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ERIC Number: EJ914895
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0190-2946
Academic Freedom and the Corporate University
Washburn, Jennifer
Academe, v97 n1 p8-13 Jan-Feb 2011
Heightened commercialism on campus is pulling universities and their faculties away from higher education's core commitment to academic research, teaching, and the production of reliable public knowledge. Nearly a century ago, similar threats led to the birth of a new faculty organization--the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)--dedicated to advancing the scholarly professions across all disciplines and to safeguarding intellectual and academic freedom. The founding of the AAUP in 1915 was largely a response to the overweening influence that powerful corporate interests and wealthy donors then exerted over the internal academic affairs of American colleges and universities. The AAUP, and the academic community generally, struggle today--and have been largely ineffectual--in their response to heightened forms of academic commercialism that threaten the university's core academic purposes. Academic-industry relationships are certainly not new or uniformly a problem: indeed, they have contributed to the advancement of science, the birth of new academic disciplines, and the development of important technologies. Over the past thirty years, however, commercial threats to campus activities have mounted as a result of the rapid growth of academic patenting and proprietary controls on academic knowledge, the rise of a more market-driven university administration, the expansion of financial conflicts of interest (both at the faculty and institutional levels), cutbacks in public support for higher education, and a variety of other forces. In many cases, commercial influences are affecting academic standards of scholarship and professional norms (through serious conflicts of interest, growing secrecy, suppression of negative results, and so on), while also challenging universities' oft-stated commitment to the pursuit of truth and the advancement of reliable knowledge, in contrast to "corporate-contract research for hire." This article presents two cases--involving two prominent professors at Brown University, David Kern and Martin B. Keller--which illustrate some of the acute challenges that academic commercialism poses to academic freedom. Holding up a mirror to these two contrasting cases, and the responses they elicited, helps show why faculty need to confront excessive commercialism and financial conflicts on campus more aggressively. The author contends that more concerted, collective action is needed, however, to address commercial threats to academic freedom.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Rhode Island