The Adam Smith Center: FIU’s newly certified college with an increasingly apparent political stance

Adam Smith Center’s panel hosting Fall 2022 Leadership Fellow. From left to right, Ava Rossana Guevara, Iván Duque Márquez, Carlos Díaz-Rosillo, and Paula Dobriansky | Diego Diaz, PantherNOW

Diego Diaz | Asst. News Director  

It’s been a historic year for FIU’s fast-growing Adam Smith Center for Economics.

Just in Spring 2023, the political economy think-tank enrolled its fourth grouping of Senior Leadership Fellows, including two former Latin American head-of-states, and co-hosted this year’s eighth annual Hemispheric Security Conference.

What had once begun as a budding, non-accredited think tank championing individual prosperity and “economic freedom” now finds itself at the intersection of conservative Latin American and domestic politics.

Most recently has been the institution’s central role in the recently passed Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 266. While most coverage surrounding the bill has focused on its targeting of curriculums and gutting of faculty hiring power, the bill also reconceptualizes the Adam Smith Center away from a non-accredited research institution to that of a college within FIU. 

“The third layer to this higher education restructuring is the creation of institutes like the Adam Smith Center, which would be granted the power to compete with existing social science curriculum,” said Ronald Cox, professor of international relations and politics. 

Under the new legislation, the center would develop its own major and minor tracks, certificates, and honors courses independent from FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs. As such the center would exist as another college in FIU.

PantherNOW reached out to the center and Founding Director Carlos Díaz-Rosillo for interviews but received no response after several emails by the time of publication. 

Moreover, thanks to this new status and SB 266’s reworking of the hiring process, founding director Carlos Díaz-Rosillo may be delegated hiring authority by President Kenneth A. Jessel.

This is especially pertinent, considering the faculty response to Díaz-Rosillo’s 2019 position as a top three candidate to replace then-retiring SIPA Dean John F. Stacks.

“This is the same person who somehow ended up on a list of finalists for SIPA dean, despite overwhelming faculty objection,” said Cox.   

Fellow Professor of Politics and International Relations Thomas Breslin also detailed his hesitation towards Díaz-Rosillo earlier this year in an interview with PantherNOW, emphasizing Díaz-Rosillo’s inexperience regarding academic research and administration. 

“He was presenting himself as having been a dean at Harvard… he was dean of a dormitory,” said Breslin. “I mean, it is a serious responsibility, you have to look out for their welfare, but it’s not academically serious.”

However, more disconcerting for Breslin was Díaz-Rosillo’s comments about hosting opposing perspectives. He recalled Díaz-Rosillo displaying some trepidation about having a diverse group of speakers regularly hosted at the center. 

“If he’s telling me that the people he takes on are going to have to speak, in general, to a certain dogma or doctrine, then he’s not talking about academic freedom,” said Breslin. 

It would appear to be borne out in the senior members inducted to the center, with only five of the 14 members associated with non-conservative political parties. 

Spring 2023 marks the Adam Smith Center’s open support for Republican domestic policy, though prior activity indicated underlying political partiality. 

The institute hosted former U.S. vice president Mike Pence during his book tour Jan. 27, as well as co-hosting events with the notable conservative think tank, the presidential transition project Project 2025, and their parent organization, Heritage Foundation, and their presidential transition project, April 17 and 11, respectively. 

Project 2025’s stated goal, is to “rescue the country from the grip of the radical Left,” and takes heavy influence from the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership,” a grouping of policy recommendations that had influenced 64 percent of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy prescriptions.

However, even within its increasing ties to the U.S. conservative political sphere, Díaz-Rosillo continues to use the same refrain for introducing the center.

“The Adam Smith Center for economic freedom is a world-class independent, non-partisan think tank that aims to inform, influence and inspire current and future leaders to develop and implement innovative meaningful and effective policies to advance economic and individual freedom and human prosperity,” said Díaz-Rosillo before introducing Mike Pence, Jan. 27.  

Beyond the proportionality of political thought, the center has also had a knack for hiring controversial Latin American politicians, such as recent Spring 2023 inductee, former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Colombian state prosecutors are still investigating Uribe over the alleged bribing of a right-wing paramilitary witness, with the former head of state suspected of pressuring the witness to modify statements tying Uribe to the creation of paramilitary organizations accused of committing massacres. 

Notably, Uribe Vélez resigned from the senate during the investigation, causing the cases which had begun initially in Colombia’s Supreme Court to be transferred to the country’s attorney general. 

Critics have argued the move was influenced by the Attorney General’s close relationship with Uribe Vélez ally, and fellow Adam Smith senior fellow, Iván Duque Márquez.

This controversial political history has yet to be addressed by the center of Uribe Vélez’s time as a fellow, even while confronted by a disruptive protestor during the April 18 “The Threat to Democracy and Free Markets in the Western Hemisphere” event. 

“We caught a visitor influenced by the radical left of Colombia,” said Uribe Vélez, using the protestor’s refusal to debate as a vindication of his innocence. 

The event would also serve as an example highlighting the increasingly open political positions advocated for by the center. 

During the seven-hour event, there was no mention of El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele’s ever-increasing authoritarianism or the Jan. 8 capital riots in Brazil following the failed reelection of right winger former president Jair Bolsonaro.  

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