Editorial: Academia pays the price of corporate sponsorship

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Emily Brymer/THE REVIEW

The new JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center will provide students with opportunities and valuable work experience, but the implications of this partnership mirror a trend that stifles academic freedom, potentially compromising the integrity of education.

Partnerships with outside companies create more opportunities for jobs and ultimately more successful business students, but having multimillion dollar companies like JPMorgan Chase embedded on campus foster an employment pattern that funnels students through a system that equates academia with capitalism. As these companies filter through the university’s academic programs, student success is defined as corporate success—which isn’t always honest.

JPMorgan Chase isn’t walking onto campus with a history of strong morals. In past years, the company has paid billions of dollars in settlements after criminal investigation of their hiring practices and business deals. In 2014, an investigation linked the bank with Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

This is not the first corporation to pour funding into an academic program either—JPMorgan Chase is one of several corporations already on campus. For example, in 2013, Perdue Farms put $125,000 into the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to develop a doctorate program in poultry science.

Perdue has been scrutinized by animal rights groups for developing cruel and abusive techniques that are now widely used throughout the poultry production industry. It goes to show that the university has programs designed around the practices of companies that don’t have cleanest track records.

When companies have fiscal pull on campus, it’s naive to believe that decisions about the university’s future don’t turn into a numbers game. Decisions about university values, policies, academic programs, administrators and presidents—which ideally should be in the hands of faculty and students— are auctioned off and begin to reflect the interests and morals of the highest bidder.

JPMorgan Chase gave the university $2.5 million for the center. With that kind of financial influence a precedent is set for future funding, thus creating the possibility of monopolizing the university as a business school. If financial muscle can persuade academic programs and administration, what happens to the programs that are not of interest to these corporations?

The Review staff believes that the university’s sources of income have the influence to create an agenda that limits academic independence and contradicts the point of a well-rounded education. As more companies find their way into the curriculum, the classroom no longer becomes a place that questions corporate authority. When the corporate worldview replaces the greater worldview that students seek in college, then education has outsourced its most fundamental value: critical thought.

Editorials are developed by The Review staff, led this week by associate news editor Margaret McNamara.

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