The Arizona State Legislature and ASU leadership should prioritize resources for the progressive institutions that exist at the University, not the Koch and conservative state Legislature-backed School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.
This is especially important because of escalating attacks on public education and the attached bigoted fervor spearheaded by calls to ban books and remove school curricula that don't reflect conservative views of how society should be.
SCETL debuted at ASU in Spring 2017, and it absorbed two Koch-brother-funded institutions previously under the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
SCETL's proponents have labeled the school as an addition to diverse thought that exists on campus, but its critics have had issues with its secretive establishment and Koch-backed institutions.
READ MORE: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership fights national criticism
It is also funded by the conservative Arizona State Legislature, although whether it continues to receive that funding is up in the air, as Gov. Katie Hobbs may attempt to remove its funding from being earmarked specifically for the school.
If the earmarked funding is removed, the University will still receive that money, but will be allowed to allocate it wherever it chooses, which could still be toward SCETL.
In fiscal year 2023, SCETL received a budget allocation of $5,804,100 and will have just over $9 million available in total. With all that money, the school only served 735 of the 142,616 students enrolled at ASU in Fall 2022.
What a shame it would be if SCETL's funds weren't directed toward its important societal contributions. If it didn't receive its funding, then it wouldn't be able to pay for a $200,000 copy of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations or trips to Sedona and India! One can imagine the positive experience a student or professor who can barely afford housing must have when they flip open the dusty pages of Smith's writings.
Yeah – it's shameful.
More importantly, around the country, public education and marginalized people are under attack. Not only are books being banned in K-12 schools, but state legislatures are restricting colleges and K-12 schools from providing studies about gender and race.
"As a Black man, most of the books that I've seen or heard of being banned always have to do with the Civil Rights Movement or something to do with slavery, and it's like, to me, I don't understand, why are you restricting knowledge?" said Kendrick Adams, a junior studying criminology.
The same legislatures and governors leading these attacks are also attacking the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender people.
The Arizona State Legislature and the Koch brothers are no exception. The Legislature has repeatedly promoted anti-LGBTQ+ bills, and the Koch brothers have funded anti-LGBTQ+ institutions and politicians.
So, how can one say that SCETL, a Koch-backed, Arizona State Legislature-funded institution deserves any legitimization from ASU?
It doesn't, and to continue its existence at a University that claims to be defined by who it includes and not who it excludes, isn't just a contradiction; it's the not-so-tacit promotion of American conservatism and the hate it advances.
Yet, there are institutions at ASU that promote diversity and progressive thought. The School of Social Transformation and the School of International Letters and Cultures are each great examples.
SCETL funding would be put toward the well-being of the ASU community if it was taken from SCETL and invested in the progressive and inclusive institutions that do exist at ASU.
It's not an unimaginable thought, with Hobbs potentially creating an opportunity for the "freedom school" budgets to be spent elsewhere.
ASU students and faculty should demand SCETL funding is moved to other institutions that actually promote the stated University values, and the University's leadership should support initiatives to remove earmarks for SCETL funding.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com and follow @StigileAaron on Twitter.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.