- A denial by George Mason University officials to provide details on gifts made to the school's foundation by Charles and David Koch has prompted a lawsuit from students who say the gifts may come with political oversight on faculty research and teaching.
- The students are on a crusade for information, challenging that because the foundation is such an integral part of the university's operational integrity, it should be held to the same standards as the publicly-funded institution itself.
- The Koch brothers have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to higher education, but have drawn controversy for their perceived advocacy of libertarian values and curriculum being taught in courses and developed in research as terms of their gifts.
The difficulty college presidents face is that its hard to turn down multimillion-dollar gifts and easy to criticize politics, and this is the scenario many institutions are facing as students demand rejection of donors with controversial politics without the full view of the ramifications. As private endowments plummet, costs increase and political pressure mounts against higher education reform and policy, presidents are faced with a simple choice: take the money now and beg for forgiveness and a new contract later or struggle even more with dwindling appropriations to meet budgets.
The free-thinking liberal nature of higher education is always going to draw debate and controversy, and in meeting that criticism heads on, leaders encourage students to be heard to exercise the formative years of their political development. But supporting the growth of an institution is something all people with differing views can respect, and if leaders can be transparent about the details and open to the criticism, the culture can revert back to how understanding can be developed, or how alternative support can be identified.