Students protest on campus against $3.5M Charles Koch Foundation Grant given to MTSU

Photo and story by Megan Cole / Assistant News Editor 

A group of students involved with MT Solidarity gathered outside of the James E. Walker Library on Thursday to protest the $3.5 million Charles Koch Foundation Grant that was given to the university last year.

Dalton Winfree, a senior studying commercial songwriting and philosophy, helped organize the protest.

“Whenever the Charles Koch Foundation gives a donation, it’s always with strings attached,” Winfree said. “It’s an infiltration of private interest on a public university, so it’s a private interest influencing our education.”

The grant was given to the university to launch the MTSU Political Economy Research Institute, which protesters have claimed will push the agenda of the Koch Foundation. The institute is a joint venture of Jennings A. Jones College of Business and the University Honors College, and its mission is “to engage undergraduate and graduate students with faculty in research that will further the understanding of business and economic principles.”

They carried signs that displayed messages against the foundation, such as “YOU KNOW WHAT’S SCARY? P.E.R.I.,” “KOCH BUSTERS” and “UN-KOCH OUR CAMPUS.”

One of the organizers explained that the theme of the protest was “Kochbusters,” similar to the popular movie “Ghostbusters” because it is timely to Halloween.

A participating protester gave her opinion as to why it was important for students to protest this political agenda.

Nichole Adams, a junior studying social work said, “The Charles Koch Foundation is just attempting to privatize education and leverage public universities like the one we attend and universities to further their far-right libertarian agenda.”

Students said that they believe that the grant is dangerous for the university because the Koch Foundation will bring in speakers and things affiliated to the Koch family. The Koch family has provided grants for over 300 colleges and the foundation remains one of the largest in the United States.

“We’re here today because we believe in protecting public education, academic freedom and academic principles over private interests of billionaire corporations,” Adams said.

Janecia Gales, a junior studying journalism, joined the group because the actions of the foundation directly affect her education at MTSU.

“Their main goal is to push and make it instead of a public institution they’re trying to make it private so if they make it private then they’re not going to accept anymore Tennessee grants or loans or Pell grants, which means half of the students wouldn’t be here,” Gales said. “I am one of those students. I am here based off of my Pell grant and my loans, and if they do this then I wouldn’t be able to be here and that’s not fair.”

Gales was upset because she believes that it is important for all students to have the opportunity to receive higher education.

“Everybody deserves an education, everybody deserves a chance to better their lives,” Gales said.  

To contact News Editor Caleb Revill, email

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