Letters to the Editor

Syracuse University professor condemns Koch foundation investment

In March of 2015, to much fanfare, Syracuse University announced a commitment to prohibit “direct” investment in fossil fuels. Chancellor Kent Syverud proclaimed, “Syracuse has a long record of supporting responsible environmental stewardship and good corporate citizenship, and we want to continue that record.” In 2007, SU also signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and designed a Climate Action Plan in 2009.

On Tuesday, SU and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management announced the receipt of a $1.75 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to “engage the academic community in explorations of the entrepreneurial society.” Apart from serious concerns about the restrictions of academic freedom that come with such grants, this funding needs to be seen as a repudiation of SU’s commitments to doing something about climate change.

This money, of course, originates with Koch Industries: a multibillionaire company with investments in fossil fuel extraction and petrochemical production. One estimate suggests Koch industries is responsible for “24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.” More importantly, the Kochs have used their billions of dollars to directly support political candidates that not only deny the existence of climate change, but also fight against laws that might address it. Apart from their infamous corruption of the political process, they have also corrupted science by using “dark money” to support research that denies the human-caused nature of climate change (even though nearly the entire scientific community argues the opposite).

Charles Koch himself has recently (finally) admitted, “I believe it’s been warming some.” But he quickly made clear he thinks it’s not a big deal, “But they say it’s going to be catastrophic. There is no evidence to that.” Island nations and coastal communities already experiencing the catastrophic effects of climate change would beg to differ. Regardless of his beliefs, Charles Koch continues to argue against regulatory policies meant to address climate change.

At a time where even our current president-elect has called climate change a “hoax,” it is vital that institutions of higher learning stand on the right side of history so future generations will know we opposed the fossil fuel companies responsible for this crisis. By accepting money from the Koch foundation, SU makes clear that they value corporate funding more than any serious ethical environmental principles. I call on SU to reject this grant and send the money back.

Matthew T. Huber, Associate Professor

Geography Department, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs


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