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James Carville: FSU stands for ‘For Sale University’

James Carville: FSU stands for ‘For Sale University’
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Readers of this column know that I am a college football fan and, until recently, while not a Florida State fan per se, I have been an admirer of certain aspects of their program. I have always respected how Bobby Bowden would go out and challenge any opponent, and he produced some legendary games against the University of Miami and Notre Dame. And how can you not like Jimbo Fisher? A former Louisiana State University guy, he has a son with a rare disorder called Fanconi anemia, which causes bone marrow failure. But recent events have made the Florida State football program look awful. 

Famed Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has been accused of rape and of stealing crab legs this spring; his most recent performance was standing up on a chair in a student center yelling profanities. There are concerns about the Tallahassee Police Department’s response to two starting defensive backs’ hit-and-run incident and, according to Mike McIntire and Walt Bogdanich of The New York Times, “over the last three years, at least nine players have been arrested on charges ranging from sexual assault to being an accessory to a fatal shooting.” Not exactly a clean sheet.

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Florida State has a much bigger problem than its football program, however, and it is that it put one of its academic departments up for sale. 

One journalist who has not missed the ball is David Levinthal from The Center for Public Integrity. Levinthal obtained an internal memo from Florida State’s economics department written by Department Chairman Bruce Benson. Benson, a self-described “libertarian anarchist,” was required to stay on for three more years as department chairman if the Koch Foundation was going to donate. He notes in the memo that he had told his wife he was going to step down.

They allowed the Koch brothers to buy off the economics department. Let me quote Benson directly: as the internal memo states, “As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs. In the case, the money for faculty lines and graduate students is coming from a group of funding organizations with strong libertarian views. These organizations have an explicit agenda. They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of the government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views.” 

Here is where Benson really gets to his point: “Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring. If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.” 

Is there some other way to read this? 

As noted above, I am an avid college football fan, but I am also a parent of a college student and a professor at Tulane Univer-sity, so I spend a considerable amount of time on college campuses. I have always loved the college atmosphere — sometimes too much, which is why I spent so long at LSU. Something I look forward to every week is my Monday night class at Tulane. We get a broad mix of undergraduate and sometimes graduate students studying a range of disciplines from finance to political science and even engineering. 

I can promise I come down harder on the students that always agree with me. Every semester we get a group of bright young students at Tulane and every day the first message we begin with is, “it doesn’t matter what I think, it only matters that you think.” For those concerned that I am indoctrinating my students with liberal biases, consider some of the guests to join my class: former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney pollster Neil Newhouse and fellow Louisiana native Erick Erickson. To me that is the essence of higher education. 

And that’s why I was so troubled when I heard about Charles and David Koch’s financial involvement with the Florida State economics department. It is easy to mock the athletic department or the football program specifically for special treatment, but what could you really expect when they were so quick to sell off an academic department? 

Carville is a political contributor for Fox News and ARISE News. He also serves as a professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin. Carville is the co-author with Stan Greenberg of It’s The Middle Class, Stupid! His column will appear twice a month in The Hill.