FAIRFAX, Va. — A judge is weighing whether to force a Virginia university’s philanthropic arm to disclose details of its relationship with the conservative Charles Koch Foundation.
The foundation gives tens of millions of dollars annually to universities all over the country, but no school has received more Koch money than Fairfax-based George Mason University, which has gained a reputation as a conservative powerhouse in law and free-market economic thought.
A student-led group, Transparent GMU, has been seeking details of the school’s donor agreements with the foundation. Some students are concerned the Koch money comes with strings attached.
The trial began Tuesday in Fairfax. It centers on whether the George Mason University Foundation, a separate corporate entity from the university itself, is subject to the state’s freedom-of-information laws.
Samantha Parsons, a former GMU student who for years has been active in raising concerns about the Koch Foundation’s influence, said awareness among the student body has increased tenfold since 2016, when the school named its law school for conservative jurist Antonin Scalia in conjunction with a $10 million Koch Foundation donation.
University officials have said in the past that receipt of Koch funds does not influence how or what the school teaches.