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FSU president responds to group demanding an end to "pay-to-play" Koch contract

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
Progress Florida

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


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JP Knight

The fact that it would even occur to these people to send such a letter demonstrates just how far we have declined from the notion that all points of view should be presented: Now the lefties insist it's their way or the highway. Heaven forbid our impressionable youngsters (I have a daughter at FSU) should be exposed to less that 100% liberal bias! Oh the horror!


HMMMMMM.. 9000 SIGS OR...... 1.5

Josey Jordan

The Kochs and ALEC work in tandem to elect GOP/Tea Party legislators, governors, Congressional reps....pay to play.



So the issue here is that the faculty wants their hands on a restricted grant? WOW!

Not exactly newsworthy.

Schools take conditional grants all the time, so what is the issue here? Regardless of politics, is it really that shocking that the faculty wants more control over their own? I think it jsut works out for them to pick a fight with the administration because of who this particular donor is.

Welcome to the inside baseball of academic politics, folks.


The issue here is that a public education institution is taking money with stipulations that the group giving the money gets to dictate who is hired or at least have a say in the matter- even if it's behind the scenes- we know that the sunshine law isn't always followed. That is not right! I don't care if you are on the left or the right- educational institutions- especially public ones have to be free to hire the best educators- ones from all walks of life- not just ones that a rich benefactor likes! This is absurd! I can't believe that more is not being made of this!

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