The University of Missouri faces a multi-million dollar lawsuit for allegedly not adhering to the requirements of a conservative donor’s gift.
In 2002, financier Sherlock Hibbs gave the school $5 million with the proviso that the money “fund six professorships at the Trulaske College of Business to be filled by ‘dedicated and articulate disciple[s] of the Ludwig von Mises (Austrian) School of Economics.’”
According to RealClear Politics, to enforce his wishes Hibbs had Mizzou certify every four years “to the satisfaction” of Hillsdale College that it was in compliance. If it was deemed Mizzou had breached the agreement, the remaining monies would go to Hillsdale.
As per his will, the noted economist von Mises bequeathed his personal library to Hillsdale.
According to former Missouri governor (and Mizzou graduate) Jay Nixon, “Missouri University never embraced Mr. Hibbs’ intent, and consequently students aren’t getting the exposure to intellectual philosophies necessary for broad-based education.” Nixon is leading Hillsdale’s lawsuit.
The smoking gun for Nixon’s claim comes in the form of internal Mizzou documents obtained during the discovery process. According to handwritten notes from a February 2003 meeting, Brady Deaton, then university provost (and future chancellor), expressed concerns that acceding to Hibbs’ request would consign the school to being “held hostage by a particular ideology.” Emails from Bruce Walker, then dean of Trulaske, suggest that administrators sought a way around Hibbs’ stipulation by simply recasting descriptions of existing faculty members. Walker emailed colleagues in March 2006, reporting that because “the Austrian School of Economics is quite controversial … [w]e didn’t want to wade into that controversy, so we focused on some Austrian tenets that are compatible with what we do in our business school.” Walker noted that he had made five of the six appointments endowed by Hibbs “all internal for financial and faculty-retention reasons,” only conducting an outside search for one position. The lawsuit argues that no “disciple” of Austrian economics was ever hired.
Correspondence in April 2006 adds more fuel to the fire: During the review process, Walker noted those hired under the endowment may need to “swallow hard” about “attesting to the ‘dedicated and articulate disciple’ part” of the (review) certification letter.
Steve Horwitz, former secretary of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, told RealClear Politics that “with virtual certainty” none of those who signed the letter “were ever members of the society.”
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