Is FIU’s Adam Smith Center really non-partisan?

Students hold a flyer for The Adam Smith Center’s Spring 2023 Senior Leadership Fellows Study Groups. Photo credit: Adam Smith Center’s Instagram.

Alexandra Howard | Staff Writer

For being named after the father of economics, FIU’s Adam Smith Center reveals more of a political stance than expected – and it’s been discreetly hiding under people’s noses.

FIU students have likely received emails during the spring semester advertising exclusive classes with a quad of highly-ranked guest speakers. In large letters, noticeably bigger than the speakers’ actual names, stated titles like ‘former president’ to describe the political figures’ backgrounds.

It’s impressive that FIU has equipped these prominent figures in politics to be instructors. But I fear many students haven’t researched their backgrounds or why the center itself is involved in conservative politics.

There is nothing wrong with having conservative figures teach about their economic roles in their respective countries. But as left-leaning or non-partisan speakers barely appear in the lineup, it poses a question. Is our university taking the time to find more politically diverse speakers besides right-leaning ones?

Former Vice President Mike Pence held a book tour event at the Adam Smith Center and they have also co-hosted events with conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and its transition organization, Project 2025.

However, among the instructors, Fawzia Koofi is one of the only leaders who was not involved in politically conservative affairs. 

“Exclusively inviting [right-leaning] guest speakers to voice their opinions and experiences onto a very diverse campus will limit student’s voices, involvement and learning,” said Sol Lopez, a psychology student at FIU. 

In terms of promoting diversity, the Adam Smith Center’s Founding Director Carlos Díaz-Rosillo was reportedly hesitant in bringing guest speakers with opposing views to the center.

A lack of differing political perspectives in economics might form narrow-minded learning for students. It poses a more significant problem since some of those speakers are infamous for their controversial political careers.

Kiron Skinner, policy planning director for the Trump administration, was fired for her “abusive” professional behaviors. She allegedly used homophobic language, yelled in public spaces, evicted people from their offices and accused people of having affairs.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, ex-president Alvaro Uribe Vélez led an administration “riddled with secret wiretapping, corruption, blatant support of right-wing paramilitaries and severe human rights abuses.”

Though, it does not stop with the speakers. Some of the Adam Smith Center’s staff has been riddled with controversial, right-leaning politicians. 

Mauricio Macri, former president of Argentina, joined the center’s staff Oct. 2021 while under federal investigation for espionage charges. On top of that, the Curriculum Coordinator, Monica Colucci, was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and wanted to “oppose Critical Race Theory and other extreme liberal agendas that harm our kids” in her campaign.

In fact, the Adam Smith Center was made by DeSantis in July 2020. Earlier this month, state legislators granted the center the power to hire faculty, create a curriculum and fundraise.

“Seeing this center gain so much funding while explicitly catering to the right not only angers me, but also makes me fear for the school’s reputation down the line,” said Abigail Soriano, double majoring in sociology and political science. “FIU has always been a place emphasizing diversity, equity and inclusion. By promoting a center that claims to be neutral and yet is clearly biased, our school as a whole can suffer because the research put out will be skewed and yet promoted as truth.”

The Adam Smith Center continues to promote itself as “FIU’s non-partisan think tank that aims to inspire current and future leaders to develop meaningful policies to advance individual freedom and human prosperity.” 

With the center soon to be a permanent school with majors, minors, tracks, independent classes and certificates, FIU is breaking students’ expectations of promoting neutrality and political diversity by mostly inviting conservative speakers.

“By acting as a college within FIU and having its own major tracks, the political neutrality of the university can be compromised,” said Marian Balceiro, an economics and international relations student. “An institute that invites speakers like former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe who has been investigated for multiple human rights abuses is not one of the things SIPA needs.”

FIU’s Adam Smith Center, and its founding director, should realize that students need diversity and non-partisanship in every classroom. Without those qualities, students might leave every lecture with a bias, which jeopardizes democratic stability and the ability to learn about culturally different, global economics in the long run. More so, if those leaders are morally controversial.

Inviting conservative guest speakers is not wrong, as long as there is a mix of other individuals with neutral or opposing political views. Otherwise, it might lead to students lacking a well-rounded learning experience and the fall of FIU being a top-research university simply due to economic bias.

The Adam Smith Center needs to stay true to their non-partisanship.


The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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