We at George Mason University share the concerns stated in the May 7 editorial “Time for transparency at George Mason” that some past gift agreements accepted by the university in support of our economics department may have afforded donors too much influence. We recognize these agreements raise important questions that we are committed to answering. We appreciate The Post’s support of our immediate actions.
First, we have ensured that none of these past agreements remains in place. Second, we are conducting a review of all current agreements to remove any questionable language that may exist. Third, we have entrusted representatives from our Board of Visitors, faculty and students to oversee this review and to make recommendations for improvements that are aligned with our university’s commitment to academic freedom.
We agree that transparency remains the best way to dispel any doubts about the content of gift agreements. That is why we published the gift agreements in support of the naming of the Scalia Law School as well as the recent $5 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation in support of our economics department. We will strive to make this level of transparency our norm going forward in a way that does not compromise the legal rights to privacy of our donors.
Our thousands of donors, large and small, help us deliver on our mission of excellence and affordability amid declining public funding. We are proud that George Mason’s economics department is ranked 26th in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and has twice received the Nobel Prize. This would not have been possible without private support built upon our public foundation.
Ángel Cabrera, Fairfax
The writer is president
of George Mason University.
Ten years ago, the Charles Koch Foundation gave three grants to George Mason University to help hire faculty in its economics department. Those professors have won teaching awards, gained international recognition for their research and helped grow a thriving graduate student fellowship program. GMU’s economics department is now one of the top-ranked in the world.
These facts didn’t make it into the May 7 editorial on GMU’s receipt of foundation gifts. Instead, the piece focused on language in long-expired grants that allowed a donor representative to serve on a committee that recommended candidates for these positions.
Many schools still allow for this type of donor involvement, as a quick Google search would have uncovered. As steadfast believers in academic freedom, we removed this language from our agreements years ago. We encourage readers to visit our website to review our grant template that governs our relationships with more than 350 colleges and universities.
But for those driving the campaign against our philanthropy, the language in our agreements isn’t the point. Their real targets are scholars and students and the diverse ideas they are bringing to their campus communities. We are proud to support their work on important issues such as barriers to economic opportunity, criminal-justice reform and free speech in the digital age.
We believe that scholars should be free to pursue their work without being censored or intimidated by groups on or off campus. The notion that the Charles Koch Foundation attaches strings to our grants to force professors to think certain thoughts or come to certain conclusions is not just false. It’s also insulting and unfair to the world-class scholars and schools we support.
John Hardin, Arlington
The writer is director of university relations for the Charles Koch Foundation.