MTA calls for disclosure of higher ed donor agreements

MTA calls for disclosure of higher ed donor agreements

Intent is to keep colleges and universities academically independent of the influence of foundations

The MTA is calling for full public disclosure of agreements made between donors and public institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth.

At the 2018 Annual Meeting of Delegates, educators approved a new business item directing the association to publicize the need for transparency on donor agreements when foundations, centers and other education programs are funded at colleges and universities.

“Public disclosure is essential to the public trust,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy. “When colleges and universities allow corporations and private donors to call the shots, academic research and the hiring process can be heavily compromised.”

The MTA believes that keeping colleges and universities academically independent of the influence of foundations such as the ones run by the Koch brothers is imperative. Some watchdog websites — such as and — include information about the ties between large donors and academic institutions, but the MTA believes a comprehensive public list is needed.

“We strongly believe the state should keep all of this information in one place and make it readily available, Secrecy and privatization are taking a toll on our public colleges and universities, and that should not be tolerated.”

MTA Vice President Max Page

A message addressing the issue is being sent to members of the Board of Higher Education and the UMass Board of Trustees.

Private agreements between institutions of higher education and donors were thrust into the spotlight last year when it was disclosed that George Mason University, a public research university in Northern Virginia, had ties with the Charles Koch Foundation that did not meet the university’s own standards for academic independence.

Between 2003 and 2011, the university accepted funding that supported faculty positions and research, especially in economics. A review by The Washington Post showed that in some cases, committees that helped select professors “included members designated by a donor.”

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have poured millions of dollars into universities across the nation. GMU has been one of the largest recipients of Koch largesse, collecting $48 million from 2011 to 2014, according to The Associated Press. In 2016 the Koch Foundation gave $10 million to rename George Mason’s law school in memory of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died that year.

A handful of Massachusetts institutions are included among the Koch Foundation’s list of colleges that have received money. They include Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UMass Amherst, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke University.

“The members of the MTA believe that maintaining the integrity of our universities and colleges should be paramount. That integrity is put at great risk when donor agreements allow influence by the donors.”

MTA President Marrie Najimy

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