Dwight B. Billings, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky and former President of the Appalachian Studies Association, published the following letter to the editor in the Lexington Herald-Leader in response to the university’s recent decision to accept Koch brothers’ money to establish the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise:
I am dismayed that the University of Kentucky has accepted $12 million from John Schnatter and the right-wing Koch Foundation to create a new Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise. I am concerned that ideology, rather than free and genuinely critical inquiry, will prevail despite assurances to the contrary.
I don’t believe UK really needs extra money for this endeavor. Apparently, the Gatton College is already doing a good job of promoting free enterprise.
If it sincerely wants to show what free enterprise is all about, all it needs to do is offer field trips to Eastern Kentucky. Here, the coal industry has brought us thousands of mining deaths and injuries, a wanton disregard for safety and human well-being, black-lung disease, union busting and worker intimidation, mountaintop removal, environmental devastation, a mounting health crisis for populations exposed to toxic streams and wells, political corruption, persistent poverty and climate-change denial.
That’s what free enterprise looks like.
If UK is as concerned about serving its students and the commonwealth as it proclaims, why not seek funding to better support Gatton’s Poverty Research Center and create new institutes for economic justice, labor studies and human rights?