George Mason University has slowly built a reputation as a conservative powerhouse in law and economics. The school has achieved this success in part through donations worth tens of millions from billionaire Charles Koch. According to tax records, the Charles Koch Foundation donated approximately $48 million between 2011 and 2014. Although Koch donates more than $20 million annually to different universities through the Koch foundation, no other university has received over $1 million within the same period.
George Mason faculty and students have raised concerns over the size of the donations and interference of academic independence. However, it is common for billionaires to donate large amounts to schools. A number of billionaires have donated their funds for specific purposes such as supporting a research facility. For instance, Nike Inc. co-founder, Phil Knight, announced a $400 million scholarship gift to Stanford University early this year. In addition, Koch and his brother David have also donated to various universities.
Charles Koch’s representative asserts that the contributions are made without any attached conditions. Supporters of donations to different institutions are of the opinion that the money caters for a gap left by the decreasing public support. Among these supporters is Democratic Senator, Chap Peterson. He notes that the money helps fill funding gaps regardless of its origin. The supporters accuse critics of targeting the CEO of Koch industries because of his open support of conservative as well as libertarian objectives.
As much as Charles Koch’s donations have tripped alarms at George Mason University, the relationship between Koch and the university continuous to flourish. Recently, Mason’s Law School announced a gift of $10 million from Koch Foundation in addition to a $20 million gift from an unspecified donor. According to George Mason University President, Angel Cabrear, the donations were a milestone moment for the University.
Much of the Koch donations go to the Mercatus Center, a free market think tank and the Institute of Human Studies that advocates for libertarian philosophies. Cabrear points out that it is fantastic to have people that are supportive with their money and time.
Koch serves as the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Koch Industries. The American businessman and philanthropist was born in Wichita, Kansas, Koch received his education from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Koch subscribes to the market based management business philosophy as detailed in his 2007 book titled, The Science of Success. He supports several libertarian as well as free enterprise policy and advocacy institutions.