Progress Florida urged Florida State University leaders Thursday to cut its ties with the Charles G. Koch Foundation, presenting a petition with thousands of signatures objecting to a contract that allows the foundation to screen and sign off of new hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."
FSU came under fire after this St. Pete Times story revealed the 2008 contract lets the group screen candidates for two positions in FSU's economics department in exchange for $1.5 million over six years.
FSU President Eric Barron, who was not in office at the time of the decision, responded to the letter late Thursday and insisted the scholars hired with Koch money went through a faculty-governed hiring process:
If we wish to ensure the future of public education and the future of this nation, it is extremely important that our discourse and debate be based on fact. Presented with a statement given as fact that Florida State sold off its hiring decisions, I am not surprised that Progress Florida collected a number of signatures. But, the facts are that we have not done so, and we would not do so. I am confident that the independent faculty review will demonstrate that Florida State hired top scholars through a hiring process that was fully governed by our faculty.
A committee of FSU faculty members is expected to release a report on the contract in July. We had not yet heard back from Faculty Senate President Sandra Lewis on the committee's progress but will update when we do.
Attached to the letter is a petition (Download Koch Petition) of nearly 9,000 signatures, 15 percent of which "are faculty, alumni, students, donors and other immediate members of the FSU family." The petition was gathered online.
Here's the letter from Progress Florida:
Dear President Barron:
According to this June 2nd news report, Florida State University has committed to "reviewing the university's unusual contract with a famously conservative donor" [Koch Foundation] and reporting on its findings by the end of July.
Tomorrow, will be the midpoint of July and we thought you and the review committee should know that thousands of Floridians have signed a petition (attached) calling on the university to uphold the principle of, and avoid even the appearance of divergence from, academic freedom at FSU. Progress Florida and these petitioners are respectfully asking you to rescind FSU’s controversial and harmful precedent setting contract with the Koch Foundation.
We’re confident that you will strongly consider the concerns of these 8,841 Floridians who've signed the attached petition, 1,382 of whom are faculty, alumni, students, donors and other immediate members of the FSU family.
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director
cc: Sandra Lewis, Faculty Senate President
Susan Fiorito, Vice Chair Faculty Senate Steering Committee
Sandy D’Alemberte, Past FSU President, member of faculty review committee