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New Heterodox Academy Leader's Ties to Koch Network Compromise Intellectual Diversity Mission

After personally previously worrying about the lack of someone in charge at Heterodox Academy, I think it is good news, that they’ve announced that Prof. John Tomasi of Brown University will become the organization’s inaugural president as of January 1 of next year.

Prof. Tomasi is a political philosopher, an endowed chair at Brown and Founder and Director of the Political Theory Project, an on-campus organization that hosts credit-bearing courses, houses post-graduate fellows and produces original programming around their mission to “investigate the ideas and institutions that make societies free, prosperous, and fair.”

Some of you are thinking that this sounds libertarian-ish, and you would be correct. 

Tomasi’s work and the Political Theory Project are significantly funded by far right figures like Charles Koch and the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, which gave Tomasi over a million dollars to establish those postdoctoral fellowships. In Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, which explores the influence of these far right groups on all levels of government, commerce, and education, Tomasi is identified as one of the Koch’s “pet professors.” According to Mayer, Tomasi “slyly” described the result of his semester-long course in “free-market classics” at Brown to a conservative publication by saying, “After a whole semester of Hayek, it’s hard to shake them off that perspective over the next four years.”

In addition to funding the Political Theory Project, the Thomas W. Smith foundation is one of the leading donors to other organizations currently attacking critical race theory and anti-racist education in K-12 schools and universities, spending nearly $13 million as of July of this year on this project, including over $4 million to the Manhattan Institute, home of Chris Rufo, by far the most prominent and vocal of the attackers. 

So, interesting choice for an organization dedicated to viewpoint diversity and free speech in the academy, but Nadine Strossen, former ACLU president and a member of the HxA Advisory Council tells us, “A scholar and educator as distinguished as John Tomasi will greatly enhance the effectiveness of HxA, and therefore of universities,” so who am I to argue?

Well, okay, I got a quibble or two with the latter part of that statement, the stuff about universities. I think it is important that we understand that whatever Heterodox Academy is, it is funded by the same people who also fund Tucker Carlson’s Daily CallerThe FederalistTurning Point, and Prager U. among others as reported earlier this year by Judd Legum and Tensim Zekeria.

Is this guilt by association? Only if you think being associated with these groups is something to feel guilty about. And you know what? I do. I honestly think it’s a problem when people are funded by the organizations that are actively undermining our democratic processes by, for example, fueling bogus “election audits.” I also think people who fund organizations that are moving to ban the 1619 Project from K-12 classrooms do not share broadly accepted educational values around free inquiry.

Read entire article at Inside Higher Ed