University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education Paperback – 22 Aug 2006
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Professor Emeritus of History
California State University, Northridge
I graduated from the University of Southern California and had a sense that something was amiss in the university system. Back then, I saw a university that catered strongly to the football program and felt like I was getting the scraps. The football program brought in the money and with the latest successes some immeasurable advertising.
However, there was an uneasy truce of advancing education and earning money. A university gets all excited about a new corporate sponsor giving millions to a department. But what if the corporate sponsor stipulates that the money be spent on research for the advancement of the sponsor's own products? Or that any breakthroughs from the research would be considered the assets of the sponsor's? And what happens when a professor mentoring graduate students is an owner of a private company?
In the former scenario, the research would have a STRONG affinity toward saying something positive about the sponsor's product. What department would say something bad about their sponsor even if research says so? There's statistics that would be some bias. In the second scenario, the spirit of research/education in a university environment is stymied and looks more like competing departments in a business or competing businesses. Instead of open sharing of ideas at the local coffeehouse, students are making fake notes to disguise their research from each other. In the final scenario, we may have a professor who only supports a thesis that supports his stock portfolio.
I recommend the book for anyone who is in the process of higher education or thinking of going in that direction. It could turn your head. There's a whole lot of research and data in this book that began to numb my brain. I give the book 4 stars because it was difficult to read - perhaps more because of the revelation of the corruption of higher education. It will make a lot of you sick.
The author, Jennifer Washburn, explains that historically universities have always placed great importance on academic freedom. Now, with the lust for money, research universities are becoming more like corporations and sometimes invest the university's own endowment into ventures where the university is attempting to profit on its own research. There is a blurring of the lines between business and academic independence.
There is a tension between teaching and research at universities. Teaching has been downsized with more resources going into research.
There is a need for much more stringent conflict-of-interest rules. Unfortunately, some professors have their own business ventures on the side and are bleeding research results into the business ventures.
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