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Over 10,000 Christians petition Boston College to reject Koch grant

More than 10,080 Christians have signed a petition urging officials at the Jesuit university to reject a potential donation from the Koch Foundation toward the school's political science department.

In this Saturday, June 29, 2019, file photograph, Charles Koch, chief executive officer of Koch Industries, is shown at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

BOSTON (RNS) — More than 10,080 Christians have signed a petition urging officials at Boston College to reject a potential donation from the Koch Foundation toward the Jesuit university’s political science department.

The online Christian social justice organization Faithful America submitted the signatures to school administrators Thursday (Dec. 12), arguing that accepting money from the libertarian multibillionaire Koch family is “completely antithetical to BC’s Jesuit ideals.”

“Koch Industries is among the country’s biggest climate polluters,” the petition argues. “Its leaders, billionaires Charles Koch and his late brother David, have spent their fortune electing climate deniers, fighting labor unions, and pushing America towards the right — not the values a Christian school should stand for.”

The political science department’s proposal, which has not yet been finalized and submitted to the Koch Foundation, did not indicate how much funding is being requested.

The new donation would fund research for the political science department’s “New Perspectives on U.S. Grand Strategy and Great Power Politics” initiative.

“As a former BC department head and Jesuit educated alum, I regret that you would take money from a company that has spent billions to raise doubt on the impact of fossil fuel on climate,” said Donald Mikes of Scituate, Massachusetts, who signed the petition and has formerly served as the school’s director of University Audio-Visual Services. “Would you take tobacco money, too? What happened to your ethics?”

Students participate in a rally outside the O’Neill Library at Boston College that was organized Nov. 14, 2019 by Climate Justice for Boston College and other campus groups against the administration’s acceptance of Koch Foundation funding. RNS photo by Aysha Khan

The Faithful American petition was also signed by John McDargh, who currently teaches at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

“I have been proud and grateful for the opportunity to teach in the theology (department) of BC for 40 years,” McDargh said. “To take money from the Koch enterprise feels antithetical to the values that have informed generations of students who have been challenged to be women and men ‘for others’ and ‘with others’ — not the political agenda of the Koch Foundation.”

RELATED: Boston College students and faculty push to reject Koch funding — and Koch values

As previously reported by RNS, the proposal has received strong condemnation from faculty and students within the university. More than 1,050 students and other BC community members signed a separate petition, which is being delivered to the university’s administration Friday (Dec. 13), denouncing the grant.

“Students are heartened to see external support in opposition to the Koch donation,” the students behind the Freedom Over Funding petition told Religion News Service. “Student voices are integral, but outside pressure is only fueling our fire! … Our university should consider whether the Koch foundation is truly making this donation in the interest of serving others or for their own self interest.”

This week, the school’s international studies academic advisory board voted not to participate in the Koch-funded program, which proposed a five-year joint hire between the political science department and the international studies program.

A group of professors from multiple departments, calling itself Faculty for Justice, has also moved against the grant. And a campus rally against the grant drew some 150 community members last month.

Students at the university also reached out to UnKoch My Campus, a national non-profit pushing for transparency and ethics in donations to higher educational institutions, to support their campaign. The organization is also working with a number of other Catholic institutions, including Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University, College of the Holy Cross and Catholic University of America, to disaffiliate from Koch funding or stop proposed Koch-funded projects.

Boston College did not respond to a request for comment after the Faithful America petition was submitted. In November, ahead of the campus rally, university representatives told Religion News Service that the program was “well-supported” by political science faculty.

“Faculty advocates view the proposal as a means of funding an important research topic,” Jack Dunn, a university spokesman, told RNS last month. “They have confirmed with colleagues at Notre Dame, Georgetown and MIT — all of which receive Koch funding — that the foundation has not infringed on their research or academic integrity in any way. Exploring a source of funding should not be construed as an endorsement of the politics of the Koch brothers.”