In response to news that the billionaire Koch brothers now have a hand in hiring certain FSU professors, the liberal-leaning activist group Progress Florida has unveiled a campaign aimed at stopping what they say is “an unprecedented assault on academic freedom.”

In an e-mail sent out today, Progress Florida called on supporters to sign a petition to FSU President Eric Barron, urging him to “cancel this outrageous deal with the Kochs and protect academic freedom.”

A foundation bankrolled by Charles Koch, one half of the notoriously anti-regulation Koch brothers, has pledged $1.5 million for a program that promotes free enterprise. The foundation has a hand in screening new hires for the program, to which it gave a $1.5 million donation.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, David W. Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences, defended the deal, saying that it would have been “irresponsible not to do it.” According to Rasmussen, the donation, and subsequent hiring of two Koch foundation-approved professors will allow the school to offer eight additional courses a year.

From the e-mail, titled “Does FSU=For Sale University?”:

The Koch’s move to control a part of FSU’s economics department is bigger than FSU. For years, right wing billionaires like the Kochs have funded scores of front groups and think tanks to advance their radical agenda. Now they want to use the cover of a public university in an attempt to give their failed ideas more credibility with the public. They can’t win the battle of ideas in a fair fight, so they’re suppressing academic freedom to get their way. Florida State’s preposterous arrangement with Charles Koch opens the door to a slippery slope of pay-to-play control over our universities and should not go unchallenged.

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