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SOLD! sign projected on USU business school to protest $25M gift from Koch Foundation

By Marjorie Cortez | Posted - Jun. 10, 2017 at 12:20 p.m.


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LOGAN — A group objecting to the recent $25 million gift by the Koch Foundation to Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business recently projected a SOLD! sign on the wall of the building in protest.

The image, which depicts brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, states “SOLD! Utah State University Respected research institution. $25,000,000," was reportedly projected on a wall of the school at night some time this past week, according to a press release.

The $25 million gift was half of a $50 million joint donation by the Koch Foundation and the Huntsman Foundation to launch the Center for Growth and Opportunity and expand the highly selective Huntsman Scholar Program.

The gift, the largest in university history, was announced during the business school convocation last month.

A press release sent to the Deseret News from a Greenpeace email address said the Koch Foundation gift “poses serious concern for the reputation and academic integrity of Utah State University.”

The gift comes with strings attached, the statement says, although it concedes the 2017 donation “does not buy hiring powers.”

USU spokesman Tim Vitale said he did not personally witness the projection but the university “champions their free speech rights.”

The university hopes their voices will be met by others for a conversation about the gift, which Vitale said was “transformative” for the business school and will “expand opportunities for hundreds of our students.”

As for issues of academic freedom and personnel, the agreement among the parties, which Vitale said was developed over a matter of months, clearly states “we maintain absolute control over hiring ourselves.”

The business school will operate under the same academic procedures and practices as other schools on the Logan campus, he said.

“We had no pushback from the foundations when we worked on that language,” he said.

The opponents' press release provided quotes from people identified as USU students, alumni and staff, although some were identified only by first names, no names or spoke under the condition anonymity. No contact information was provided for people identified by name to verify quotes attributed to them.

The general tone of the quotes questioned the rigor of research at institutions supported by the Koch Foundation and concerns the donation will advance the Koch brothers’ libertarian philosophy.

Koch Foundation officials were unavailable for comment Friday evening.

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Marjorie Cortez

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