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George Mason gets $1.1 million Koch gift for research on immigration, labor

A $1.1 million gift to George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will pay for research on demographic changes, immigration and labor issues, the university announced Thursday.

The money, a five-year grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, will underwrite work at the Center for the Study of Social Change, Institutions and Policy at George Mason, a public university in Northern Virginia. At least five new PhD fellows are expected to be involved in the research, and the funding will also cover an annual workshop, according to a news release.

“It’s a great statement of faith and support for the research that we have been doing for some years,” said Jack A. Goldstone, a professor who leads the center. “I have been working on the impact of demographic change on politics and economics for about a decade, and this grant will help me and George Mason attract and support first-rate PhD students to extend our research into new areas.”

George Mason, which earlier this month announced a $50 million gift to its law school, has recently sought to address concerns about philanthropy at the institution, and whether some funding came with constraints on academic freedom. That debate involved Koch — the billionaire backer of conservative political causes and major donor in higher education — and his foundation’s ties to George Mason.

Last May, George Mason President Ángel Cabrera acknowledged some gift arrangements did not meet academic independence standards, a disclosure that was followed by a review of donor agreements. A panel that presided over that review did not find any “egregious practices” in the pacts, a report later indicated.

Goldstone dismissed possible concerns about the latest funding, saying it appeared the same level of flexibility and support he has had with previous financial arrangements will apply to the Koch gift.

“For me, it’s just — what a great opportunity to improve research at George Mason,” he said. “And beyond that, we have administrators and other people to worry about whatever those concerns might be. But they don’t enter into my thinking.”

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