Ivanka Trump and Charles Koch Fuel a Cancel-Culture Clash at Wichita State - 2020-06-11
A showdown over who rules America's college campuses came to a head in Kansas on Wednesday, in a clash that might be called Cancel Culture vs. the Big Donors. It began last week, when a technical college affiliated with Wichita State University scrapped plans for a virtual commencement address by Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, in a bow to student and faculty criticism of the President's response to the nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing. On Twitter, Ivanka blamed "cancel culture," calling it "antithetical to academia." In a compromise brokered by the university, Ivanka's remarks, instead of headlining the event, were demoted to being one in a menu of choices during the ceremony, on June 6th. If they wished, students could click on a link and see her dressed for the occasion, in a regal white sheath and turquoise earrings and brooch, as she addressed them as "wartime" graduates.
The approach of Wichita State University's president, Jay Golden, won praise from students and faculty members who had circulated petitions opposing the address. But the decision roiled the school's conservative corporate donors, including, reportedly, the billionaire libertarian oil magnate Charles Koch, the owner of Koch Industries, the largest company in Wichita and one of the two largest private companies in the country. According to the Wichita Eagle, Koch Industries threatened to withdraw its financial support for the university; its basketball arena bears Koch's name. The newspaper's story cited a letter, sent to the Kansas Board of Regents, by another corporate booster of the school, Steve Clark, which called for Golden to be fired and warned that Koch Industries and other major corporate donors—including Dan Carney, the founder of Pizza Hut—were "very upset and quite vocal in their decisions to disavow any further support."
In his letter, according to the Eagle, Clark described a conversation that he'd had with Koch Industries' chief financial officer, Steve Feilmeier, the chair of a fund-raising campaign for a new business building on campus. "He advised me he's resigning . . . from any further association with the University," Clark reportedly wrote. "He is also advising that Koch Industries rescind all their financial support for programs at the University they've previously funded." In an interview, Clark told the Eagle, "We had Koch in the fold. Now we're going to lose them, and they'll never be back." To avoid risking the loss of millions of dollars in financial support for the university, Clark called on the Board of Regents to fire Golden.