Faculty Senate Recommends Against Proposed Institute, Citing Concerns with Koch Foundation Support

Faculty Senate Recommends Against Proposed Institute, Citing Concerns with Koch Foundation Support

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The Faculty Senate of Babson College, constituted in 2008 to represent faculty in communication with college administration, recently recommended against establishing an “Institute of Prosperity Studies,” rejecting up to $10 million in proposed funding. The Faculty Senate was especially concerned with the initial donation to the school, which came from Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a strong financial supporter of the Republican Party.  The Senate cited ethical concerns with accepting money from the Koch Foundation and were concerned with Babson’s name being associated with the Koch Foundation.

The Senate’s recommendation against the Institute of Prosperity Studies was approved as a response to a request by Provost Michael Johnson for input on the issue. The response reaffirmed “the academic freedom of professors to engage in whatever research projects they wish, and to pursue individual funding to support that research,” but in the end, recommended “that the college not move forward with the proposed Institute of Prosperity Studies.” The Senate was deeply concerned about establishing an “explicit institutional association” with the Charles Koch Foundation, which they implied was “linked to specific political and/or ideological causes.”

The proposed Institute emphasized study in “how a system of free enterprise promotes economic prosperity through entrepreneurship, economic development, and institutions that foster ethical behavior.” The Faculty Senate felt that these themes were “misaligned with many scholarly approaches to understanding economic growth, social development, and sustainability.”  In addition, the Senate was apprehensive about the emphasis on free capitalist systems, a position commonly promoted by the Republican Party.

Many students don’t even know of the existence of the Faculty Senate, and yet, it has been involved in instrumental decisions that could have changed the future of our college. Around 2010, the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution that has been criticized for its educational quality, marketing practices and cost, was working to establish a partnership to use Babson College curriculum to teach entrepreneurial classes. Concerned with how the reputation of Babson College would be affected, the Faculty Senate arose as a stout opponent of the proposal, eventually leading to the partnership’s rejection. Babson Global, an organization that works to establish similar curriculum-sharing partnerships around the world, emerged as a result. As the Babson Free Press reported last year, the Faculty Senate has expressed deep concern with the actions and proposals of Babson Global in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

The energetic, quirky, and dedicated faculty that lecture with waving hands and slamming fists, all respected leaders in their given fields, are what makes Babson College so special. Since faculty are key members of the Babson community, college administration regularly turns to them for input on important issues. Rightly so, since many tenured faculty members invest decades of their lives into the institution, putting “Babson College” on the front pages of their publications and other academic enterprises. As Professor Megan Way, Chair of the Senate Executive Committee, explains: “We have an interest in maintaining the reputation of the school.” This interest guides many of their decisions as a Senate.  

By: Anthony Krichevskiy ’19

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