Dear Students, Faculty Staff, Alumni and Friends,
I think that I speak for many alumni when I express concern at the outsized power David Koch enjoys legislatively and culturally at Deerfield Academy today, in light of his appointment to an unprecedented lifetime position on the Board of Trustees.
David Koch co-owns with his brother, Charles, Koch Industries, a conglomerate with subsidiaries in mineral extraction, refining, lumber and paper, finance, and ranching. According to a 2010 study by the University of Massachusetts, KI is one of the ten largest air polluters in the United States. They have paid many settlements for illegal environmental pollution, including $35 million for 300 alleged oil spills in the state of Texas between 1990 and 1997. At the same time, they have hedged their bets by spending millions lobbying to roll back environmental regulations.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from 2005 to 2008 Koch industries outspent Exxon-Mobil lobbying against climate legislation and campaigning to discredit scientific evidence for climate change—$24.9 million to $8.9 million.
Americans for Prosperity a political advocacy organization chaired by David Koch, served as a financial and organizational bulwark of the Tea Party from its inception, and contributed generously to Tea Party candidates in the last midterm and presidential elections. FreedomWorks, another Koch non-profit that was part of AFP under a previous name, lobbies against financial and environmental regulation in Washington, policy positions that obviously benefit the Kochs’ corporate interests.
When the National Institute of Health (NIH) was preparing to classify formaldehyde—a chemical produced in large quantities by the Koch subsidiary, Georgia Pacific—as a carcinogen, David Koch used a position he then held on the NIH’s Board of Trustees to attempt to block the measure. At the same time a crucial NIH report linking formaldehyde to cancer was held up in Congress by, among others, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who had received large campaign contributions from the Kochs. After David Koch finished his term on the board of NIH in 2011, the NIH finally listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen.
Knowing what we know about David Koch, are we, the Deerfield Community, comfortable with granting him such decisive influence, for as long as he wants it, over Deerfield’s admissions policy, hiring and firing, curriculum, long-range planning, and the other matters the Board oversees? Are we confident that he won’t abuse this position as he did his trusteeship at the NIH? Can faculty, staff, and students feel free to speak their minds about the Kochs or about the issues on which the Kochs have strong public positions if David Koch has direct influence over their future careers at the Academy? People looking from the outside can only assume that the environment of intellectual freedom at Deerfield is now compromised by the immense power we have blithely ceded to this notorious bully.
As an alumnus with a great deal invested in Deerfield’s reputation and future, I see it as highly imprudent and imprescient to associate ourselves so publicly and uncritically with a man who is infamous for the detriment to public health his businesses have caused with environmental pollution in open contempt of environmental regulations, for his role in manipulating science and discourse about climate change, and for bankrolling the Tea Party which promotes an anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti- regulatory and anti-intellectual agenda on the national political stage—views repugnant to most educated Americans, including most Deerfield alumni, students and families of prospective students.
This letter will have succeeded if it is succeeded by another. Speak out!
Joshua Krugman ’09