The camel’s nose has been snuffling under the tent at Florida State University.  According to Kris Hundley at tampabay.com, Charles G. Koch pledged $1.5 million a few years ago to support faculty in the economics department.  Not unusual at first glance. But what Koch was able to wangle out of the Dean was the right to screen the faculty he is supporting. They want profs cut from a certain cloth. Of course everybody wants that, but the Koch’s are able to write the checks.

You see, Mr. Koch is very smart.  He knows that to properly manage staff, you have to hire well, write their job description, have them agree to goals, and then follow up with annual evaluations. That’s how they do it in business. Why shouldn’t you expect the same from the academy? It’s about inputs and outputs. And the outputs should always be more valuable than the inputs.  You drop a wad of cash on FSU, you expect a return.

I’m sure Dean Rasmussen is very satisfied with this arrangement. I’m sure that he looks very savvy for making this deal. He said that they are now able to offer 8 more classes because of this.  Deans are a very special kind of academic animal. They are nearly always former profs who caught the allure of administration.  They keep their association with their department, but climb the spiral staircase into the stratosphere of Old Main.   From their lofty perch they herd the frequently squabbling but always loquacious cats through the annual cycles of academic life.  Something happens to people once they become a dean, and it’s not always good. All of a sudden student teaching evaluations become insightful and important.

 As Gaye Tuchman explains in Wannabe U (2009), a case study in the sorrows of academic corporatization, deans, provosts and presidents are no longer professors who cycle through administrative duties and then return to teaching and research. Instead, they have become a separate stratum of managerial careerists, jumping from job to job and organization to organization like any other executive: isolated from the faculty and its values, loyal to an ethos of short-term expansion, and trading in the business blather of measurability, revenue streams, mission statements and the like. They do not have the long-term health of their institutions at heart. They want to pump up the stock price (i.e., U.S. News and World Report ranking) and move on to the next fat post.    William Deresiewicz, The Nation, May 23, 2011 Edition.

The Koch’s are engaged in a kind of social reconstruction through the formation of institutions, the backing of political movements, and now penetration of the academic veil. They have the resources and the self-assurance that comes from being highly successful businessmen.  They are very acquisitive fellows- a natural attribute of wealthy industrialists. 

Their corporate cosmology defines a universe of transaction possibilities.  All the world is a market and greater market share is the raison d’etre.  I’m sure that when the Koch brothers look out the window, they see a landscape of markets and a sky full of profit potential.  People like me see rooftops and air handling units. 

In a market-based society, the only real opposition I can apply to the Koch’s is to quit buying Brawny paper towels, Dixi Cups, or Stainmaster carpeting. The average indivdual’s power in the real marketplace is approximately zero.  Self-determination in the marketplace  is proportional to your wealth.  No wonder the Koch’s and their ilk want to see less gov’t and more market. They get to be in charge.

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