Newly released documents reveal that Virginia’s George Mason University allowed conservative donors to influence hiring decisions in exchange for financial donations.
The documents — donor agreements between the university and the Charles Koch Foundation — detail deals in which the foundation would set up endowed professorships at the university, retaining the right to select two out of five members on the hiring committee for those positions, according to The Associated Press.
The foundation also had the right to appoint members to advisory boards to recommend faculty firings.
University President Angel Cabrera addressed the documents in a letter to faculty on Friday, saying that the deals “fall short of the standards of academic independence I expect any gift to meet.”
Cabrera has said in the past that the university does not accept gifts if donors seek to decide hirings and firings, according to the AP, and told the outlet in 2016 that the Koch donations do not affect the university’s academic independence.
The documents were released after a former student requested them through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The student, Samantha Parsons, who works for activist group UnKoch My Campus, told the AP that the George Mason deals are similar to those the group has addressed at other universities, such as Florida State University in 2008.
“The faculty is supposed to have the independence to choose the best-qualified candidate,” she told the AP.
The foundation said in a statement that the agreements are “old and inactive,” and that newer donation deals do not have the same provisions, according to the AP.
The group has also released documents revealing new details about the university’s decision to rename its law school after late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The naming of the school had been connected to a $10 million donation from the Koch Foundation.