Friday, March 4, 2011

Selling Your Soul [Updated]

The students today are very critical of the role of businesses in the academic world--that there are strings that come with the money.  I have often criticized these folks because they tend to pay less for their education and want smaller classes.  Since states/provinces are not going to increase their support for higher education (even if this is the smartest investment [yes, this is extremely self-serving]), where would the money come from?  From corporations?

The news of the week makes it hard to object to the students, with the London School of Economics selling its reputation by taking cash in exchange for tying itself to Qaddafi.  But not all corporate giving is as tainted as money from Qaddafi.  Indeed, most cash from businesses is not as tied to such things as plagiarism, dictators and the like.  This is an extreme end of the spectrum, which suggests we need to be careful and vigilant.  But we live in the real world, despite our mythology of ivory towers, and that means that money matters.  Buildings, administration, and, yes, professors cost money.  It seems like everyone else (governments, students) does not want to pay.  I am not going to work for free.  Indeed, I am getting increasingly expensive, so some of the costs will be picked up by donations, and who has the cash for donations?  Rich folks.  Just the way it is.

So, we can and should condemn LSE for going too far in the pursuit of money--we can make choices within the constraints we face--but we cannot expect universities to reject all sources of cash that are not from governments.

Update: For an extended discussion of this train wreck, see here.

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