Op-ed: GW must sever ties with the Regulatory Studies Center

Sophomore Archie Gallivan and freshman Andy Liaupsin are members of Sunrise GW.

Revolution is a theme of our cultural moment. If we do not put down the sassy picket signs and begin to destroy evil and oppression, this momentum will devolve into platitudes.

We at GW are sitting on a golden egg. We have the chance to take part in reshaping our society because there are systems around us that are broken. This includes, but is not limited to, the Regulatory Studies Center, a research institution operated by GW. The RSC hides behind a facade of bipartisanship and objectivity. But its misleading name stands for little more than a profit-motivated charade, condemning our planet to certain ruin.

Yet for some, this is cause for celebration. Earlier this month, the RSC commemorated its 10th anniversary with a lengthy panel. Speakers present included professors from GW, New York University, D.C. think tanks and U.S. senators. Notably absent were the center’s shadowy financiers like the notorious Charles Koch, ExxonMobil and various right-wing foundations. The source of the RSC’s funding should be enough for anyone to recognize the right-wing bias that characterizes its regulatory policy, but its track record provides further proof. Public Citizen revealed that in a stunning 96 percent of the public comments that the RSC has submitted to the federal government, it has called for deregulation. One hundred percent of public comments describe policies that would lead to less regulation in the future.

This would not be a problem if the RSC stood alone, but unfortunately, it has influence. Its influence in President Donald Trump’s pro-big business and anti-environmental platform is blatant. The catastrophe of the Trump EPA has direct ties to George Washington University, and we, the students, cannot be content to sit idly by.

And we are taking names.

RSC founder and director Susan Dudley has a pernicious record. Her leadership is marred by a philosophy of “free-market environmentalism,” a school of thought notably devoid of science. Dudley is a Koch crony and veteran of pushing their anti-regulatory agenda of climate crime, having done so in at least eight organizations that have received Koch money.

It is imperative that climate activists start to make things personal. Gone are the days where climate criminals can hide behind the innocuous name of their place of employment. Decisions to harm the environment are not made by organizations, they are made by people.

Koch called in the mid-1970s for “support of free-market scholars” and “the development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy.” To enact this strategy, Koch’s chief political aide told allies that the best option was financing “an organization associated with a university that can tap its resources and reputation but still be primarily answerable to the donor.” For these university programs, the aide reportedly said, “it would be necessary to use ambiguous and misleading names, obscure the true agenda, and conceal the means of control.”

If it was not clear, the aforementioned organization describes the RSC. The University has proven time and time again that morality is not its guiding principle – profit is. And in this case, GW has compromised any moral high ground. GW instead solidified itself as being on the wrong side of history. It may be too late to salvage the University’s reputation, but it is not too late to end the perpetuation of their continued injustice.

An op-ed in defense of the RSC argued that no one in the RSC denies climate change, but frankly, it is a moot point. Acceptance of science is worthless if an organization is actively contributing to the climate crisis. Another argument raised is the lack of evidence pointing toward direct influence from funders. Where is the evidence to the contrary? The actions of the RSC point directly toward an institution beholden to its corporate donors. It is not simply a coincidence that 96 percent of its publications argue for deregulation.

The professors suggest that readers spend time on the RSC website. We do as well. Looking at their work and what they stand for should speak for itself and reveal the true nature of the RSC – a group devoted to advocating for deregulation and fighting against environmentalist causes.

In a recent video, University President Thomas LeBlanc defends the existence of the RSC as a product of “academic freedom.” In a vacuum, this argument stands. However, academic freedom and academic integrity are two separate things. The University is asking, “is it okay to do this?” when the question should be, “is it right to do this?” Academic integrity is not the intentional spread of misinformation. Academic integrity is the disclosing of all funding and internal finances, a basic task the RSC refuses to comply with.

In the video, President LeBlanc stated that “if something really bad was going on” in the RSC, he would take action. We call on LeBlanc to take the initiative to see if something “really bad” is going on. He owes the students a full investigation into every aspect of the RSC’s finances. The RSC is shrouded in too much mystery.

We ask the University to either close the RSC or sever any ties binding the University to the organization. Otherwise, the RSC must publicly disclose all aspects of its financial operations, motivation and anti-regulatory agenda. We, as the student body, will see to it that our time, money and future are not tied up in a university that co-signs and funds the most severe crisis humanity has ever faced.

GW diplomas aren’t worth much without a planet.

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