Why Brooklyn College Business Dean “Cut Bait” on Koch Proposal

Ashley Thorne

NAS member Mitchell Langbert is in the New York Post and Inside Higher Ed this week after the Brooklyn College business school dean refused to approve a grant proposal Langbert had drafted. The proposal was for a multi-million-dollar line of funding for Brooklyn College to hire new finance professors; establish a new institute analyzing U.S. government policies regulating business; and create an honors program.

Dr. Langbert had been communicating with the Charles Koch Foundation, which had expressed interest in his ideas and had encouraged him to apply for funding. Unfortunately, his proposal was turned down by Brooklyn College’s business dean, Willie Hopkins, who after months of hedging wrote in an email that he would “have to ‘cut bait’ on this project” to focus on getting the School of Business accredited by the AACSB. Langbert said that for the College, the main barrier to accreditation has been not being able to afford to hire well-qualified finance faculty, and that this project, if funded, would have helped the business school get closer to being approved.

The Koch Foundation, Langbert explained, had “explicitly said they would not get involved in programmatic decisions,” but would reserve the right to fund or not fund ideas proposed in a grant application.

Dr. Hopkins’ decision not to submit the proposal comes on the heels of the United Negro College Fund receiving a $25 million grant from the Koch Foundation for merit-based scholarships for black college students. The UNCF weathered sharp criticism for accepting the generosity of a conservative foundation, but its president, Michael L. Lomax, defended the donation, writing, “students with dreams of a college education are counting on us.” Lomax reminded critics that “Seventy years ago one of the nation’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen, John D. Rockefeller Jr., chaired one of UNCF’s first annual fund-raising campaigns.” Dr. Langbert too noted that Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago and that entrepreneur Joseph Wharton established the Wharton business school through their giving.

“I’ve never encountered a dean who, when given an easy way to raise money, is not interested in it,” Langbert said.

He believes that ultimately the abortion of his proposal to Koch was not so much about the Hopkins’ aversion to the foundation as it was a rejection of Langbert’s pro-free-market ideas, with which the dean disagrees: “Opposition to Koch was a pretext for squelching my academic freedom.”

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