Right wing money in academia is pervasive and influential. Libertarian-minded billionaires like the Kochs and their partners have funded scholars and think tanks across the US, and similar things go on in Canada too. The money shows us that the right spends it because they care about education. Maybe not in the classic way—higher learning, enlightenment, the pursuit of Truth or truth or whatever you want to call it. They care about education because they believe it can change the world. It’s an investment, and big money expects a return. Lucky for them, and unlucky for the rest of us, universities are happy to sell out. On this episode of Darts and Letters, we explore big money and its corrosive influence on academic freedom and academic integrity.
- First (@7:22), just how far does the Koch network’s scholarly funding extend? Jasmine Banks is the executive director of UnKoch My Campus—a non-profit dedicated to identifying and the impact of investors and their dark money investments on higher education. She takes us through the role of dark money and wealthy investors in shaping campus life and, more broadly, the country and the world.
- Then (@33:02), we look back on the long history of campuses for sale. Professor James L. Turk is the director of the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University and the former executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. He tells us stories of the right wing in academia—from the robber barons at the turn of the century, to the battles of today—and talks about how scholars and academic unions have pushed back.
——————-FURTHER READING AND LISTENING——————
- Visit UnKoch My Campus to learn about the organization and their work, including groundbreaking reports and their campaigns. Plus, read more from Jasmine Banks in The Nation, including “The Radical Capitalist Behind the Critical Race Theory Furor.”
- Visit James L. Turk’s academic page at the Centre for Free Expression. And check out his edited 2014 book Academic Freedom in Conflict: The Struggle Over Free Speech Rights in the University.
- Read the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ report on the relationships between Canadian universities and corporations Open for Business on What Terms? An Analysis of 12 Collaborations Between Canadian Universities and Corporations, Donors, and Governments.
- Dig into related works from the episode, and more on the Koch’s and their influence, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy Maclean and Jane Meyer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Plus, read more of Jane’s work on dark money in the New Yorker.
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Darts and Letters is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic. Our lead producer is Jay Cockburn and our assistant producer this week was Jason Cohanim. Our managing producer is Marc Apollonio. David Moscrop is our research assistant and wrote the show notes. We had research and advising from Franklynn Bartol and Professor Marc Spooner.
This episode received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research, which provided us a research grant to look at the concept of neoliberal educational reforms. Professor Marc Spooner at the University of Regina is the lead academic advisor.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.