Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC), in collaboration with students and faculty, is organizing a protest against the university's potential acceptance of funding donated by the Charles Koch Foundation on Thursday at 5 p.m. on O'Neill Plaza in front of Gasson Hall.
The "Stand Against the Koch Foundation" protest was organized in response to the political science department's recent vote to move forward with the "New Perspectives on U.S. Grand Strategy and Great Power Politics" program proposal, which identified the Koch Foundation as the primary source of funding.
According to the program proposal, the political science department "seek[s] support to strengthen our impact on expanding and enriching the parameters of American debates on U.S. grand strategy, great power relations, and national security through scholarship and program."
A student-organized petition which opposes the acceptance of money from the Koch Foundation has also been circulating through the BC community over the past week. The petition was signed by more than 800 community members as of Wednesday afternoon, according to CJBC member Aaron Salzman, MCAS '20, who collaborated with students from international studies program to write the petition. The total includes signatures from 94 undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from the political science department, as well as 70 more individuals in the international studies program.
Notably, the petition expresses concerns that the Koch Foundation grant might compromise the department's academic integrity, given the organization's history of financing and attempting to assert influence over the academic study at other universities.
"Its donations often come with assurances that the programs it funds, like professorships, curricula, and think tanks, will promote the Foundation’s free market, climate change-denying agenda," stated the petition, which cited documents released last year demonstrating that the Kochs had undue influence in the hiring process at George Mason University.
Students emphasized that while climate change is a major threat to national security in the 21st century, it is not mentioned at all in the proposed program, prompting concerns that research into the effects of climate change would not be a priority.
"If the political science department were to accept this money, it is our understanding that we share the same concern with a variety of faculty members that there would be considerable incentive for the program not to study the effects of climate change," said the petition. "Additionally, given the fact that the potential grant runs on a five-year reapplication cycle, we are concerned that this disincentivizes the production of scholarship running counter to anything falling under the agenda of the Charles Koch Foundation."
Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the petition also noted that "economic life… is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole [person], and of the entire human community."
According to the petition, acceptance of Koch funding is contrary to the Jesuit, Catholic values of BC and its professed commitment to social justice.
"Catholic universities are not meant to produce knowledge for its own sake; knowledge, and the means by which it is produced, must promote the common good," stated the petition. "Historically, the Charles Koch Foundation has not used its donations to support the common good; it has used them to promote its own self-interested agenda."
Several student organizations, including CJBC, EcoPledge, Young Democratic Socialists of BC, the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) of the Undergraduate Student Government of Boston College, College Democrats, and FACES, have spoken out the against the idea of accepting a grant from the Koch Foundation.
In their statements, student organizations raised concerns about academic integrity, but focused primarily on the ethical concerns related to the Koch business practices. Multiple statements referenced environmental injustices perpetrated by Koch Industries.
CJBC's statement argued that the company's history of "hundreds of oil spills, the release of toxic chemicals into waterways and communities, the illegal removal of oil from indigenous lands, and a myriad of other crimes and violations" demonstrate a lack of social responsibility and concern for the common good.
The ALC statement also drew attention to the disproportionate impact of policies championed by the Kochs on marginalized communities around the world, especially communities that are primarily composed of people of color, indigenous peoples, and people with low socio-economic status.
"Individuals and families on the frontlines of climate change across the United States, including those living with income inequality and poverty, institutional racism, inequity on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, poor infrastructure, and lack of access to healthcare, housing, clean water, and food security are often the closest and proximity to sources of pollution," the ALC statement said.