It’s been eight months since John “Papa John” Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation donated $3.25 million to the university, but students are still pushing back against it.
After the Progressive Student Alliance brought their concerns about the grant up to the Student Government Association, SGA is bringing three related bills to the Student Senate floor.
Because the university has already accepted the Koch/Schnatter grant and started spending the money, there isn’t anything SGA can do about that. So instead, they’re using it as a model for future grants, said Zoe Taylor, chair of the Government Affairs and Community Advancement committee on SGA.
Ball State doesn’t have a formal grant agreement, so that is one of the problems SGA is setting out to change, Taylor said.
“We were originally leaning toward preventing a problem [from the Koch/Schnatter grant], but in the long run we’re correcting a problem,” Taylor said. “From our understanding, grants are much more open than what we think a formal process would be.”
So SGA was tasked with figuring out where the line for concern should be, Taylor said. They decided that anything over $1 million is something that has the potential to draw concern.
The three bills SGA is considering are:
- A review of the Koch/Schnatter grant to ensure that it won’t tread on academic freedom
- The stance of Ball State students against outside influences on their freedom of academia
- Establishing a grant review process for the university
The bills were supposed to be brought up at SGA’s weekly meeting Nov. 2, but they ran out of time in the meeting, so they will go on the floor Nov. 9 instead.
“We hope that teachers and professors will understand that we’re not going to allow for that kind of infiltration into our school,” Taylor said. “We want to correct the problem overall so this scare wouldn’t be drawn again.”
From SGA’s reading of the grant, there was no physical language they could grasp onto to have a “red scare,” Taylor said.
But even so, they want someone to look through the grant to make sure there aren’t any potential red flags that were missed the first time around.
The history the Koch Brothers have has caused controversy across the country, as people think they are trying to invade the academic freedom at universities.
“We want to make sure the university made a good choice [with the grant],” said Morgan Aprill, media and communications chair for PSA. “There’s a lack of education about who the Koch brothers are, and what they do.”
Aprill and her colleagues at PSA have been pushing for the university to look over the grant since it was announced in early March.
At first, Aprill said it seemed like they weren’t being taken seriously. She said people felt they were making a big deal out of nothing.
But to PSA, the research they had done validated their concerns with the grant.
“We care for the integrity of the university,” Aprill said. “It’s not about hating the Koch brothers as much as it’s about caring about integrity and academic freedom.”
If the legislation passes through the second and third readings in SGA, it will go to the Campus Council, who will either approve or deny it. After that, it will go to the University Senate Agenda Committee and then to the University Senate.
The University Senate will then decide where the legislation goes, but Taylor said she hopes it will end up at the Academic Freedoms and Ethics Committee.
“Usually, if something has picked up this much momentum with the student body, something normally happens,” Taylor said. “Or at least an address is made to students about their concerns.”