UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow funded by Koch brothers donation in 2016

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UC Berkeley is listed as the recipient of a $63,200 donation for “general operating support” from the Charles Koch Foundation, according to the foundation’s latest public tax filings, which were released on its website Friday.

The tax form, which shows all the foundation’s expenses from 2016, listed hundreds of universities as recipients of the Charles Koch Foundation’s grants and contributions. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley received a one-time $58,200 donation from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2016.

The gift, Mogulof said, was specifically designated to support the work of a postdoctoral fellow in the classics department who applied for the funds. The postdoctoral student worked under campus classics professor John Ferrari, according to classics department chair Ellen Oliensis.

Ferrari did not disclose the identity of the postdoctoral fellow who received the donation. According to Ferrari, the research that received the funding was focused on Plato’s feminism.

“The student argued that (the 4th century B.C.E. philosopher) Plato was a thoroughgoing feminist, well ahead of his time,” Ferrari said in an email.

The foundation is one of several associated with American billionaires Charles and David Koch, commonly referred to as the Koch brothers. The brothers, who are among some of the richest people in the world, are known for their large contributions to conservative and libertarian political organizations.

In the past, the Koch brothers have contributed funding to the campaigns of politicians who are against climate change legislation and limits on fossil fuel use.

The Charles Koch Foundation specifically funds research and education, according to its website. According to the Atlantic, the Koch brothers believe political success can be fostered by spreading libertarian ideas through think tanks and universities.

A spokesperson for the Charles Koch Foundation could not be reached for comment as of press time.

UCLA was also the recipient of a $158,534 contribution from the foundation, listed on the foundation’s tax form as “general operating support.” UCLA and UC Berkeley are the only UC schools listed on the form.

Mogulof said he does not know why there is a $5,000 difference between the donation amount listed on the foundation’s tax form and the campus’s documentation of the gift amount.

“We checked and have no idea,” Mogulof said in an email.

Oliensis added that she thought it seemed odd that the foundation’s tax form lists the purpose of the donation as “general operating support,” when a postdoctoral fellow specifically applied for the funds to help their research.

“The discrepancy is weird,” Oliensis said in an email. “This (money) was requested and used for the support of a postdoc (not “general operating support”). The difference in (dollar) amount seems less weird to me … an upward adjustment to cover some expense like moving, for example.”

Contact Olivia Nouriani at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @olivianouriani.