CARY NELSON

The Corporate University

Cary Nelson

 

From Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt, Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education (Routledge, 1999).


     THE CURRENT FEAR that universities are coming to resemble corporations has roots that go back several decades. Hand in hand with the dramatic postwar expansion of higher education——not only in the number of colleges founded but also in the size of many public universities——went a significant rise in paperwork, administrative oversight, and bureaucratic impersonality. The organizational intimacy of a small college gave way to the administrative complexity of managing 30,000 or 50,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff. Universities began to feel like government agencies. There were some compensatory moves, to be sure, including decentralization in major areas of department life, but the flow of reports, requests, and directives still saturated academic life with bureaucratic effects.
     Research universities were also becoming steadily more entangled with and dependent on the federal government. The cold war inflated Defense Department budgets, and Defense Department planners turned to faculty members to carry out an expanding program of research. Contracts were signed with the Pentagon, various units of the armed services, and with the Central Intelligence Agency. There might be a demonic bottom line, but often it was at some remove. Notoriously, the Navy reportedly funded research in dolphin intelligence and communication in part because it wanted eventually to see if these bright mammals could deliver an explosive charge to an enemy ship. The CIA funded research on AIDS epidemic modeling in Africa, in part to see if governments might be destabilized and if opportunities for intervention would arise.
     Yet often enough a faculty member could ignore an agency's darker purposes. Government-sponsored research was a model of how to purchase faculty time and energy in a package designed to take advantage of faculty skill at rationalization. One of us can still vividly remember a Defense Department-funded political scientist in the mid-1980s gushing about what an open-minded, even visionary sponsor the Pentagon was. "They're not just financing weapons development. They're interested in long-term basic research. These are imaginative people." Indeed, and nothing like swarms of research assistants, rooms full of equipment, and a full one-third annual salary supplement to instill belief in military idealism.
     There were moments of resistance——such as the heroic and successful effort spear-headed by physicists to discredit "star wars" research——but mostly the trends went the other way. Although many government agencies sponsored excellent independent research, the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about in the late 1950s within a few years encompassed part of higher education as well. Not long after that, campuses erupted in protests against the Vietnam War. By the late 1960s university participation in the research and development of the modern war machine lost all consensual grounds for rationalization. An unjust, undeclared, and pointlessly deadly war made campus military research and academic involvement with the defense industry morally abhorrent. When the makers of Napalm arrived on campus to recruit new graduates, the red carpets were occupied with protestors. Yet when the war finally ended, many government/corporate/campus links were still in place.
     The 1970s saw further increases in government grants and in the federal regulation of higher education. Accounting for federal funds and justifying indirect costs meant more campus surveillance of budgets, more reporting to administrators. But in the next decade the funding balance would begin to shift to industry. Corporations in the Reagan years began to purchase faculty research time, and Reagan-era legislation facilitated corporate/university partnerships. It was often cheaper for a corporation to buy faculty time than to hire staff and operate a lab on its own. What's more, university research added an air of prestige and objectivity to corporate projects. By the early 1980s reporters were starting to write stories about the buying and selling of higher education in corporate boardrooms.
     As early as 1982, historian David Noble could write in the Nation that "the control over science by scientists——the hallmark of the postwar pattern——is increasingly becoming the control over science by the science-based corporations that scientists serve and sometimes own or direct" (3). Six years later, in The New Politics of Science, David Dickson noted a still more fundamental ideological shift, arguing a new understanding of scientists' fundamental social responsibility: "the need to help private corporations achieve their economic and political objectives" (104). As Cheryl B. Leggon argues, "since the mid-1980s pressure has increased in Congress to shift national attention away from basic science and toward science with technological applications able to bolster declining American economic competitiveness" (223).
     These may seem like exaggerated claims to some, particularly to scientists who prefer their prestige untarnished, especially since serious resistance to corporate ideology is still widespread in higher education. Numerous small colleges remain devoted to traditional liberal arts disciplines more concerned with knowledge and understanding than profit. Thousands of research scientists continue to investigate basic principles of life, matter, and energy with no easily imaginable short-term payoff. And even though the occasional administrator or engineering professor in a competitive research university may think the philosophy department is expendable, few institutions are ready to eliminate central humanities disciplines on behalf of instrumental instruction.
     Yet this attenuated optimism neglects the combined effects of all the trends we have noted. Further, if the actual coordinated corporate purchase of whole institutions remains extremely rare, the effective purchase of individual labs or even entire departments' research functions has become common. Some labs as a result have become simple extensions of corporations. In other cases, whole departments have much of their research agenda set by one or more corporations. When the profit available from contract research becomes a department's main priority, then prestige and rewards flow to the department members bringing in the money. As institutions become more broadly addicted to the corporate profit pipeline, their whole raison d'être begins to shift. Profit-making departments become the first priority for institutional resources, and the profit-making function within those departments begins to dominate their other activities, from student recruitment to faculty hiring to curriculum design. "Excellence," that ambiguous, hyperbolic concept aptly analyzed by Bill Readings, gradually becomes conflated with profitability.
     Most faculty in disciplines outside the corporate university loop have no idea what such relationships actually entail, let alone how thoroughly degraded a corporate-owned university program can become. The risks need to be stated with unvarnished clarity, for corporatization at its worst really is the devil's bargain for academia. Those departments that reach the nadir of corporatization abandon all their intellectual functions.
     A corporatized department can become the academic equivalent of a truck weighing station on an interstate highway. If that seems impossible, let me give the standard pattern. The devil's bargain is struck for many programs when they abandon their program of original research in favor of a corporate-directed plan. Some departments then begin shifting their time and energy away from research entirely. Toward teaching? Toward community outreach? Hardly. They become product-testing labs. The most thoroughly degraded corporatized university program is one that no longer does any original thinking; it simply tests products developed elsewhere by the corporation.
     There are now entire programs in higher education devoted to product testing. We have difficulty thinking of them as academic units at all, but they have offices, staffs, budgets, resources, and even tenured faculty. Some are called departments. We have some difficulty, for example, thinking of the Psychiatry Department at the University of Cincinnati as an academic unit. Its "research" is primarily drug testing for pharmaceutical companies. Cincinnati does not develop, invent, or discover the drugs. The drug companies do that. The Psychiatry Department just tests them. Yale's Psychiatry Department has now decided it shouldn't miss a good thing; it opened a clinical trials unit in partnership with Scirex late in 1997. Elsewhere across the country there are agriculture programs that concentrate on testing pesticides designed by chemical companies. And so forth. Every faculty member on such campuses should be concerned about the consequences.
     When faculty are criticized for doing contract drug testing, they have a stock response: would you rather have the drug companies or universities testing their products? The question is aimed at a self-evident, common sense answer, based on an assumption about faculty independence, prestige, and integrity. Unfortunately, university researchers are as corruptible as any other human beings. When they are being well paid by the companies whose products they are testing, bias, temptation, or self-deception are endemic. If actual fraud is very rare indeed, shading interpretable results in favor of an employer (and in one's own financial interests) is relatively common, especially in nonmedical research. The companies meanwhile do their best to co-opt these saints of the laboratory, offering stock options, bonuses, and future contracts.
     As federal funding for research——with its system of peer reviewing and greater independence——is replaced with corporate funding, the pressure for scholars to turn themselves into company public relations personnel increases. Indeed, it is not just income but job security and advancement that are at stake. A faculty member's record at obtaining grants or contracts can be a decisive component in a tenure or promotion decision. Keeping Sears or Goodyear or R.J. Reynolds or Smith, Kline, and French happy can make or break your career.
     It can also break your budget. At the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications, managers seek corporate partners who gain a degree of exclusivity in a particular research area once a joint contract is signed. The corporations have limited horizons and often want to initiate and complete a project in a year or two. The university's horizon is usually much wider; it wants to develop a research area over time by hiring faculty, admitting graduate students, and making a long-term commitment. But the corporations want rapid results. The university wants to keep its business partners happy, so it tries to achieve profitable outcomes quickly. That frequently means hiring new graduate assistants or shifting personnel from elsewhere to respond to changing needs for a rapidly developing project. There never seems to be time to renegotiate the contracts fast enough to have the corporation pick up the new unanticipated expenses. So the university puts its own money into the corporation's research. Of course the university is already paying accountants, managers, secretaries, and contact negotiators out of its own pocket. As it plans new faculty lines, the campus inevitably looks to areas where corporations are interested in funding joint ventures. So when business contacts showed interest in electronic commerce, NCSA approached the College of Commerce to see about hiring new faculty in that area. The university as a result gets to expand its enterprise in certain areas, but not without paying a price. The corporation gets more than it pays for, and the university pays for more than it gets. Sometimes courses in art, music, philosophy, or literature are cannibalized to get money to pay for corporate research.
     Yet institutional inducements to take on genuinely profitable contract assignments can be still more powerful, for the amounts of money involved are staggering. That's why Duke University has built a 166,000-square-foot building dedicated to international clinical trials. University medical centers have become increasingly dependent on drug and medical device testing income to run their operations. Columbia University and the New York and Presbyterian hospital earned over $25 million in 1998 conducting trials. The University of Rochester will probably have topped $20-million; as Blumenstyk and Wheeler report, they aim to please:
     Rochester keeps the priorities of drug companies in mind . . . viewing these companies as its own customers . . . . It offers the services of a new, $140,000 drug-packaging and labeling plant . . . . And, more controversially, it pays an outside, for-profit institutional review board to approve scientists' plans for research . . . the company convenes panels of scientists, ministers, and laymen and pays them a stipend. The panels meet once a day, instead of the once-a-month schedule that is the norm at universities.[i]

     As Harvard University's David Blumenthal notes in the same article, "what we're watching is the industrialization of clinical research." The experience of contracting out its services makes it easier for a university to contract for its service needs. The focus on profit-making enterprises makes university culture accustomed to keeping its costs as low as possible. Many corporations over the last decade and longer have devoted themselves to paying employees as little as possible. Increasingly, universities follow the same practice in many job categories, including most of their instructional work force. As Christopher Newfield writes, "financial control tends to view labor as a cost, as a site of potential savings," rather than as a resource to be valued and nurtured. In contract research units that do no original research the emphasis in faculty hiring can shift from seeking people who will make intellectual contributions to looking for people who will serve the product testing machine. When faculty members from more traditional units review these people for tenure, they are compelled to honor the hiring unit's debased business values. Administrators making campus-wide budget decisions may be tempted to give a high priority to their profitable units. Their "faculty" will receive salary rewards, while those who simply "cost money" may not.
     We are faced, then, with several overlapping meanings for the notion of "the corporate university":
1) universities that perform contract services for corporations.
2) universities that form financial partnerships with corporations.
3) universities that design curricula and degree programs to serve corporate hiring needs.
4) universities that condone corporate influence over curriculum and program development by accepting corporate funded programs, fellowships, and faculty lines.
5) universities that adopt profit-oriented corporate values.
6) universities that adopt corporate style management and accounting techniques.
7) universities that effectively sell portions of their enterprise to corporations.
8) universities that sell faculty or staff time to corporations.
9) universities whose faculty members are co-opted by corporations that hire them as high-paid consultants and fund their research.
10) universities that engage corporations to market the products of faculty/staff labor.
11) universities that instill corporate culture in their students and staff.
12) universities whose top level of governance——boards of regents or trustees——is dominated by executive officers of corporations.

     Unfortunately, the project of both conceptualizing and confronting the corporate university necessitates dealing with all these forms of corporatization. Their penetration of university culture has, of course, been immensely enhanced and intensified by the higher education budget crisis of the last three decades. Although the effects of the crisis have been differential, that is, selective, unequal and ideologically targeted, the crisis has also transformed university culture as a whole. As Newfield writes, the prolonged crisis has meant that "budgeting becomes the fundamental governing principle of the university as a whole . . . finance controls the discussion, decides who is asking for too much, who is unreasonable, and when the discussion is over . . . . Budget crisis becomes budget governance" (49). "From this perspective," he argues, "better means cheaper, growth means restriction, productivity means discipline, knowledge means regulation" (48). Gary Rhoades and Sheila Slaughter describe the consequences: "the discourse of executive administrators in higher education has been marked by a corporate `language of alterations.' Colleges and universities are (pick your phrase) streamlining, downsizing, repositioning, reengineering, and restructuring. Academic programs are being merged, reduced, and reorganized. Faculty are, depending on one's rhetorical sensibilities, being retrenched, laid off, riffed, or reallocated" (17).
     What many faculty do not realize, however, is that the "crisis" has been partly manufactured and certainly magnified by administrative determination to redistribute and reinvest university funds. At the University of Illinois, a vast 20-year building program for grant or profit-oriented disciplines has been only partially funded by private donations and capital investment by the state. An additional $10,000,000 has come from selectively decommissioning faculty lines or restricting salary increases. Nor do we mean "building" metaphorically. We have been in the construction business for two decades and have eviscerated the humanities and the arts to fund the start-up and operating costs for new buildings. Aggressive capitalist initiatives on campus have thus been funded out of the salaries of less profitable disciplines and by the exploitation of lower-grade workers.
     Many other campuses have seen comparable building programs become a priority. And they come with a whole interconnected web of increased costs. When an industrial "partnership" produces a new campus building, or an industrial park springs up nearby——with patent, royalty, and research costs shared and negotiated between the university and industry——consequences ripple through the institution. New categories of administrators and managers emerge to oversee the arrangements. New staff are hired to do the work. And the supposedly consensual basis of the university's mission makes a basic shift without full faculty consultation.
     The corporatization of the university has been facilitated by a fundamental shift of power on campus——away from faculty and toward managers and administrators. At the same time as faculty have lost authority over the institution's goals, it has also come to have less and less knowledge of what the institution is actually doing. Faculty knowledge of budget issues has always been limited, but an institution devoted primarily to instruction and basic research has a fairly clear shared mission whose budgetary implications are relatively transparent. A corporate university acquires complex financial entanglements about which most faculty know absolutely nothing. As the managers come to know more, they assume they also know what's best.
     The institutional "cost" of cutting faculty out of the budgetary loop will only grow. The more financially ignorant faculty are, the less they can intervene intelligently and the more managers will want to keep them uninformed. Through the 1970s faculty ignorance about finances was considered a privilege. Administrators would order the paper clips, and faculty would be protected from the petty distraction of budgeting and accounting. But now finances are reshaping the university's mission, and whole new classes of expenditures have arisen. Financial secrecy in the corporate university eviscerates any notion of shared governance. Meanwhile, the relentless outsourcing, casualizing, temping, and segmenting of campus labor makes the traditional fiction of benign administrative "protection" ludicrously inapplicable. Exploited labor is not protected by its ignorance.
     As a first step in shifting the balance of knowledge, faculty at all institutions should insist on making salaries a matter of public record. Most public institutions are required to do so, though summer salaries may remain unpublished. But private universities often maintain almost complete secrecy about compensation. That practice should end. Faculty need to know not only the salaries paid to faculty and administrators in all departments, but also the wages paid graduate employees, part-timers, and cafeteria workers. Otherwise they are not only kept blind to the financial consequences of disciplinarity and to the injustice of increasing salary polarization, but also kept ignorant of the labor exploitation carried out in their names. The second step would be to introduce open budgeting throughout the institution. It would have to be accompanied by major efforts to educate faculty, but it is the only way to bring meaningful consultation and consensus to corporatization.
     Merely asking for open budgeting will not, of course, produce it. In the corporate university it is especially important that faculty develop their own independent sources of knowledge and structures for influence. A faculty senate too often has input without impact. Unions traditionally hire someone to do their "corporate research," to gather information about corporate finances, investments, budgets, and decision making. Whether unionized or not, faculty and graduate students need someone doing their corporate research as well. Faculty at public institutions should also hire their own lobbyist to represent their interests to the legislature and coordinate faculty/legislative interactions. A lobbyist at the state capitol often has several clients, so the cost is not prohibitive. Even faculties without collective bargaining can form organizations to research institutional finances and lobby.
     The results of open budgeting can be surprising. Indeed the knowledge and insight obtained that way is the one great benefit of the spread of the accounting mentality. Perhaps the greatest revelation is that the purportedly profit-making units may not be turning a profit at all. RCM, or responsibility centered management, for example, is an accounting and budgeting method with both risks and benefits. It redefines "income" to encompass both grants and tuition income raised by the number of students enrolled in courses. At Illinois, as a report presented to the Faculty Senate demonstrated, a large humanities department like English turns out in that way to run a large profit overall, whereas units like the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture run at a loss.
     Agriculture especially brings in significant grant money, but has relatively few students, so it generates little tuition income. Its grant receipts and tuition revenue are not enough to cover faculty/staff salaries. At the University of Illinois, then, the College of Agriculture consequently has to be heavily supported by state appropriations and by tuition income produced by departments like English. Putting both tuition and grants on the table together gives the lie to the prestige of profit. In fact, setting aside costs for building construction and maintenance, as well as contract services paid for directly by outside businesses, it turns out that less than 5% of the cost of teaching and research at the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is supported by state funds, whereas two thirds of Agriculture's funding comes from the state.
     There is a dark side to the profit equation in undergraduate instruction. My own teaching, like that of other senior faculty, loses rather than earns money, because my salary exceeds the revenue generated by the students paying tuition in my classes. Assistant professors turn a slight profit, a few thousand dollars per class, but the big profit margin comes from graduate student and part-time teachers. Subtracting graduate employee wages from tuition revenue, my department earns a profit for the university of about $8,000 for each freshman composition class taught (enrollment: 22 students each class) and about $15,000 for each introductory literature or film class taught by a graduate employee (enrollment: 36 students for each class). We offer about 150 sections of freshman rhetoric a year and about 100 sections of other introductory courses. So the yearly profit on freshman rhetoric is about $1,200,000, and the profit on introductory courses is about $1,500,000.
     Illinois pays English department graduate student teachers about $3,000 per course. Institutions that pay their graduate teachers less, as many do, or that rely on lower-paid part-timers (often with PhDs), earn still more. The University of Cincinnati pays its part-time composition teachers roughly $1,400 per course, enrolling 26 students in a composition class and 45 or more students in other introductory courses. The profit is about $15,000 for a composition class and $27,000 for each larger class. There is obviously tremendous institutional incentive to maintain reliance on lower-paid teachers. To be sure, it is not just the finances of individual departments but rather the finances of the whole university and finally the entire higher education system that are grounded in labor exploitation.
     Factoring in overhead does reduce the profit margins but does not eliminate them. The accounting mentality embodied in the corporate university does, however, produce some Kafkaesque moments. The surveiling budgetary gaze seeks to quantify everything. So the equation factors in space requirements. My department worries whether our generously wide nineteenth-century hallways will do us in. And debiting departments for space usage adds an incentive to proletarianize adjunct faculty by further crowding them into common offices. How much space does a professor really need? I took an ancient unremodeled office with linoleum scraps on the floor and rusted metal shelves, rather than a spiffy new office, because the old one gives me more space for my books and papers, but the RCM formula doesn't deduct for shabby decorating and upkeep. So I am an expensive space consumer. There it is. I am reminded of this from time to time.
     Meanwhile, across my own College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are numerous departments generating substantial tuition revenue, among them English, History, Math, and Spanish. Some science departments bring in grants while serving numerous students. As a whole LAS earns money while Agriculture loses money; we pay for ourselves, while Agriculture has to be subsidized. On the other hand, putting all forms of income squarely on the table does put some small units in jeopardy. The Classics department has no comfortable way of generating anything much in the income column, or so it thinks. Its one effort at drawing students——a large course in Greek myths where the instructor came in wearing a toga every week and went into a trance to predict college football scores——became something of a scandal. So small units that don't feed the money machine start looking vulnerable. The accountants are also looking for a way to quantify quality. Page counts of total faculty publications? Word counts? We await the next memo.
     For corporatization is here to stay. It cannot be stopped, but it can be shaped and, where appropriate, resisted. At its worst, corporatization strips the faculty of its intellectual independence, impoverishes the teaching staff and diminishes its dignity and academic freedom, and deprives students of appropriate intellectual challenges. "No curriculum," writes San Diego State University faculty member James Wood, "should be dictated by corporations."
     Wood voices thereby an anxiety that would have been incomprehensible but a generation ago. Then came corporate donors who put their names on buildings and faculty positions. Such corporate professorships include the Boeing Company Chair in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology, the Coca-Cola Professors of Marketing at both the University of Arizona and the University of Georgia, the La Quinta Motor Inns Professor of Business at the University of Texas, the Taco Bell Distinguished Professor of Hotel and Restaurant Administration at Washington State University, the Kmart Professor of Marketing at Wayne State University, the McLamore/Burger King Chair at the University of Miami, the Lego Professor of Learning Research and the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, the Federal Express Chair of information-management systems at the University of Memphis, the General Mills Chair of Cereal Chemistry and Technology at the University of Minnesota, the Coral Petroleum Industries Chair in renewable-energy resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the LaRoche Industries Chair in Chemical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Ralston-Purina endowed professorship in small-animal nutrition at the University of Missouri at Columbia, the Merck Company Chair in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Sears Roebuck Chair in retail marketing at Marquette University, and several corporate funded chairs at UCLA: the Allstate Chair in Finance and Insurance, the Nippon Sheet Glass Company Chair in Materials Science, the Hughes Aircraft Company Chair in Manufacturing Engineering, and the Rockwell International Chair of Engineering. As Julianne Basinger reports, MIT has an astonishing sixty-nine corporate funded chairs, while Stanford so far has but twenty-two. We may add to these about a hundred "free enterprise" chaired professorships across the country, sometimes named after a company, sometimes named after a businessman donor, sometimes named after a conservative business-funded foundation. We have the Gerken Professor of Enterprise and Society at the University of California at Irvine, the Goodyear Professorship of Free Enterprise at Kent State, the Scott L. Probasco Professor of Free Enterprise in Tennessee, and the Mastercard International Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Virginia. The right-wing Olin Foundation has endowed professorships at a dozen universities.
     Some of these corporations are no longer satisfied with their logo on a professor's forehead. In an interview with Basinger, J. Patrick Kelly, the holder of the Kmart Chair, spoke proudly of saving the company money with his research and summarized its view of its investment in higher education: "Kmart's attitude has always been `What did we get from you this year?'" United Parcel Service carried on negotiations with the University of Washington not only to endow a professorship but also to name the chair's holder. Their choice just happened to be one Stanley Bigos, whose research suggested that "psychosocial factors" like "life distress" outweighed working conditions as causes of back injury claims. Good news for UPS, whose package lifting employees claim back injuries with some regularity. In the end, as Robert Cwitklik reported in the Wall Street Journal, negotiations collapsed, but not because the university resisted UPS's demand to name the chair holder. In 1998 the California State University system faced a potential corporate partnership that might have led to much broader pressures about course offerings and faculty hiring until protests forced its cancellation.
     Corporate funding can readily turn a purported faculty researcher into a shameless corporate flack. As Lawrence Soley reports in Leasing the Ivory Tower, more than half the country's business professors receive extra income from corporate consulting. Consulting income of several hundred thousand dollars a year is not uncommon. Soley tells numerous stories of faculty members tailoring both research and court testimony to business interests, among them University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Florida State University business professors who happily testified for tobacco companies in the 1980s and 1990s, asserting that cigarette advertising did not entice people to smoke. They went on to publish pro-tobacco articles or op-ed pieces without mentioning their substantial tobacco company income.
     Even apparently more innocent forms of corporate sponsorship can be compromising. Thus another harbinger of ethical compromise at the corporate university in the 1990s, one that has sparked student activism on such campuses as the Universities of Arizona and North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the contracts athletic associations at over three dozen schools have signed with Nike, Reebok, and other manufacturers of athletic shoes and apparel. North Carolina, a longtime powerhouse in college basketball that has recently developed a highly successful Division One football program as well, signed a five-year, $7.1 million contract with Nike. While seven million dollars is comparative peanuts to what Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods will earn from their contracts with Nike, university administrators nonetheless found it irresistible. Interviewed by ESPN for its investigation "Made in Vietnam: The American Sneaker Controversy," Michael Hooker, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina, said he couldn't discern any difference between the university's contract with Nike and that with any other vendor.
     Hooker was responding to questions about Nike's employment--and that of other companies like Reebok--of some 500,000 workers in Indonesia, China, and Vietnam at wages as low as twenty-three cents an hour. Vietnamese workers, some 80 to 90% of whom are young women between the ages of 16 and 28, earn little more than the minimum wage of $40/month, work at times with hazardous glues and solvents, and sometimes suffer physical abuse from their supervisors. The impact on the shoe company's profits? Exploited labor limits the direct cost of a pair of $68.00 shoes to only $1.60. Further, while employees in China are provided with meals and what passes for housing (12 workers sleeping in one room) as part of their compensation package, workers in Vietnam, in the best tradition of company towns, must pay the company back for meals and accommodations on-site (Saporito 52). What does it say about the ethos of the corporate university that administrators see no particular problem with entering into long-term contractual relations with such companies? Does it matter that the name of the university appears right next to the Nike swoosh on the chests of varsity athletes? Should the athletic program be a billboard for big business?
     To gauge how deeply the ravages of the corporate university can penetrate higher education, we should look to proprietary schools run narrowly and explicitly for profit. These schools now command only 2% of the education dollar, but they could easily control 20% in a generation, which would be a massive shift in the culture of higher education. They are sure to go after some of the more profitable higher education sectors. "For-Profit Higher Education Sees Booming Enrollments and Revenues" reads a 1998 headline in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The sub-head adds: "Companies find that they can raise millions on Wall Street to finance ambitious expansions."
     The most obvious place for investment is in distance learning. In Canada an industrial consortium embracing Bell Canada, GTE subsidiary MPR Teltech, IBM, Kodak, McGraw-Hill, Microsoft, Nortel, Novasys, Prentice-Hall, Rogers Cablesystems, and Unitel is collaborating to develop a virtual university software platform. UCLA's Home Education Network, a university-sponsored for-profit corporation formed in conjunction with private businesses like the Times Mirror Company, is devoted to selling Internet-based distance learning. Until several corporations withdrew in response to campus protests and the initiative was abandoned, the embattled California Educational Initiative, or CETI, sought a 10-year partnership between all campuses of the California State University system and Fujitsu, GTE, Hughes Electronics, and Microsoft to do the same. With these and other initiatives under way, how could college administrators not start thinking of faculty expertise as commodified and marketable? How could they not think of courses primarily as products, research results not as discoveries but as patentable commodities? As David Noble writes in "Digital Diploma Mills," "the major change to befall the universities over the last two decades has been the identification of the campus as a significant site of capital accumulation, a change in social perception which has resulted in the systemic conversion of intellectual property into intellectual capital and, hence, intellectual property."
     But corporations are insinuating themselves elsewhere in higher education as well. One place corporatization is now firmly entrenched is in university foundations, which regularly set fund raising priorities without consulting faculty and without announcing them thereafter. Business departments have thereby amassed huge endowments that are not visible to the campus as a whole. Corporate supported programs thus get richer and richer, and everyone else loses relative support. All fund raising should have built-in mechanisms for sharing income with other units. A ruthlessly capitalist accumulation of wealth should be unacceptable in campus culture.
     Although it is bizarre to have to make the argument, it must be said: faculty must try once again to occupy the center of their institutions; they must stand up for independent work everywhere on campus. To do so, faculty must be full-time and tenured. Governance and counter-governance cannot be exercised without job security and real power. Corporate university managers without actual experience in teaching and research have little understanding of the value full-time faculty add to an institution. Part-timers are more malleable, more inclined to take orders without questioning them. The accounting mentality that likes to segment labor and quantify all tasks, then hire people as cheaply as possible to perform them, is uneasy with the deeper institutional commitment full-time faculty are able to make.
     As Noble reports again in "Digital Diploma Mills," the massive academic/corporate consortium Educom, representing 600 universities and 100 private corporations, has recently established the Learning Infrastructure Initiative, "which includes the detailed study of what professors do, breaking the faculty job down in classic Tayloristic fashion into discrete tasks, and determining what parts can be automated or outsourced. Educom believes that course design, lectures, and even evaluation can all be standardized, mechanized, and consigned to outside commercial vendors." The corporate university clearly needs informed dissent; it needs it from all staff members, and only a principled core of tenured faculty can protect the free speech of all involved. At many institutions that principled core must include distinguished researchers, who are sometimes the only people with enough cultural capital to be able to stand up to the administration. Without full university citizenship for its faculty, higher education will put at risk the very competitive edge it already has in global markets. For part of that edge is grounded in unquantifiable quality, in the search for knowledge without regard to its financial benefits.
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See "Between Crisis and Opportunity," AMERICA'S FAST FOOD DISCIPLINE, CAFETERIAS, DISTANCE LEARNING, DOWNSIZING, OUTSOURCING, RESPONSIBILITY CENTERED MANAGEMENT and other essays in Academic Keywords.




[i]. Confidence in Rochester's integrity is not enhanced by knowledge of their long history of ethically compromised medical and biological research. As A.S. Zaidi points out, their current corporate relationships come at the end of half a century of amoral service to government and industry. The founding years of the Rochester story are perhaps 1945-46, when eleven people were secretly injected with soluble plutonium-239 during a post- World War II radiation experiment carried out for the Atomic Energy Commission at Rochester. During the same period of time from 1-3 truckloads of radioactive rats and rat feces were irresponsibly buried on the outskirts of the Rochester campus. Mary Jean Connell, secretly injected with enriched uranium during a 1946 stay in Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital, won a $400,000 settlement half a century later. As Michael Wentzel reported, that same year, 1996, saw the death of 19-year-old UR sophomore Hoi Yan "Nicole" Wan during a medical experiment at Strong, after UR researchers administered four times the maximum dosage of lidocaine the UR had established in 1981. And 1996 also saw widely criticized animal researcher Ron Wood hired at Rochester, despite his earlier research being cited by the Department of Agriculture for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act.