Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

Editor:  On April 24, the Virginia Circuit Court in Fairfax held a hearing on a lawsuit filed by two George Mason University student groups, Transparent GMU and UnKoch my Campus. The suit is a Freedom of Information Act action demanding public disclosure of the terms of an agreement between the Koch Foundation’s contributions of tens of millions of dollars to the George Mason University Foundation, a GMU instrumentality.

Efforts by GMU students to gain access to the agreement between Koch and the university have been denied by the administration. When it became clear that the university would not grant them access, the student groups filed the FOIA lawsuit.

During the court hearing, the chief financial officer of the GMU Foundation testified that 75 percent of GMU President Angel Cabrera’s annual compensation is paid by Koch funds. Given that three-fourths of his annual compensation is paid by billionaire industrialists, one might legitimately ask, for whom does he work?

To jeopardize the public integrity of one of our flagship universities by agreeing to accept Koch brothers funding for GMU academic programs not only reflects exceedingly poor judgment by university leadership, but jeopardizes GMU’s reputation, academic independence, and integrity.

I urge the attorney general to determine the legality of such a secret arrangement. Does it violate Virginia statutes or regulations governing compensation and conduct of public officials. I also urge members of the General Assembly to investigate the nature, circumstances, and contractual details of the totally inappropriate relationship between the Koch brothers and George Mason University—and consider how to prevent such travesties in the future.

Randy Ihara, South Riding

4 thoughts on “Letter: Randy Ihara, South Riding

  • 2018-05-01 at 6:24 pm
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    Randy, would it make you feel better if the money came from Tom Styer, or maybe Billy Gates?

    Is this about rich guys in general giving money to public institutions for the benefit of all, or is it pure ideological for you?

  • 2018-05-05 at 2:28 pm
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    Chris,
    Doesn’t it bother you that a private company is paying most of the compensation of the President of one of our flagship universities? Does it raise ANY questions in your mind about the propriety of such an arrangement? Does the refusal of the GMU Administration to release the terms of the agreement with the Koch Foundation of the terms for the $100 Million raise ANY questions to you–like, what have they got to hide? Why is it a secret? Why is a public university supported by tax-payers refusing to let the citizens of the Commonwealth know about the large donations they are receiving, or what GMU has agreed to do for the Koch Foundation in return for the money? I VERY surprised that no Virginia Republican has raised questions. The integrity of our public institutions is (or should be) is not a partisan issue.

    I hope for all our sakes that your capacity to raise questions about priorities and integrity about something as important as education isn’t as corrupted by your partisan ideology as your remarks seem to indicate.

  • 2018-05-06 at 11:28 am
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    Randy, I’m adamant about transparency. Particularly at a public institution, and particularly at one of which I’m a graduate of. You have a valid point, and I expect the terms to be made public henceforth.
    As you well know, corporations and wealthy folks are huge contributors to many universities.

    At GMU, I was extremely fortunate to study under two “Robinson professors:” Professor Emeritus Shaul Bakhash, who was ‘amused’ by my academic assertion that the Shah, could have stayed in power if only he had been tougher on the 7th century freaks of the ’79 Islamic revolution. I was also lucky enough to study public policy under Dr. Hugh Heclo. Ironically, my senior paper was about the horrendous policy implications of rapidly developing Loudoun County.

    Who paid/pays for these outstanding professors? A wealthy businessman, banker and real estate tycoon named Clarence Robinson. It’s the way things are Randy, and we should be thankful that wealthy people cut checks to public universities rather than taxpayers fronting all the bills for outstanding education.

    The Koch brothers are Libertarians, and if they want to give to GMU, more power to ‘em. They also build wings at children’s hospitals and give generously to public television, cancer research and NYC’s metropolitan art museum and even environmental causes — just a few examples of their public giving. We’re supposed to have a problem with people spending their money on the public good?

    My question to you however was would you have bothered to write your letter if this had been leftist billionaire Tom Styer, or Bill and Melinda Gates cutting the check? Would you demand the AG look into their gifts to GMU as well? Or is just automatic to oppose libertarians or any other diverse views which differ from your own?

  • 2018-05-13 at 12:51 pm
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    I would have the same view whoever it was–It’s non-ideological, non-partisan. Ensuring and protecting the academic integrity of our public universities should be a priority, no matter which Party, or individual(s) is involved in its degredation. As a GMU graduate, I would think you would share my sense of outrage.
    Randy

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