Is the financial crisis eroding the ivory tower?
Introducing a report yesterday on Stanford University’s newly announced energy institute—to be funded by a $100 million gift by wealthy alums—the host of American Public Media’s Marketplace noted that though “it’s tough sledding out there if you’re a charity or a foundation or a university endowment … the money hasn’t completely dried up.… [But] schools will have to rely on private funding for a while, and that could cause some sticky situations.”
Daniel S. Greenberg, whom Marketplace interviewed for yesterday’s report, is an expert on those kinds of situations, and in Science for Sale: The Perils, Delusions, and Rewards of Campus Capitalism, he reveals that the ties between private wealth and college campuses are more complicated—and less profitable—than media reports would suggest. But just because potential corruption is overhyped, Greenberg argues, doesn’t mean that there’s no danger. As he told Marketplace, “the Ivory Tower is gone.… The record seems to show that universities are much more interested in getting the money and getting on with the project than they are in protecting their traditional values.”
For its part, Stanford noted that, in the words of university president John Hennessy, “universities such as Stanford need to focus their full talent on the greatest challenges facing the world today.… Energy is certainly one of those issues.” According to the Stanford Daily, the $100 million grant will fund “will fund faculty hiring, graduate student support and energy research.”