DONORS & FUNDING | Individual Article

George Mason University is one of the biggest public universities in the commonwealth of Virginia. It contains a diverse community of students from all over the world with many different backgrounds. George Mason University is most known as a liberal campus (varying among schools and departments) with strong academics and tuition costing around 20,000 dollars each year. What many students don’t know, however, is that there are many donors of the university that supply funding and that there have been many controversies and problems arising dealing with academic changes due to the donors. The Koch Brothers fuel many of debates dealing with funding at Mason, and have affected major changes to our university such as The Antonin Scalia Law School. The Koch brothers have brought lots of money and ideas to George Mason University, but a lot of their agreements get swept under the rug. Yet the Koch brothers continue to be one of Mason’s top donors and they also continue to fund Mason as well universities along the east coast.

On July 1st 2016, The George Mason University Law School was named after the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Antonin Scalia was a supreme court justice that had conservative views and often bumped heads with liberals. At first, the law school was set to be named “The Antonin Scalia School of Law” but the acronym delayed the renaming since it spelled out “ASSOL”. The donors that were for the name change were so pressed on renaming the school, that the “jabs prompted an anonymous $20 million donation” (Hananel). However, the naming has met some resistance from students and faculty who “bristled at associating the school with Scalia’s outsized conservative reputation” (Hananel). The move of renaming the school was tied to a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation plus the anonymous donation. The Koch Brothers are one of Mason’s most active donors. They have donated more money to George Mason University than any other school along the east coast. The Koch Brothers have caused major controversy here though. In July of 2016, about 30 students, faculty, alumni and Virginia taxpayers protested the “undue influence” they believed that the donors had on what they’re taught at GMU, being a public school (Hananel). Many believe that the Koch Brothers’ huge amount of money given to Mason is to influence their own economic views.

In the GMU community, the law school name change surprised everyone, and raised many questions about who our donors were, and what the logistics are to fund our school. After the name change prompted by the result of the 20-million-dollar donation from “an anonymous donor with ties to the conservative Federalist Society—has some less welcome connotations” (Freeman). The Charles Koch Foundation is headed by two billionaire brothers who have funded many right-wing political candidates and issue campaigns. The donation to fund the Antonin Scalia Law School had been the “largest financial contribution to the law school in its history” and the money will be used to “grow the law school’s faculty and award between 50 and 60 scholarships each academic year” (Freeman). This agreement really raised eyebrows throughout the George Mason community. Strangely, the agreement between George Mason University and the donor gives “Scalia’s estate the power to revoke the late justice’s name from the law school if his survivors determine the school reflects unfavorably upon the reputation or legacy of the justice” (Freeman). Lucky for them, Scalia has 26 grandchildren. His “survivors” must change the name only if the use of the name would “reflect unfavorably upon the reputation or legacy of the justice” (Freeman). This part of the agreement can be considered very vague when asking the question of what can a university law school do to tarnish the reputation of a supreme court judge? This makes the Koch brothers in control for the most part. The agreement has turned heads, but not as much as when one looks at the Koch Brothers’ history of donations at George Mason University.

George Mason University has been one of the largest university recipients of donations in the last several years from the Koch Brothers. The public university has received “48 million from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation between 2011 and 2014” (Reed). The foundation also is a donor to school such Florida State University economics school; a huge controversy surrounding the Koch Brothers has started at this school.  For example, a Koch-appointed advisory committee “selected professors and conducted annual evaluations of professors, according to the Tampa Bay Times” (Reed). The Brothers’ contracts to their donations strictly give them all rights to take back their donation if they don’t see their motives fit. This is where many faculty, students, and other employees see many of their issues.

Many see the Koch Brothers as conservative billionaires who “oppose government meddling in business [but yet] bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university” (Hunley). Many of Koch’s contracts specify that an advisory committee appointed by the Koch Brothers themselves decides which candidates should be considered for hire to work under their donations. The foundation can also withdraw its funding it it’s not happy with the “faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet ‘objectives’ set by Koch during annual evaluations” (Hunley). In one situation for example, Koch rejected “nearly 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions but ultimately agreed on two candidates” for hire at the university under their donations (Hunley). Nowadays, instead of taking over specific academic departments, Koch is now funding faculty who promote their agenda and universities where there are a wide variety of economic views.

Koch’s main mission is to create a group of well-trained young conservations to “plug into positions not just in education, but in city government, state legislatures and Congress” (Bader). The Foundation itself has been going at this for years, slyly throwing money here and there at different universities. The Koch Brothers, and even some faculty at their accepting universities see nothing wrong with subliminally aiding the community and see it just as “helping students and faculty members pursue scholarship related to societal well-being and free societies” (Bader). Some people have even banded together and have even started the UnKoch Campaign, a campaign to expose the Koch Brothers and their money to business and universities everywhere. Already, the UnKoch Campaign has had several small victories. The University of Dayton has announced that “it will no longer accept Koch money because of the funders’ attempts to exert undue influence on academic life” (Bader). This campaign proves to expose academic persuasion by the Koch Brothers and many universities are beginning to recognize it.

Overall, many students and faculty are unaware of who the Koch Brothers are and how much of an effect they are making on college campuses around country. Even George Mason University President, Angel Cabrera, has refused to address student questions and that has opened many people eyes and started conversations. The best thing for a university community to do is try to stay up to date for what one is putting their money into. Because a person paying over 20,000 dollars to get an education deserves to know where their money is going.

 

——–

Works Cited

Bader, J. Eleanor. UnKoch My Campus: Opposing Billionaires’ Efforts to Infiltrate Higher Education. Truthout, www.truth-out.org/news/item/38635-unkoch-my-campus-opposing-billionaires-efforts-to-infiltrate-higher-education,  Accessed 7 April 2017.

Freed, Benjamin. The Donation That Renamed George Mason’s Law School After Scalia Sure Has Some Weird Rules Attached. Washingtonian, www.washingtonian.com/2016/05/04/george-mason-law-school-antonin-scalia-koch-heritage-donation-rules/. Accessed 7 April 2017.

Hananel, Sam. George Mason University Renames Law School after Late Justice Antonin Scalia. WJLA, www.wjla.com/news/local/george-mason-university-renames-law-school-after-late-justice-antonin-scalia. Accessed 7 April 2017.

Hunley, Kris. Billionaire’s Role In Hiring Decisions at Florida State University Raises Questions. Tampa Bay Times, www.tampabay.com/news/business/billionaires-role-in-hiring-decisions-at-florida-state-university-raises/1168680. Accessed 7 April 2017.

Reed, Tina. Students Sue George Mason Over Koch Brother Donation Records. Washington Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2017/02/10/students-sue-george-mason-over-koch-brother.html. Accessed 7 April 2017.

Donors & Funding- Research Post 5

“Justice Kagan Praises Scalia At Ceremony Naming Law School For Him At George Mason”- WJLA (Washington)

This article that I plan to use for my Donors and Funding project is about the basic cover story of the Koch Brothers Controversy and The Antonin Scalia Law School name. Other than talking about the late Justice Scalia, they also go into the surrounding issue of the name change. George Mason University got an anonymous donation of 20 million dollars and students began protesting that the Koch Brothers have major influence on educations and student academics. In return, the administration didn’t comment but just said that students and faculty don’t understand what goes into making huge deal. The donor pressed on the name change as well. I plan to use this article to get the basic public facts about the deal, and use it to talk about what they’re not saying to the public.

Donors & Funding- Research Post 4

“Billionaire’s Role In Hiring Decisions At Florida State University Raises Questions” – Tampa Bay Times

I chose this article to use for my project on Donors and Funding at George Mason University for it’s information on the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers have cause a lot of controversy here at George Mason University, but also at other universities as well. The article dives into the fact that the Koch brothers demand hiring rights in exchange for their donations, as well as to supervise the employees. This strongly resembles the controversy with the Antonin Scalia Law School, in which Koch Brothers have the same privilege. I plan to use the quotes and information from the article and strengthen my case on the Koch Brothers and their effect on the donations at Mason. I also plan to look into Florida States’ Koch Brother agreement. Koch has been funding more and more faculty that share their similar viewpoints and I plan to thoroughly research this in comparison to here at George Mason.

Citizen Journalism: Effective or Defective?

A major key to citizen journalism is the general public itself. Especially through the world wide web, citizen journalism is being used a huge factor into getting news and media out to the public. Many huge news outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Buzzfeed, etc., use this to their advantage in getting stories and columns. In the articles “iReporting and Uprising” and “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds”, Lindsay Palmer and Gregory Paschalidis discuss photojournalism and citizen journalism and its growing popularity online and its effect on the profession of journalism itself.

Journalism’s purpose is to get stories and important news to the people. Nowadays, citizen journalism (which obviously includes the general public instead of just professional journalists), is taking over the internet and effect news outlets everywhere. For instance, in the article by Gregory Paschalidis, he notes that “The CNN brand has the power to shape knowledge about and impact interventions into world affairs” (Palmer 369). This “power” has grown immensely over time and still changes as information technology does as well. I was shocked to learn how popular publicly made media has grown over the past couple of years. Paschalidis also says that “citizen journalists’ enrichment of professional labor was largely due to their ability to capture footage of breaking news on their smartphones with a speed that could not always be matched by professional journalists monopoly on meaning itself” (Palmer 372). It is compelling to know that even I could participate in citizen journalism by just using social media apps like twitter, facebook, and instagram. The author though comments that if anyone could be a citizen journalist, then it could lead to “a frenzy of competing meanings” (Palmer 372). So although, I could participate in citizen journalism, it would be wise to leave that to more credible sources.

In the article “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds”, Gregory Paschalidis discusses the problematic aspect of citizen journalism from history and experience in the past few years. Citizen journalism was once praised but then “the focus moved onto the problematic practices of amateur photographers, their ignorance of the technical, aesthetic and, above all, ethical standards of professional journalism” (Paschalidis 638). This mostly endangered the credibility and ethics of photojournalism. I often forget about the people in our society that have the job as a professional journalist, and their jobs being slightly taken over by the general public. Pictures these days, are often the most famous way of depicting news stories in media. “User-generated imagery” has been a key to the “traditionally depreciated practice of amateur photography and in enriching current debates about citizen journalism” (Paschalidis 640). Both articles talk about citizen journalism and discuss the pros and cons of the occupation. Although, citizen journalism can be effective in informing the public, it is also depreciating the practice of professional journalism and leads to problems in credibility and ethics.

 


 

Works Cited

Palmer, Lindsay. “‘iReporting” and Uprising: CNN and Citizen Journalism in Network Culture”. Television & New Media, 2012, pp.367-383, http://journals.sagepub.com/home/tvn. Accessed 23 March 2017.

 

Paschalidis, Gregory. “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds: Citizen Journalism and The Public Sphere”. Digital Journalism, 2015, pp.634-649, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21670811.2015.1034529. Accessed 23 March 2017.

 

Donors & Funding- Research Post 3

“UnKoch My Campus: Opposing Billionaires’ Efforts to Infiltrate Higher Education”- Truthout

This article presents the Koch Brothers as men who use well-funded attempts to promote their pro-business agenda. The pair have given “$109,778,257 to 308 colleges across the country”. The Koch brothers have been a generous donor to George Mason University for many years and are responsible for big projects such as the Antonin Scalia Law School name change, etc. The article goes into depth of all the money the Koch Brothers have donated to many colleges along the east coast. I plan to use this article for my project on donations and funding for George Mason University, to compare how much the Koch brothers do for our university compared to others. I also plan to research and see if their donations have a positive or negative affect on said campuses in the country. The Koch Brothers, being fairly conservative often bump heads on liberal campus, where most of their controversies,toward what they could be affecting in the universities, occurs.

Donors & Funding- Research Post 2

“The Donation That Renamed George Mason’s Law School After Scalia Sure Has Some Weird Rules Attached” – The Washingtonian 

This article that I have chosen to use in my research on donors and funding at George Mason University is written by Benjamin Freed of the Washingtonian.  The article was published in May of last year, still making it pretty recent, and talks about the huge controversy of naming George Mason’s Law School after the late supreme court judge Antonin Scalia. Like the Koch Brothers’ controversy, conversative views on a very liberal campus spark conflict. In this case, many students did not want their law school to be named after a judge who did not have similar views of the students, and whose name would be put on their diploma for the rest of their lives. Another main point this article looks into, is the terms and conditions of the law school agreement, which is very odd considering it talks about how the donor must always be informed of the law schools’ changes in dean, policies, etc. I plan to look more closely into the deal and find more on the agreement conditions of the donor.

Donors & Funding- Research Post 1

“Students Sue George Mason Over Koch Brother Donation Records” -Washington Business Journal

This article that I am using for my Donors and Funding Research is written by Tina Reed, a staff reporter from the Washington Business Journal. The article informs the public that the students at George Mason University are suing the university due to the controversy of the it’s popular donors, The Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers are an huge part of donations here at George Mason University, and my research on Donors and Funding mostly revolves around the Brothers. The article gives me financial statistics of all the money the Koch Brothers have donated, and their main controversy of how students fear that the Brothers’ conservative views will affect student research, policies, and many other academic freedoms. The writer also implements how the Koch Brothers have also caused controversy at other universities along the east coast. As a researcher I plan to look into the different places the Koch Brother’s money goes into compared to George Mason, and look more into the court case, which as of today is more public and more deep into Mason’s donor history.

Forget Planet Earth, We Now Live in the Virtual Sphere

Today, the world revolves around the Internet. A giant online source of everything in which people can get facts, opinions, and everything in between from all over the world. The internet also fuels major discussion between people everywhere about various topics such as politics, sports, entertainment, etc. In his article “The Virtual Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere”, Zizi Papacharissi discusses the fact that we as a society are in a public space that could be revived as a virtual public sphere, which he argues is a private space aswell. Also, in his article “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article”, Jurgen Habermas discusses the Public Sphere defining that in this sphere, the public expresses their freedom of speech and assembly and comes together to talk about matters of general interest. Both articles mention this “public sphere” and defend but also question it’s role.

In Papacharissi’s article he focuses on the definition and history of the public sphere exemplifying its prominence in our society through its growing political activity. This is the first article I have ever read on a so called “public sphere”. I had never thought to think of the internet in all its glory, and think about all the people who have access to make judgements and comments on topics around the world. The part in Papacharissi’s article that really intrigued me was the debate on “public space vs. sphere” and the future of the sphere. Papacharissi discusses that “As public space, the internet provides yet another forum for political deliberation” (Papacharissi 11). This make the space and sphere two different areas “public” referring to the space in which all people can access it. Arguing with the sphere, not all people have access to the internet around the world which brings the question “is there really a public sphere?” into discussion. In reality Papacharissi says, “a public realm or government” that could pay “attention to all [of society’s] diverse voices has never existed” (Papacharissi 11). This really intrigued me when I think about how many different voices there are out there that try to be heard out on the internet, and never do. What is so fascinating to me about the “public sphere” is that it brings attention to the many people we have in our society that use their freedom of speech and wifi to express opinions and answers to life questions. When the author talks about the future, and if the sphere will grow, it is interesting when Papacharissi brings up that the time we live in is when “the public is demonstrating dormant political activity and developing growing cynicism towards politics” (Papacharissi 10). This is fueled through the growth of discussion of the many people that have access to the sphere.

In comparison, Jurgen Habermas’ article reflects on the history of the so-called “public sphere” saying that it “yielded to that new sphere of ‘public authority’ which came into being with national and territorial states” (Habermas 51) back in high European society in which “public” was a growing term beginning to be used. While reading this article, I noticed a comparison to Papacharissi’s article in which Habermas noted how in this public sphere, “access is guaranteed to all citizens” (Habermas 50), and this is because of the use of the word “public”. But Habermas later refutes noting that everyone needs to have access for representative space.  The internet does have the capacity to connect people everywhere around the world, it is just the people who must decide whether they want to join and be connected. This article also made me think more of the internet as a whole, and how it is growing with the amount of users with growing topics around the world. This especially involves government and political involvement, who use areas of commercialization to grab those in the public sphere, as well as people who give their opinions on policies and bills behind a computer screen. I am still in awe of the technology we have today that enables great discussion between people. Calling it a public sphere or not, many people do have access in our society and the virtual sphere is growing and grabbing more and more users.


Works Cited

Habermas, Jurgen. “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article”. New German Critque, No. 3, pp.49-55, http://www.jstor.org/stable/487737. Accessed 17 February 2017.

Papacharissi, Zizi. “The Virtual Sphere: The Internet as a Public Sphere”. New Media Society, 2002, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/14614440222226244. Accessed 18 February 2017.