MSU Faculty Senate apprehensive on Koch funding

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the MSU Faculty Senate met to discuss the proposed Montana State University Center for Regulation and Applied Economic Analysis (CRAEA). Michael Babcock, the MSU Faculty Senate chair, opened the meeting with a review of the changes that were approved during the previous senate meeting. Afterwards, Babcock presented several proposed possible classes and opened the floor to a discussion that centered around the addition of a new accreditation program for landscape design within the university system. After questions regarding the suggested accreditation program, Babcock prompted Jessi Smith, a senator from the psychology department, to speak a little about the CRAEA proposal.


Smith motioned to table the CRAEA proposal until further research about the intentions of the center’s sponsors, the Koch family, could be made clearer. Smith stated “We must, in my opinion, take heed from past experiences from other Koch funded universities to assess the risk that our most vulnerable students and faculty could be stifled,” she said. “Their academic freedom extinguished by a coercive learning and working environment within the center. We just need more time to gather all data.”


Smith mentioned one reason for her uncertainty was a letter that she had recently been made aware of. Smith quoted from the letter, saying, “in fact, the Koch foundation attorney has assured us that the creation of a center is not contingent on the receipt or return of any money.” Smith pointed to the letter’s previous absence as a reason to table the proposal and expressed her sentiments that two senate meetings were not sufficient for a proper consideration of the implications that a Koch sponsorship could have for the future of MSU. Smith continued her statement by citing her behavioral psychological expertise as a reason to continue research. Smith stated, “In psychological science, we really have only one quote ‘law’ of human behavior, and that is, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And the past behavior of the Koch foundation centers should give us all pause.”


Babcock called for a vote to pass Smith’s motion to table the issue after clarifying that the vote was for nothing other than tabling the issue. A vote was taken and the motion to table the proposal was passed with twenty four members voting for the tabling, five voting against it and one voting to abstain from the voting process. Babcock stated that the issue would remain tabled until a senate member motioned to untable it, the motion was seconded and then voted on, successfully.