As states divest from public higher education, our colleges and universities face unprecedented threats from undue donor influence and corporations seeking to privatize our public institutions. Here is some information about resources that you may find helpful as we work nationwide to ensure that higher education continues to serve the public good, and not the interests of a wealthy few.
Fight Undue Donor Influence
As a faculty member and president of the AAUP chapter at George Mason University, I’ve been involved in the fight against undue donor influence. Together, faculty, students, public-education allies, and concerned citizens have been working to expose what the Koch brothers and other members of their dark-money network have gotten from over $100 million in restricted gifts to GMU. Turns out—it’s a lot! We’ve exposed donor influence over faculty hiring and retention, research and scholarship, and affiliated centers and institutes.
Now, UnKoch My Campus, with the help of grant funding from the AAUP Foundation, has developed a report with model donor policies that you can download here. The report provides a roadmap for protecting your institution from undue donor influence and includes templates for faculty senate motions, gift acceptance procedures, and approval processes for donor-sponsored centers.
Fight Privatization and the Primacy of Profit
As we work to end undue donor influence at GMU, we are also confronting the privatization of our public university through expanding online initiatives—and the potential for a fully online university under the Mason brand modeled after Purdue Global. Like many other institutions, GMU is contracting with a for-profit company to do much of the technical work and some of the core academic work to expand online education offerings. It is also considering the creation of a public-private online university that would further privatize higher education in Virginia. Such public-private contracts often benefit shareholders of the private companies rather than students and faculty.
To shape the quality of online education at your institution, check out the AAUP’s Education Not Privatization toolkit here.
No doubt, there is much work to do. Let’s dig in. Check out the tools on offer from AAUP and UnKoch My Campus. Together we can protect academic freedom and higher education as a public good!
Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Science, GMU