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Report: Koch-Funded Center at USU Lacks Oversight

Critics fear a multi-million-dollar donation is giving the Koch brothers too much sway at Utah State University. (Katie Garrett/Flickr)
Critics fear a multi-million-dollar donation is giving the Koch brothers too much sway at Utah State University. (Katie Garrett/Flickr)
October 29, 2018

LOGAN, Utah – A new research center at Utah State University continues to draw criticism over its connection to the politically influential billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The Koch brothers last year pledged $25 million to the university to establish the Center for Growth and Opportunity.

A new report from the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity and the group known as UnKoch My Campus calls into question the center's goals and says it lacks university oversight.

Samantha Parsons, co-founder of UnKoch My Campus and one of the report's authors, maintains the public university is being used to push the Kochs' corporate interests.

"Academia's independence is what provides academia with the prestige and reputation in terms of being able to trust the education and the research that comes out of an academic institution," she states.

Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the U.S., has financial interests in oil and gas development and stands to gain if more public land in the West is opened to development.

The report says the majority of new hires at the Center for Growth and Opportunity came from a Koch-backed advocacy group called Strata Policy, which has worked against environmental and public lands protections, including advocating against the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument.

The report quotes a lawyer for the university as saying the Center for Growth and Opportunity is "not a USU entity and its employees are not USU employees."

But Parsons says the center, which is housed on the university campus, is leveraging the school's name and reputation.

"I would really suggest that the university needs to disaffiliate itself from the center entirely," she states.

The report says the Koch-funded center is allowed veto power over the hiring of several new faculty positions within USU's business school.

The center has been the subject of campus protests, and a faculty taskforce has reportedly formed to draft a resolution about the Koch donation.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - UT