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To say that our first class of the semester was intriguing would be quite the understatement. There seemed to be a common theme during our multifaceted conversation that touched on the idea of minimalism; for example, when deciding if it was ethical and in accordance with academic freedom to allow to Koch brothers to do what they did, our conversation seemed to be based in finding the most simple way to decide if this was okay despite the vast differences between education and economics. President Barron’s six points for university discussion nearly all had a strong presence in this discussion.

 

I found one of the most thought-provoking parts of our conversation to be the inclusion of a similar scenario in which money given as a gift is used for hire of an expert in Brahms; suddenly the situation is different. As Dr. Barron spoke on, education in the arts is far less controversial than education dealing with, say, religion or the economics teachings that the Koch brothers are funding. I feel that the fact that many would contrast the current Koch scenario with the hypothetical one dealing with the arts goes against the part of the definition of academic freedom from Inside Higher Ed that states “faculty members and students can engage in intellectual debate without fear of censorship or retaliation.” This leads me to believe that – whether what the Koch brothers are doing is just or not – monetary dealings such as theirs occur frequently and go unnoticed due to smaller scale and different natures of different situations. This also leads to the question: is academic freedom one hundred percent achievable? Or is it a perpetual goal to always be worked toward? With such a subjective and complicated definition of the term, I feel that there will always be a battle towards pure, undisputed academic freedom.

 

An argument can be made that philanthropy loses its value if it has political roots or underlying intentions that do not have the best interest of the beneficiary as top priority. With such an insightful and informative first conversation of the semester stemming from the dealings of the Koch brothers, I am looking forward to branching and speaking on other topics such as this other argument as well as many others.

 

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/12/how-a-koch-foundation-influenced-a-university-economics-department/

https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/12/21/nelson_on_academic_freedom

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