Lesson Learned: How Corporate America Infringes on Academic Freedom
Never before in our history have private and public bodies been so knotted together. In the past, it was normal to see political in-fighting and ideological struggles between public institutions, particularly government and higher education. In many ways, this is what kept our nation steady, never moving too far to the right nor the left. There are special times in our history when this hasn’t rang true; the era of McCarthyism, and the turbulent sixties are two that come to mind, but the nation and the public institutions which have provided it with guidance have always managed to find their place again and serve those who are dependent on the composure of these bodies. The implications of this fact, particularly with regard to academic freedom and freedom of learning are dire.
Our modern times are witnessing a kind of symbiotic relationship which is shaping higher education in ways which will likely steer that historical fight into a territory which is uncharted. This relationship, which can be broadly stated as the merger of private corporations with governing committees within public institutions of government and education, is leading to the loss of higher education freedom faculty employed throughout are more or less used to operating under.
The calamity of the recession we still live in has led to an emergence of two hard facts: One, the U.S. government (and its states) was forced to take on unprecedented levels of debt which eventually lesson its ability to fund institutions that provide, in many ways, the spark which keeps our modern economy rolling. Higher education is one such institution which receives this “discretionary” money. Two, private corporations, which were complicit in the previous administrations’ arrogance and faulty management, emerged not only with a big part of that public money, which they received because they were “too big to fail,” but also emerged more powerful due to the perceived necessity for their services, products and jobs. Now, with those billions of tax dollars stuffed neatly corporate coffers, they are using it to buy higher education and the ideology which it confers.
John Lee and Sue Clery wrote an article titled, “Key Trends in Higher Education,” in which they communicate such ideas by saying that due to the loss of money from the states, universities are compensating “by raising revenues from non-state sources” (p. 26). How universities are going about raising those revenues has many asking about the moral implications of such activities. Of course, this money was, before the collapse, designated for higher education institutions—it still is, but is now being funneled first through institutions that won’t be quite as welcoming to differences of opinion. How this translates into loss of academic freedom will be plain later in this article.
In addition, private institutions always seek to inject private...