Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

TMCF Boss: Nothing Political about $26M Gift from Koch Brothers

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

TMCF Boss: Nothing Political about $26M Gift from Koch Brothers

Article excerpt

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund recently announced the launch of the Center for Advancing Opportunity, which is supported by a $26 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries. Though eyebrows are likely to be raised due to Charles and David Koch's support of conservative politicians and causes, TMCF President and CEO Johnny Taylor emphasizes that the new center will focus on nonpolitical issues facing "fragile" communities.

"None of this is about politics," says Taylor, emphasizing that the new center will be focused on three areas of importance for disadvantaged communities--improving education, criminal justice reform and entrepreneurship. According to Taylor, these foci "transcend political affiliation."

"We could have said political science... That's not what this is about."

The new center will provide undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and grants to faculty working to establish university-based research centers focused on challenges facing "fragile" communities.

In addition, the center will partner with longtime TMCF supporter Gallup to capture the sentiments on the ground of the communities the center will be focusing on.

What Gallup will be able to do for us "is to be able to say with a real level of confidence that this is good research. If they say this is what people are thinking in these communities, this is exactly what they're thinking," Taylor adds.

"We support the Harvards, and the Chicagos and the Stanfords," says Dr. John Hardin, director of university relations at the Charles Koch Foundation. "But it's important that those other voices be represented, voices from the communities themselves... That's why for us this is a real exciting opportunity to support the exciting things that HBCUs are doing and what TMCF is doing."

The $25 million gift UNCF received from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries in 2014 ignited a storm of controversy due to the Koch brothers' support for conservative causes. …

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