A protest in Palm Springs. (Photo: The Desert Sun)
Funding for the state’s universities doesn't usually include “earmarks” for specific programs favored by right-wing billionaires.
That kind of blatant politicizing of academic integrity doesn’t happen in state-run, state-owned institutions of higher learning.
(And several other universities around the country.)
In a cleverly subversive but legal way Arizona State University and the University of Arizona are now owned – in part – by billionaires Charles and David Koch, the dark knights of the “dark money” who helped Gov. Doug Ducey get elected,.
According to a telling report by The Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, five million tax dollars would be specifically allocated from the pending state budget to the “freedom centers” at the two universities that were created with the generous financial assistance of the billionaire brothers.
The Charles Koch Foundation gave $3.5 million in ASU's new Center for the Study of Economic Liberty in order to spread the brothers political and economic philosophy in the guise of academic scholarship. In addition, ASU accepted more than $1 million in Koch money for a history professor's position in the Center for Political Thought and Leadership, a job right out of the public relations department of the billionaires.
Then there is the UA Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and, likewise, with lectures that should be titled Koch 101, Koch 102, etc.
According to Ducey’s spokesman Daniel Scarpinato, “The governor ... believes it’s important that students in our university system are exposed to a broad range of viewpoints and academic views on a number of issues, including economics. So this fits in with that priority.”
In other words, we’re spending tax dollars for Koch brothers' propaganda. In this case, $3 million for ASU’s center and $2 million for UA’s.
It’s a form of ivy-covered brainwashing.
Democrats at the Legislature have complained, but they don’t have the numbers to stop it.
“These freedom schools advocate for things that will help to abolish public education as we know it,” said Democratic Minority Leader Eric Meyer said. “We have all these needs, and they’re talking about $5 million for a think tank that spews out propaganda.”
On the bright side, Koch Brothers University only has branch campuses at UA and ASU. For now. If Ducey and his friends in the Legislature persist, it someday will be the other way around.
At least then the devil mascot will be appropriate.