This Wall Street Journal piece, reprinted here, offers a detailed look at current corporatizing influence in higher ed, especially, it seems, in large state universities. When NC State students say, SS ME, they are not talking about super-sized fast food meals. Here are some clips:
RALEIGH, N.C. -- When graduate students at North Carolina State University took their seats on the first day of a class called Services Management, the kickoff lecture wasn't delivered by a professor. Instead, it was given by a manager from International Business Machines Corp.
The company, in fact, helped develop the curriculum and awarded grants to the school with the expectation that the course would be taught -- all with the aim of producing graduates better prepared to work for IBM. The guest speaker, a regional manager, began his lecture by saying, "My name is Craig Nygard, and I am a services professional," later adding, "You have started thinking about tackling big problems and turning them into revenue opportunities."
A fast-moving, competitive economy -- and the perception that students are unprepared for its demands -- is creating a new phenomenon at colleges and universities: courses supported by, and tailored for, potential employers. In addition to IBM, other major corporations seeking to increase their presence and influence on campus include Credit Suisse Group and German auto maker BMW AG. . . .
The federal government is also keen on strengthening the relationship between universities and potential employers. That is one of the issues before the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and comprising academics and corporate executives from companies such as Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co. and IBM. Its goal is to shake up what critics charge is complacency and unaccountability in higher education, leading to graduates who are poorly equipped for the realities of corporate work today.
The trend goes beyond the traditional ties between private industry and academia. Companies have long funded chairs for faculty -- or even academic centers -- in areas of particular interest. They underwrite research into business issues that eventually turn into case studies for classes. And executive-education programs housed in business schools cater to corporate employees with courses taught by university faculty. For companies, these links have promoted a better-prepared work force. Faculty, meanwhile, have incorporated real-world applications into the classroom.
Now, though, critics worry about the implications of companies tailoring classes for their benefit, as IBM is doing. "This is a breach of academic integrity," says Jennifer Washburn, a fellow at the New America Foundation and author of "University Inc.," a 2005 book critical of corporate influence on education. She says such influence has mushroomed as universities face cutbacks in federal and state support, and as companies increasingly seek out the best talent. The upshot: "More and more universities are allowing companies to have a greater say ... even when it compromises their own academic independence." . . . .