Corporatization of Universities, Gone Berserk

All too often these days I open the newspaper and become quickly convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket.  But this little snippet (April 14, a Bloomberg story) really got my goat:

The University of North Carolina (which was a reputable institution, the last I checked) has accepted a $1 million donation from BB&T Corporation (an investment bank), that came with one tiny strong attached:

The University must agree that Ayn Rand’s libertarian novel, Atlas Shrugged, will be required reading for UNC business students.  Apparently two other universities (Marshall University in WV and Johnson C. Smith University, also in NC) signed similar deals.

Corporate funding of universities is lamentable and insidious, and always carries an implied sacrifice of true independence.  But this is nauseating.

Worse yet, the Bloomberg story on this hardly even touched the tip of the ethical iceberg that this type of arrangement creates.  The main debate is over whether or not Rand’s writing is truly worthy of unversity-level inquiry (“Rand could not write her way out of a paper bag,” scofs one English prof contacted by the reporter for comment).  No-one even asks if it’s appropriate for corporations to be dictating curriculum on the basis of their paltry, incomplete donations.

What billionaire will endow a university to teach business students Marx, Keynes, Kalecki, or Minsky?  (Some might actually want to learn about Minsky, I suppose — to guide their short trading strategies.)

Excuse me now while I go and throw up.


  • janfromthebruce

    Reminds me of Munk and Univer of Toronto. From the G & M article, his $ is spent in a way that he also controls the ‘message.’

    “The debates will be affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for International Studies, an institution to which he has given more than $11-million, helping it win worldwide recognition as a leader in the field.’
    ‘An unabashed political conservative, he bristles at the thought of his cash being doled out by “left-wing bureaucrats” once he’s gone. “I think the money should be spent in front of the founder. Otherwise it becomes a bureaucratic thing and loses the excitement. Furthermore, I love being involved. Isn’t that half the fun?” he asks with a characteristic gleam in his eye.’

    We use to call them rober barons.

  • Phillip Huggan

    I didn’t mind it.
    For the record, the main character is raped in the book and this is considered okay. Smoking cigarettes is celebrated in the book and A.Rand died of lung cancer. The most likely way those business school grads will go bankrupt is via medical bills.
    There is a 200 page A.Rand novel identical to the 1100 page tome, minus the rape. At 1100 pages this libertopian plug genuinely takes away from some business education.
    What is the business aspect of this book?! A railroad line is nationalized in Mexico, that’s it. The author escaped the USSR but is attacking mixed economies rather than Stalinistic ones. I, like the students eventually, should’ve read the middle chapters of Securities Analysis instead.

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