Last year, news reports began revealing a troublesome scenario. Stories indicated that the Koch Brothers, billionaire businessmen and chief underwriters of conservative political campaigns, were donating large sums of money to Universities, both public and private alike, to create “think tanks”, research institutes and to hire faculty who would teach decidedly conservative ideology to students. A battle over the impact of such cash donations on academic freedom has raged ever since.
One concern regarding donations and grants of this type is that such “gifts” cause the recipient Universities to establish institutes that gives academic legitimacy to political points of view, rather than academic areas of study.
This troubling pattern of using money to purchase office space in famous Universities is not only a tactic of the political right. As a recent youtube video points out, Bob Barker – celebrity host of the Price is Right and animal rights activist – used the immense wealth he accumulated during his more than 30 year on television – to underwrite programs in “animal law” at major Universities across the country, including at UCLA.
What is the goal of creating these programs? One view is that the goals include training a new generation of lawyers who are skilled in achieving rights of personhood for nonhuman animals.
From my perspective, one of the most chilling aspects of Barker’s gifts is the fact that he is on record (see the youtube video below) as referring to the Animal Liberation Front (a domestic terrorist organization that has been involved in the criminal attacks on me and my UCLA colleagues) as the “most effective” animal rights group around.
While Universities should never discriminate politically when deciding from whom to receive gifts, it does seem quite troubling that our leading institutions of higher learning have been quite so ready to accept cash from a man that separately appears to endorse the impact and mission of a radical, terrorist organization that has been involved in attacks on its faculty.
There are some prices that are just not right. This is one of them.