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.”