Koch Foundation Chairs

5/11/2011: The ivory tower has never been exactly snowy white, but here is an example of a particularly egregious case, the Koch gifts to fund chairs in Free Market Economics at Florida State. Fascinating gift letter/contract here, news story from Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times (that’s Florida, not Russia), here:

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

I really love this quote though, which gets to the nut of the issue:

Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.”

Ceding a less egregious amount of control, or getting a better price, that’s a different matter. Let’s talk turkey.

Ai Weiwei

4/21/2011: Posted at the request of UO historian Glenn Anthony May:

I received an Email today from a distinguished China scholar who asks whether the University of Oregon has had public discussions concerning the “illegal detention of Ai Weiwei.” I can’t answer that. (Here is one event at PSU.) Are any UOMatters readers aware of such events at UO?

As UO Matters readers are doubtless aware, the internet is flooded with stories about Ai Weiwei. Here are few links to recently posted stories and columns:






If you have any information to share, please post a comment. Glenn Anthony May.

After blacklisting them over the Dalai Lama

4/5/2011: The original decision generated a lot of bad press about China’s intentions regarding academic freedom at its Confucius Institutes. From Insidehighered.com:

China Again Recognizes U. of Calgary

China has restored the University of Calgary to the country’s list of accredited universities, a list that many Chinese students rely upon when deciding where to enroll, The Calgary Herald reported. The university disappeared from the list last year, following a visit to the campus by the Dalai Lama.

Confucius Institute at UO

3/8/2011 update: Richard Read of the Oregonian gets some amazing quotes on this, from the PSU CI head.

3/6/2011: The London School of Economics has thoroughly embarrassed itself with its ties to the Gaddafi regime. The world now knows you can buy an LSE PhD and whatever that brings in international respectability – or once brought – for a few million quid.

Is UO on a similar track with our Chinese government funded Confucius Institute? China is no Libya, but this article by UO history Professor Glenn May in the Asia Sentinel raises the sorts of questions that the LSE apparently found too uncomfortable to ask – until it was too late.

Abstract from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization:

Since 2001, China has funded nonprofit Chinese language institutes in nearly100 countries. The institutes have since branched out into business and other areas while also funding scholarships and study in China. In an article for the Asia Sentinel, Glenn Anthony May of the University of Oregon points out that the centers of study come with conditions, including support for a one-China policy that denies recognition of Taiwan as a state. Donors influence campus management and presentations, and schools with Confucius Institutes may avoid open discussions on Tibet or the 1989 Tiananmen protest against Chinese government policies. He argues: “Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.” Colleges have become complicit in Chinese propaganda and censorship, and May blames the Chinese scholars who comply with restrictions, yet understand the issues of history and need for free debate better than most. – YaleGlobal

Here is just one of the troubling examples in the article:

But it’s not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other “T” words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don’t expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage. …

Under the circumstances, the academy cannot expect the China scholars, the supposed experts on things Chinese, to police the activities of the institutes. They are, sad to say, a hopelessly compromised lot. Nor can we expect university administrators to do so either – many of them have played key roles in establishing Confucius Institutes on their campuses. That leaves the rest of us. If you care about free speech and believe that the university should provide an open forum for discussion and debate, you should be concerned. 

Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle has an article here on the pros and cons. (Accessible from campus IP addresses.) Some excerpts:

Like the 60 other Confucius Institutes that have cropped up at colleges around the United States since 2004, the Maryland facility was established with the blessing, and the money, of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government continues to give it about $100,000 in financial support annually, and to pay the instructors from China who teach there. Such arrangements allow colleges to provide a lot more instruction and programming related to China. …

Other colleges have heard protests from Chinese officials over plans to let the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual and cultural leader, speak on their campuses. Although the University of Washington played host to the Dalai Lama over Chinese objections in 2008, it came under fire for taking steps to ensure that he would not be asked questions dealing with the autonomy of Tibet or China’s crackdown on unrest there. In Canada, the University of Calgary’s decision to award an honorary degree to the Dalai Lama last year was followed by its removal from the Chinese government’s list of universities it classifies as accredited.

Since the first Confucius Institute in the United States was established here at Maryland, in late 2004, however, there have been no complaints of the institutes’ getting in the way of academic freedom on American campuses or of Chinese officials’ using their government’s financial support for the institutes as leverage to get American colleges to squelch speech they oppose. …

The Confucius Institutes are distinct, however, both in their tendency to be housed within universities and in the degree to which they are financed and managed by a foreign government. Hanban is overseen by officials of a long list of national ministries, including those of education, culture, commerce, and foreign affairs.