Posts Tagged ‘corporations’

Martin Rowson 14.04.14

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President Eisenhower originally included “academic” in the draft of his landmark speech on the military-industrial-complex. He worried that “the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery” would be corrupted by “Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money.”

What Eisenhower didn’t seem to have imagined was the role of private corporations—both military and nonmilitary—in designing the curricula of the “free university.”

As the Wall Street Journal explains,

The University of Maryland has had to tighten its belt, cutting seven varsity sports teams and forcing faculty and staff to take furlough days. But in a corner of the campus, construction workers are building a dormitory specifically designed for a new academic program.

Many of the students who live there will be enrolled in a cybersecurity concentration funded in part by Northrop Grumman Corp. The defense contractor is helping to design the curriculum, providing the computers and paying part of the cost of the new dorm.

Such partnerships are springing up from the dust of the recession, as state universities seek new revenue and companies try to close a yawning skills gap in fast-changing industries. . .

After a launch in late 2012 and further development last year, IBM invested millions of dollars in a data-analytics center in Columbus, Ohio, based in part on a partnership with Ohio State. In exchange for direct access to students and curricula, the company sends employees to the school campus, provides software, and hires more than a dozen students for internships.

Jim Spohrer, director of IBM Global University Programs, sees such ties growing. “For the partnerships to grow in sophistication,” he said, “both universities and industry are going to have to change.”

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Mainstream economists and politicians continue to promote higher education as the solution to all the major economic and social problems in the United States. Meanwhile, as Demos has shown, our nation’s higher education system is being dismantled by state-mandated budget cuts (including staff and faculty layoffs and the elimination of key academic programs) and transformed into a debt-for-diploma system.

The University of Southern Maine is the latest school to announce Draconian budget cuts, the dismantling of some academic programs, and union-busting layoffs even in programs that are not being eliminated—all while engaging in corporate “rebranding” and the creation of new programs such as cybersecurity and entrepreneurship. As one current student wrote:

I am beyond livid with the way these budget cuts are being handled and the way the faculty is being treated. It’s not the faculty’s fault that we dumped thousands of dollars into misspelt and incorrect signs last summer. Or that the basketball coach’s salary and cutting 26 faculty positions just last Spring apparently hasn’t helped. The reality is that the only thing right with this school is the faculty. They seem to be the only people left who care about the students earning an education. Maybe the administration just hasn’t been alerted that we are paying to be educated, not to have pretty classrooms and a better basketball team. We are paying for an education and, if they would be so kind as to give it to us, everyone just might end up content.

Meanwhile, other college campuses are seeing a rise in food pantries [ht: sm] to take care of increasingly impoverished students.

Days after biology major Gillian Carll arrived at Stony Brook University last fall, she encountered a young woman on a bench outside her dormitory who said she had nothing to eat.

“I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I didn’t know kids could afford to go here but couldn’t have mac and cheese or something like that,” said the Livonia, N.Y., freshman. “It was kind of unbelievable.”

Carll got the student some food from her dorm room and later volunteered at Stony Brook’s new food pantry — one of dozens cropping up at colleges across the country in recent years as educators acknowledge the struggles many students face as the cost of getting a higher education continues to soar.

“The perception is of college students that if you are able to go to college and you have an opportunity to go to college, you’re part of the haves of this country, not part of the have-nots,” said Beth McGuire-Fredericks, assistant director for college housing at the Stony Brook campus on eastern Long Island and a co-founder of the pantry.

“How can someone who’s in college be someone who has a need like food?”