Friday, February 12, 2016

Just Published: Backer and Haddad, "Philanthropy and the Character of the Public University"

Happy to announce the publication of "Philanthropy and the Character of the Public Research University: The Intersections of Private Giving, Institutional Autonomy, and Shared Governance", which appears in Facilitating Higher Education Growth Through Fundraising and Philanthropy 28-58 (Henry C.Alpin, Jr.m Jennie Lavine, Stromy Stark and Adam Hocker, eds., IGI, 2016).  It was a pleasure working on this with my co-author and former student Nabih Haddad.

The chapter examines the influence of philanthropy on the increasingly contested governance space of the public research university, and against the backdrop of academic integrity and shared governance.  It is done so by situating the analysis specifically on the relationship among  The Charles G. Koch Foundation, Florida State University, and the FSU economics department.   

The abstract and introduction (citations omitted) follows. 


Educational scholars have examined the relationship of philanthropy and its contributions to the public university. Yet, there has been little discussion of the influence of philanthropy on the governance space of the public research university, and specifically as conditional philanthropy may affect academic integrity and shared governance. In this chapter, we consider these larger issues in the context of a study of a recent case. Drawing on public records, interviews, and university documents, the chapter examines conditional donation of The Charles G. Koch Foundation (CKF) to the Florida State University (FSU). We suggest that the Koch Foundation gift appears to illustrate a new model of governance based philanthropy.  It has done so by tying donations to control or influence of the internal governing mechanics of an academic unit of a public university. This model has generated controversy. Though there was substantial faculty and student backlash, the model appears to be evidence of a new philanthropic relationship between the public university and substantial donors, one in which donors may change the nature of traditional shared governance relationships within the university. We maintain that instances of such “new” strategic philanthropy require greater focus on and sensitivity to shared governance and faculty input as a way to ensure accountability, especially to preserve the integrity of the academic enterprise and its public mission where donors seek to leverage philanthropy into choices relating to faculty hires, courses and programs traditionally at the center of faculty prerogatives in shared governance.

I. Introduction

The close relationship between philanthropy and higher education has played a substantial role within the American higher education system. Bonglia (2002, p. 9) notes that “Early in the 18th Century, private support of institutions of higher education by philanthropists became a trend.” And indeed, this relationship is just as salient today as it has been in the colonial area. Drezner (2011), for example, noted that “American higher education as we know it today would not exist if it were not for the voluntary contributions of many individuals” (p. 26). Hall (1992) drew similar conclusions, suggesting that “[n]o single force is more responsible for the emergence of the modern university in America than giving by individuals and foundations” (p. 403). The recent economic downturn coupled with the steady decline of state support for public universities, for instance, has forced public institutions to position themselves to better harvest philanthropic donations (Speck, 2010; Cheslock & Gianneschi, 2008).  As McAlexander and Koenig (2012) have noted, “The growing concern about the ability to glean necessary financial resources from the traditional sources of tuition, taxes (for public universities), and fees, has driven leaders of institutions of higher education to place a much sharper focus on developing the philanthropic capacity of alumni, friends, and other partners to provide the economic support necessary to deliver higher education in the modern millennium” (p. 122). Additionally, this steady decrease in state appropriations for higher education represents what many scholars have suggested as a “new paradigm” of higher education funding (Speck, 2010; McKeown, 1996). Increasingly, more and more public universities have started to describe themselves as state-assisted, rather than state-supported, institutions (Hossler, 2004). Naturally, this has created an environment where public institutions are now actively searching out alternative revenue sources because this has become “the only source of real discretionary money and in many cases is assuming a critical role in balancing institutional budgets” (Leslie & Ramey, 1988, p.115-116).

One substantial source of such alternative revenue sources are foundations. Unlike public bodies, foundations are highly centralized and closed systems. Public accountability is very limited and one of the few forms of accountability are done mainly through tax laws which requires foundations to allocate funding for charitable purposes. They are also accountable to their own organizational by-laws and their trustees, but not to the general public. Many times, major foundations are guided by wide ranging social agendas which is collectively understood as strategic philanthropy (Dowey, 2001; Barrows, 1990). With over $700 billion in assets and over $50 billion in total giving per year (Foundation Center, 2014), foundations collectively have an immense amount of power to fund public policy initiatives at a national and global scale (see, e.g., Roelofs, 2003 and Dowey, 2001). According to Dowey (2001), governmental devolution coupled with increasing austerity measures have made these organizations even more powerful.

Though there has been much discussion on the influence of philanthropy on k-12 education (see, e.g., McKersie, 1999; Cohen, 2007), there has been a limited discussion within the higher education literature (Hall & Thomas, 2012). Although foundations have always taken an active role in American higher education (see, e.g., Barrows, 1990; Drezner, 2011; Dowie, 2001; Thelin, 2011), it has been much more concerted in recent years through a market-based approach where initiatives are funded by foundations using “engaged” or “advocacy” philanthropy  (Katz, 2012).  More importantly, a new form of philanthropy has emerged in recent years. Through forms of strategic philanthropy, the most powerful foundations “have taken up a set of methods -- strategic grant-making, public policy advocacy, the funding of intermediaries, and collaboration with government -- that illustrate their direct and unapologetic desire to influence policy and practice in numerous higher education arenas." (Hall & Thomas, 2012).  The object is to leverage contributions to the university into a power to more directly determine university policy and practices that was once the sole domain of university administrators and faculty.  Especially as these new strategic philanthropic strategies have sought to affect decisions about faculty hires, course offerings, pedagogy and academic programs, these strategies directly affect the traditional relationship between faculty, board and administration in the governance of universities. Despite this trend, scholarly discourse regarding the influence of philanthropy on public universities has been limited, at best.   Naturally, the influence of philanthropy occupies a contentious space among key stakeholders of the public research university — professors, students, and the community—because the most pressing issues rests on the influence of philanthropy on institutional autonomy, shared governance, and the freedom of inquiry, ideals ingrained into the ontological fabric of the academy. The ideal of the university represents an autonomous generator of knowledge, free from external constraints, allowing the flow of knowledge to disseminate freely for the advancement of the public good (Thelin, 2011; Albach, 2001). While this ideal has only been partially reached, now more than ever, the influence of private funding on knowledge production has been an increasing concern for those within the higher education enterprise.

 To that end, this chapter examines the relationship between philanthropy undertaken through foundations or by individuals, and the increasingly contested governance space of the public research university, and against the backdrop of academic integrity and shared governance. We do so by situating our analysis specifically on an agreement between The Charles G. Koch Foundation’s (CKF) and Florida State University (FSU). In 2007, CKF approached Florida State with an initial pledge of $1.5 million that would be extended to over $6 million in the course of 6 years. In return, FSU’s economics department would allow CKF representatives to sit on screening committees for new faculty hires, providing funding for doctoral students in economics as well as the creation of a new undergrad programs that would be based on curriculum based on the educational ideology of CKF. This deal eventually produced strong faculty and community backlash, especially with respect to the way the deal relegated substantial control of a public institution to an external actor. As the chair of FSU’s economics, Bruce Benson, stated in an internal email, “Koch cannot tell a university who to hire…. [but] they are going to try to make sure, through contractual terms and monitoring, that people hired are [to] be consistent with ‘donar Intent.’”  And indeed, where donors traditionally had little to say how their grants would be used, this trend represented by the Koch Foundation is a major point of contention. In this chapter, we first provide background regarding the case of involving Florida State University and CKF’s agreement. We first examine the FSU/CKF donation as the case basis for our analysis.  We then consider its ramifications for university governance and philanthropy. We situate that discussion first within the analytical context of the university faculty senate, and its role within the public university. We then focus on the realities of shared governance and its functional challenges in light of academic integrity and university donors through that framework. On that basis we then flesh out the difficulties of shared governance within the a-symmetric power arrangements that are the hallmark of public universities, and then suggest where a faculty senate can fit into this governance enterprise when dealing with external influences of major donors.

No comments: