CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University announced on Tuesday that it will receive $5 million in donations to create a new Center for Free Enterprise as part of its College of Business and Economics "to study the economic, political and social factors that increase prosperity."
The money will come from the Charles Koch Foundation and from WVU business school graduate Ken Kendrick and his wife, Randy.
Joshua Hall and Andrew Young, associate economics professors at WVU, will be co-directors of the new center.
"The new center will advance teaching and research on the roles that the principles and institutions of a free society play in creating widely shared prosperity and improving quality of life, and will complement more than a decade of [the College of Business and Economics] support for the study of free market economics," according to a WVU news release.
The center will also hire a managing director and fill at least five visiting faculty fellowships. It will also provide at least 17 students with four-year Ph.D. fellowships over the next five years.
Charles and David Koch, who head the Koch Foundation, have spent tens of millions of dollars to create and support a variety of groups that advocate conservative political positions, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for the Environment, the Economic Education Trust and Americans For Prosperity.
They head Koch Industries, a company involved in oil refineries, chemicals and other companies. The company produces Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber and Stainmaster carpets. Each of the brothers was worth $36 billion last year, according to Forbes magazine.
Jose "Zito" Sartarelli, dean of the WVU business school, said Tuesday that donors from any part of the political spectrum are not allowed to affect the school's curriculum.
"We have a very clear policy, which is a university-wide policy," Sartarelli said. "When any gifts and donations come in, the choice of personnel and the content of whatever they do is totally up to the university. We do not compromise on that."
Sartarelli said he talks to big donors directly and tells them, "If you cannot live within that policy, then just don't give."
The College of Business and Economics has also accepted donations from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Sartaterlli said. That institute is run by George Soros, a billionaire with much more liberal economic views than the Koch brothers.
An Internet search found one mention of the Institute for New Economic Thinking funding research at WVU, for two graduate students in 2010.
"As long as donors are not willing to trying to insinuate themselves in the hiring process or the content of research, I think academic freedom is preserved," Sartarelli said. "Any person we hire from a gift has total academic independence."
Hall, one of the directors of the new center, co-authored the annual "Economic Freedom of the World" report from the Vancouver, Canada-based Fraser Institute last year. The institute has also received major contributions from the Koch Foundation.
In their 2013 report, Hall and two co-authors state, "The expanded use of regulation in the United States was accompanied with sharp reductions in ratings for components such as independence of the judiciary, impartiality of the courts, and regulatory favoritism.
"To a large degree, the United States has experienced a significant move away from rule of law and toward a highly regulated, politicized state," Hall and the others wrote.