How the wealthy influenced higher education in Kansas. Arkansas, anyone? | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How the wealthy influenced higher education in Kansas. Arkansas, anyone?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 7:12 AM

click to enlarge WALTON MONEY AT WORK: In support for education reform department at UA.
  • WALTON MONEY AT WORK: In support for education reform department at UA.

Much has been written lately about, at a minimum, the appearance of conflict of interest presented by what's been discovered at the University of Kansas about ties between the wealthy Koch family and programs they've financed at the university.

Huffington Post details the case here.

In Kansas, an economist supported in little-known ways by the Kochs, appeared as a university researcher with valuable testimony on issues important to the Kochs. Surprise. His viewpoint tends to mirror those of his benefactors.

The secret funding of Hall's academic work raises questions about the political strings attached to the many millions of dollars the Koch brothers are known to have spent in the past decade at colleges and universities around the country. Even more broadly, cases such as this one — with its stark appearance of a conflict of interest — point to the urgent need for greater transparency about academic funding to ensure that independent scientific and economic analysis is actually independent.

It took a legal fight to uncover some of the university papers relevant to this issue.

Ringing a bell at all to anyone in Arkansas?

Remember when the University of Arkansas fought release of documents that revealed what they promised in return for an unprecedented $300 million gift from the Walton Family? Or the "education reform" department at UA subsidized by Walton money that provides a regular megaphone and the imprimatur of university researchers for their school "reform" ideas. Or the Walton-supported Arkansas Public School Resource Center — bounced with its public subsidy from UCA to Southern Arkansas University but still providing reliable reinforcement with its academic gloss for Walton school "reform" ideas.

The UA reform profs who hold richly endowed seats thanks to Walton beneficence are insulted by any intimation that money might influence their research or public pronouncements. I'd note that people on this end of the school spectrum often tend to see a more pernicious influence of money when it comes to union dues and professional organizations who gather such money to represent the interests of those who support them. The academy is above such temptation, they insist.

The Huffington Post article details millions in Koch spending at dozens of colleges and university, often in ways shielded from public view. It makes the case for greater disclosure. Conclusion:

If the University of Kansas case teaches us anything it is that we need sufficient transparency in academia, especially as researchers increasingly turn to private rather than public sources of funding. Scientists and other academics — and their institutions — can and should do more to proactively disclose where their funding comes from. And universities and state legislatures should ensure that funders are unable to exert influence over the conduct of research or the conclusions scientists reach

Good luck with that in Arkansas..

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