University Inc.

In the NYT, Andrew Delbanco:


Universities create jobs, develop new therapies and technologies and train America’s young people for the modern knowledge economy. All this is true. But comparable claims could be made for a pharmaceutical company. What makes the modern university different from any other corporation?

There is more and more reason to think: less and less. Driven by big science and global competition, our top universities compete for “market share” and “brand-name positioning,” employ teams of consultants and lobbyists and furnish their campuses with luxuries in order to attract paying “customers” — a word increasingly used as a synonym for students. Since 1980, when Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act permitting patents on discoveries made with public funds, universities and faculty members have been raking in royalties from technologies developed with the help of government grants. More recently, universities have been expanding into adjacent neighborhoods (Harvard into Allston, Columbia into Harlem, Penn into an undeveloped tract near its current campus) and establishing satellite campuses abroad. Yale has announced the acquisition of an entirely new research campus outside New Haven —from, as it happens, a pharmaceutical company.

How are college students treated in this brave new academic world?