Journalist Keith Goetzman asks this question on the Utne Reader site.
“Are our institutions of higher learning becoming dens of corporate complicity? That’s the thread running through a spate of recent stories that reveal how a trio of heavies–Big Oil, Big Agriculture, and Big Pharma–are pulling strings at U.S. universities. Each tale, on its own, is unsettling. Taken together, they paint a picture of collusion in which intellectual freedom and moral decency take a back seat to the mighty promise of profit.”
You can read the stories to which Goetzman refers by visiting the links on the Utne site. But he concludes:
“It’s not lost on me that several of these conflicts of interest occurred at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. If I were the type of person who displayed my degrees on the wall, my B.A. from the university would be losing a bit of its luster right now. University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks said after (a recent) imbroglio that academic freedom is the “cornerstone of all great American universities.” I see signs of that cornerstone crumbling–and I hope that hard-working journalists keep drawing attention to it before there’s a complete structural failure.”
(Disclosure: I was employed by the University of Minnesota for 9 years and gained tenure as a journalism professor before resigning last May so that I could spend more time on my web projects and independent journalism training and workshops.)
In this week, when, as I’ve pointed out, some hard-working journalists have accepted Pfizer-funded all-expenses-paid trips to Washington for cancer news workshops at the National Press Foundation, I think it’s time for more journalistic introspection about a “cornerstone crumbling” that should also keep drawing attention.