FSU Students Discover New Senate Bill Meant To Keep Koch Infiltration… Hidden

By Leslie Salzillo, The Daily Kos
I recently wrote a Daily Kos diary titled Florida Students Protest Koch Influence Over College Professors discussing the Koch brothers corruption which has been bleeding into the FSU (Florida State University) faculty and education. The problem began in 2008 when Charles Koch made a hefty donation/bribe that included questionable stipulations. A student protest began in 2011 after those ‘special permissions’ were exposed. In the last several months the protest has reignited. Now with the introduction of a seemingly insidious brand new Senate bill, the heat is on and rising. Here is an excerpt from a recent editorial by several student activists, via Tallahassee.com

“Our university’s academic integrity has already been compromised from the influence of high-dollar donors like Koch, who managed to assume inappropriate control over our economics department’s curriculum and hiring process per an agreement signed in 2008. Three years have passed since FSU professors exposed Koch’s financial grip over our school and a committee of faculty senators formally rejected several stipulations of the agreement. Yet, it is clear that the administration refuses to act to appropriately limit outside influence on FSU’s educational operations.”

I’ve been in touch with Ralph Wilson, one of the Florida student activists. He sent me  an email alert that went out to FSU students this morning, by Progress Florida.

Student XXXThis is an urgent message from FSU students to all concerned Floridians: The Koch Brothers and the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) want to keep deals between big donors and Florida universities secret. This is an attack on freedom of information and academic integrity, and we need to stop it. Call your state senator today, tell them to vote no on SB 318, and stop secret donor agreements that threaten the academic integrity of Florida’s public universities.

Not content to have bought undue influence in state legislatures and Congress, now the billionaire Koch brothers and their allies want to purchase influence at our universities to promote their self-serving, anti-student, anti-middle class policies. Following recent revelations of a new (and shady) deal between the FSU economics department and the Kochs,1 the Florida Senate is now debating passage of a bill (SB 318) that would help block knowledge of donor agreements with all Florida universities.

If passed, this bill would create a new public records exemption for meetings between “direct support organizations” (i.e. the FSU Foundation) and donor organizations when discussing proposed research funding. Call your state senator today and tell them to vote no on SB 318, and to protect academic integrity in Florida.

This bill, which may be debated on the Senate floor as early as today (Thursday) is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). Stargel is the state chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy corporate front group funded by the Koch brothers3. In light of recent articles exposing the growing network of Koch brothers’ influence on more than 200 universities around the country4, this legislation could create an alarming precedent.

Call your state senator today and tell them to vote no on SB 318, and to keep public records in the sunshine.

The good news is that this fight is very winnable. SB 318 requires a ⅔ majority vote to be signed into law. Out of our 40 seat senate, we only need 14 members to vote “No”.

Senators are only beginning to hear about the effects of this bill, and we have a chance to make sure they protect transparency in our universities by calling them today and making our voices heard. Since every “No” vote counts for so much, your call could make a huge difference! – For live updates, follow us on Twitter at @FsuProgress and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FSU.Progress.Coalition

For great universities and a better Florida, Jerry Funt College of Arts and Sciences Gladys Nobriga College of Social Sciences Lissa Reed College of Music Ralph Wilson College of Graduate Studies P.S. – For more information, see our column in the Tallahassee Democrat:

(Here are four more links about the protest) — 1. “Some fear Charles Koch’s influence damages FSU’s integrity” – Tampa Bay Times, 4/19/14.

2. CS/SB 318

3. 3ALEC State Chairs

4. “Inside the Koch brothers’ campus crusade” – The Center For Public Integrity, 3/27/14.

Here is the bill introduced by Kelli Stargel (R-FL):

CS/SB 318: Public Meetings/University Direct-support Organization

PUBLIC RECORDS/GENERAL BILL by Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Stargel Public Meetings/University Direct-support Organization; Providing an exemption from public meeting requirements for any portion of a meeting of the board of directors of a university direct-support organization, or of the executive committee or other committees of such board, at which any proposal seeking research funding from the organization or a plan or program for either initiating or supporting research is discussed; providing for review and repeal of the exemption; providing a statement of public necessity, etc. Effective Date: 10/1/2014 Last Action: 4/24/2014 Senate – Laid on Table, refer to CS/HB 115 Location: Laid on Table Bill Text:

This video link is from the Senate Committee Meeting held at 1:00 PM on 4/21/2014. To specifically view Stargel explaining the SB318, and students testifying against the bill, please start the video at: 20:23.

Hopefully, more progressive news communities like Daily Kos, will jump in and find ways to support these activists, not only on behalf of FSU, but on behalf of the vital integrity of this nation’s public education. Much respect to the students at Florida State University.

FSU Progress Coalition Facebook page. Special thanks to Ralph Benton Wilson Iv.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Kos.