Charles Koch Pressured Wichita State Univ. To Let Ivanka Speak At Commencement
Koch Industries, owned by “billionaire libertarian oil magnate Charles Koch,” reportedly threatened to withdraw its financial support from Wichita State University after the school scrapped plans to have President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, headline the virtual commencement address, according to the New Yorker.
- Students and faculty opposed the address due to the President’s response to the protests occurring in the U.S. over George Floyd’s death.
- In an attempt to compromise, the university demoted Ivanka “to being one in a menu of choices during the ceremony, on June 6th.”
This move angered some of the university’s financial supporters.
- Steve Clark, a corporate booster of the school, called for the university’s president, Jay Golden, to be fired and “warned that Koch Industries and other major corporate donors… were ‘very upset and quite vocal in their decisions to disavow any further support.’”
- Clark said he received this information from a conversation with Koch Industries’ chief financial officer, Steve Feilmeier: “He advised me he’s resigning . . . from any further association with the University. He is also advising that Koch Industries rescind all their financial support for programs at the University they’ve previously funded.”
- Koch Industries denies that Clark’s claims were true, but said in a statement that “[they] object to speaker disinvitations”: “Limiting access to unpopular speakers, viewpoints, and scholarship doesn’t protect students, it cuts off the chance to engage, debate, and criticize.”
Many students such as Amira Coleman, a senior at W.S.U. rallied support behind Golden and argued that donors like Koch Industries are actually the ones limiting freedom of speech by trying to pressure the school.
“Ivanka’s speech is still available for anyone who wants to watch it. They just didn’t want it to be the headliner. It was a compromise, yet the donors said they wanted to pull their donations. It was not an act of censorship. It was a shift of focus from Ivanka to the needs of the black community here. And now the president is getting punished for listening to the students here. That’s sad.”