic reputation.
    So it is not that it is a conservative or libertarian ideology. It is that the Kochs are co-opting higher education for their own political and commercial purposes. We would object to any organization–liberal or conservative–that is so overtly trying to subvert academic freedom and leverage the university as a political tool. That is our chief concern.

    Professor Jay Ford

  4. Prof. Phil Magness

    Frankly, Prof. Ford, your interpretation of the Eudaimonia Institute is nothing short of paranoid. That reality would be sad in any case, but it is also creating a threat to the academic freedom of several of your own faculty colleagues given your position of power with the WFU investigative committee.

    Do you honestly believe the Kochs are “co-opting higher education” with their ideology? University faculty are already a notoriously left-leaning group, and faculty self-identification has shifted even more dramatically to the political left over the past 2 decades – a fact born out in the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute’s faculty survey. Do you honestly believe that the tiny free-market minority of faculty that the Kochs support are on the verge of taking over and subverting higher ed? That is not objective and dispassionate analysis – that’s the ravings of a conspiracy theory.

    All donors have ideological perspectives, Mr. Ford, and yet you single out only the Kochs (who are actually more forthright about their beliefs than many other foundations that give to higher ed, both right and left). The question here is whether you are evaluating them impartially and consistently across the spectrum. It is plainly evident that you are not. Why do you have no similar concern for the left-leaning donors of WFU’s Pro-Humanitate Institute, a politically engaged entity headed by a former MSNBC pundit? Why do you exhibit no similar fear-mongering about the Anna Julia Cooper Institute, an organization on campus whose primary stated mission is to foster social justice political activism? These left-leaning institutes at WFU are more numerous and more directly engaged in ideological and political activism than the Eudaimonia Institute, and yet you see no apparent reason for concern with their funding, their openly stated missions of directing students into activist careers. The only differentiating variable, it seems, is that the Eudaimonia Institute’s donors come from the political right – of which you disapprove – while these other openly activist and ideological entities come from the political left – which you support.

    (And FWIW I’d honestly be content with a strategy of live-and-let-live regarding these and other political institutes on the left. Let a thousand different voices flourish. You, on the other hand, appear intent upon purging one specific view that you disapprove of from campus based on a contrived grievance that you are unwilling to apply consistently elsewhere when the involved institute and donors advance an ideology suits you).

    I’m sure you’ll simply respond that I’m just another “Koch-funded faculty” at a “Koch-controlled university” and imply that this somehow taints or controls my perspective, even though I assure you these sentiments are strictly my own. The truth is that I’ve encountered similar attacks on my own academic freedom from dissent-suppressing ideologues on my own campus and therefore find myself deeply concerned when I see another faculty member’s academic freedom at another university coming under assault by a group of his own colleagues. When reading about attacks such as the one that came from the committee under your direction, I’m reminded of how it chafes with the most basic underlying principles of collegiality and professional ethics. The AAUP has a longstanding statement on this subject. I’d politely suggest that you take a moment to familiarize yourself with it, as you are currently engaged in a deeply unprofessional and discriminatory pursuit of the very type it describes:

    “As colleagues, professors have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of scholars. Professors do not discriminate against or harass colleagues. They respect and defend the free inquiry of associates, even when it leads to findings and conclusions that differ from their own. Professors acknowledge academic debt and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues. Professors accept their share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of their institution.”

    https://www.aaup.org/report/statement-professional-ethics

  5. Is my comment stuck in a filter, or are you unwilling to post critical commentary? There are no insults in my comment, which I’ll repaste in full:

    Sigh. So much context missing from this article. Namely, all of the documented problems that are chained to contracts with the Koch foundation.

    A review of the literature:

    Koch staff get to veto student dissertation papers at Florida State. This was revealed years after the initial controversies, related to Koch having veto power over potential professors hired with Koch funds. (This report finds that they found a different way to retain that power, after the 2011 controversies). References are exhaustive here, including emails between professors, Koch staff, and administrators:
    http://www.unkochmycampus.org/progress-coalition-2017

    Here’s the repeated issue of Koch demanding professors hand over students’ private email addresses, in order to pull them into more programs where Charles Koch pays you to read his book and accept his patented philosophy, “Market Based Management.”

    http://site.cisternyard.com/2015/12/10/charles-koch-foundation-requests-personal-contact-information-of-students-at-the-college/

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/11/22/whitman-college-faculty-question-koch-foundation-grant

    https://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/10/30/18684/koch-brothers-higher-ed-investments-advance-political-goals

    The nuanced guidelines of Academic Freedom, as maintained by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) should also be heeded, as Charles Koch’s staff have a habit of violating that longstanding principle and then spending a lot of money on public relations to assert that they respect the concept.

    https://academeblog.org/2015/01/18/the-koch-foundation-and-academic-freedom/

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/07/charles-koch-foundations-unique-definition-of-academic-freedom/?utm_term=.1c900471a45c

    I invite the author of this article to Google “Koch university” or “Koch academic freedom” and review some of the many other things that were missed here. There is more than enough free material on the web to populate a book at this point.

    And there’s enough missing that a case could easily be made that the author is not impartial here, responding with an attempt to create partisan division rather than examining the principles and rules that Koch is violating.

    Disclosure: I co-founded UnKoch My Campus, and remain proudly affiliated as a researcher for Greenpeace. We’ve been bumping into Koch-funded professors who were paid to help Koch lobby state legislatures on issues affecting Koch Industries, like so:
    https://theintercept.com/2015/08/28/emails-show-koch-industries-backed-effort-undermine-renewable-energy-kansas/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/connor-gibson/charles-kochs-cut-and-paste-attack-on-clean-energy-in-north-carolina_b_7080230.html?

  6. Professor Ford, all the criticisms you raise are to the aims and ambitions of the Koch Foundation, but Wake Forest University does not—and should not—apply ideological litmus tests to the personal politics of its donors. Nor does it, or should it, engage in viewpoint discrimination.

    You speak of an attempt to “subvert academic freedom,” yet the only attempted restriction of academic freedom we are seeing in connection with the Eudaimonia Institute is the effort of your and the other “investigating” committee to limit the academic freedom of the faculty associated with the Institute to pursue research, speak and lecture, publish, and pursue funding to support their activities according to their independent scholarly judgment. As the AAUP holds, and as Wake Forest’s own policies hold, academic freedom protects the teaching and research of all faculty—including you—and it is a sacrosanct principle for all ideas and perspectives, even those with which you disagree.

    This is a university. Exploring difficult, complex, and even controversial ideas is what we do. Attempts to limit the free investigation of ideas with which you or anyone else may disagree are antithetical to Wake Forest’s mission, and should have no place in higher education.