First came withering hoots of laughter when the honchos of George Mason University named their law school the Antonin Scalia School Of Law — or ASSOL, for short. It was an honor Scalia might’ve merited, but very embarrassing for the university.
Even though administrators quickly changed the name to the Scalia Law School, their embarrassment turned into shame. It turns out they’d sold the naming rights to none other than Charles Koch, a multibillionaire right-wing extremist.
For years, Koch and other moneyed corporatists have quietly pumped millions into pseudo-academic centers on college campuses to promote their laissez-faire ideology, including a handful at George Mason itself.
But here was Virginia’s largest public university letting the infamous Koch brother and another un-named right-winger give $30 million in exchange for branding George Mason’s law school — one of the university’s core academic institutions — with Scalia’s name.
Students and faculty rebelled at the idea that
the integrity of their university, supposedly a center of enlightenment and erudition, was to be identified with a judge notorious for veering into racist and homophobic rants, and for being the Supreme Court’s most obsequious servant of plutocratic corporate rule.
Rebellion turned to fury when it came out that the ‘donation’ also required school officials to commit taxpayer money to finance 12 new professorships and two new centers to promote the Koch brothers’ fantasies of free-market plutocracy.
The university’s president calls this perfidious transaction a simple ‘naming gift.’ But who is he to put the name of the people’s law school up for sale? And why was it sold in a secret, no-bid process?
Koch wasn’t making a gift. He was buying a public asset — including the university’s integrity.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.
For billionaire donors, academic integrity comes cheap