Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Corporations Go To College

Have we sufficiently welcomed our corporate overlords yet?
Yale University Office of Public Affairs announced that PepsiCo is going to fund a graduate fellowship to aid "nutritional science research" in the Yale School of Medicine's M.D.-Ph.D. program.

PepsiCo funding a graduate fellowship in nutritional science? What could possibly go wrong! In addition to chemical and sugar laden soft drinks, PepsiCo owns Quaker Oats and Frito-Lay. Just who we need funding research on nutrition.

I’ve warned for years of conservative groups taking over the halls of higher education; indeed, there are several right-wing groups (Students For Academic Freedom is one) funded by the usual conservative moneybags (Koch and Scaife Foundations) all devoted to wringing every last drop of liberalism out of higher education.

But the truth of the matter is, the battle was lost long ago. Because corporate money, more than political ideology, has been polluting higher education for decades.

For a great example of how it works look no further than your neighborhood veterinarian:

Borrowing a page from the pharmaceuticals companies, which routinely woo doctors to prescribe their drugs, Hill's has spent a generation cultivating its professional following. It spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year funding university research and nutrition courses at every one of the 27 U.S. veterinary colleges. Once in practice, vets who sell Science Diet and other premium foods directly from their offices pocket profits of as much as 40%.

"Vets trust them," says Janil Norris, a fresh graduate of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. While she was in school, a Hill's program allowed the struggling student to pay just $3 a bag for a special prescription brand for her cat, Buffalo Sean. A bag normally runs about $25. She also received a small stipend, courtesy of the Hill's program, to study orthopedic surgery with a Los Angeles vet. "Hill's was just always around," she adds.

That story was from 1997, I might add.

It's not just pharmaceutical companies, designer pet food companies, or PepsiCo. Thanks to cuts in public funds to land grant schools, ag schools around the country have been forced to go to the corporate sector for their research funds--bad corporate citizens like Monsanto, for example.

Conflict of interest, much?

Of course, no one pays attention to stuff like this. Hey, ya know, corporations are people after all. I guess they just want to go to college like everyone else.