Corporate Wolves in Academic Sheepskins, or, a Billionaire’s Raid on the University of Tulsa

Jacob Howland

On April 17, I published an article in City Journal detailing the academic destruction of the University of Tulsa. Less than a week earlier, TU’s administrators had rolled out a radical restructuring of the university called “True Commitment.” The plan gutted the liberal arts, raised default teaching loads across the university from five courses per year to eight, eliminated all academic departments, created new divisions to house surviving programs (including one called “Humanities and Social Justice”), and established a “Professional Super College” consisting of the formerly independent colleges of law, health sciences, and business.

My City Journal article concluded that we had witnessed a hostile takeover that appears to have made TU “a subsidiary of Tulsa’s biggest charitable foundation and an agent of the city’s corporate interests.” It’s now clear that I didn’t know the half of it. What follows is a sordid little tale of crony capitalism under the guise of public philanthropy. It is part of a much bigger story that has yet to be told, the Pottersville-like takeover of the city of Tulsa by an extremely wealthy and influential businessman.

Tulsa native George Kaiser made enough money in oil to purchase the Bank of Oklahoma out of FDIC receivership in 1990. Kaiser now owns 54 percent of shares in BOK Financial, the bank’s parent company. In 1998, Kaiser established the Tulsa Community Foundation (TCF); he started the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), in which he has invested more than $4 billion to date (and to which he plans eventually to gift his BOK shares), as a supporting organization of TCF in 2000. Kaiser then set to work using the charity to advance his personal financial interests. A 2013 analysis of GKFF’s 2011 tax return by Bloomberg disclosed that “at least $1.25 billion of the charity’s $3.4 billion in assets is invested in ways that benefit Kaiser’s for-profit endeavors.”

Continue reading at The Nation.

This article was originally published by The Nation magazine and is republished here with permission. Read the full text of Jacob Howland's article here.

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