Today’s Higher Education Class Moment Brought to You By Corporate Funding

The University of California, the nation’s largest public university system, is being transformed by its need to solicit private dollars from corporations and wealthy benefactors. Fund raising by chancellors, deans and professors has influenced course work, redirected research and brought the corporate presence into everyday academia. Take a brief look at the pervasiveness of this far too common and growing trend taking place in California’s university system, continued within.

The University of California, the nation’s largest public university system, is being transformed by its need to solicit private dollars from corporations and wealthy benefactors.

Fund raising by chancellors, deans and professors has influenced course work, redirected research and brought the corporate presence into everyday academia.

For instance:

— At the University of California at Berkeley, where nearby Bank of America branches were once targets of violent student protests, a $2 million donation resulted in the dean of the Haas School of Business being officially titled the “BankAmerica dean.”

— Undergraduates at the University of California at San Diego recently spent class time designing a cell phone antenna for corporate donor Nokia.

— At the University of California at Los Angeles, a $5 million donation last year resulted in an auditorium named for modernist composer Arnold Schoenberg being renamed to honor Dreamworks records executive Mo Ostin and his wife, Evelyn. Public outcry forced reversal of the action.

The money raised by hundreds of university administrators, faculty members and professional fund-raisers can have an effect on what gets taught. Certain courses and entire degree programs would not exist without private money.

A minor in Jewish studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, for instance, was created with more than $2 million in donations.

Private industry, foundations and wealthy individuals subsidize research and faculty positions.

Many schools and departments have forged formal, sometimes controversial relationships with companies. Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, was given two of five seats on a research committee at UC Berkeley after donating $25 million.


Professors say they feel pressure to raise funds but fear it will consume valuable teaching and research time.

“I think about how more faculty time is being taken away from thinking, how more time is taken away from creative teaching,” said Kenneth Wachter, chairman of the department of demography at UC Berkeley.

Some worry about being judged on their success in collecting money. At the University of California at Davis, African American studies professor Patricia Turner said members of the faculty are asked to report on their fund raising.

“In a lot of the paperwork you have to fill out now, there is a line that says, ‘How much external money did you raise?’ , ” she said. “If you’ve published in journals, how much grant money you’ve generated should be of minimal consideration.”

Said UC Berkeley history professor Leon Litwack: “We work very hard as professors, teaching and advising graduate students. To try to add fund raising to that job, I think, impairs the quality of education our students receive.”

Those who aren’t successful at fund raising pay the price.

In Stephens Hall at UC Berkeley, the Center for African Studies occupies a two-room office marked by cracked walls and scuffed linoleum floors.

Down the hall, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies operates out of a sumptuously appointed suite of offices with stained glass, gleaming copper paneling and a trickling fountain.

A few years ago, these centers were virtually the same. Both made do with modest budgets and tiny offices. They shared a copier.

Then Nezar AlSayyad, chairman of Middle Eastern Studies, took two trips to Saudi Arabia with UC Berkeley chancellors. He landed a $5 million donation from a Saudi Arabian foundation for remodeling and for “The Sultan Program,” which finances visiting professors and a research program on issues of Arab identity.

Despite his success, AlSayyad said he would rather be teaching than raising money. “I don’t regret it, but if you ask if I’d do it again, I’d say no,” he said.


Fund raising brought more than $1.2 billion into UC coffers in the 1999 fiscal year.

The nine-campus university system accelerated fund-raising efforts after the state cut its financing in the early ’90s. The state now provides less than a quarter of UC’s budget, down from more than half a decade ago. Other UC sources of revenue include student tuition and fees (10 percent), federal funds (15.5 percent), sales and services, including those at the medical centers, and investment income.

Although less than 7 percent of UC’s revenue in 1999-2000 came from private sources, that money often is the difference between being good and being great,

between attracting solid faculty and hiring academic superstars, between outdated equipment and cutting-edge laboratories.

“The state of California really provides a level of funding that would not permit us to maintain a great institution,” UC President Richard Atkinson said in an interview. “Private funds (are) a requirement to maintain the quality of the University of California.”

A survey by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism of 81 department heads and other administrators throughout the system found that:

— Seven out of 10 administrators said their fund-raising efforts increased moderately or dramatically during the past five years.

— Eight of 10 said private funds are important, very important or critical to their department’s health.

— Eight of 10 said the private sector is involved in the academic life of their department.

“We’re discovering that the only way we get extra money is to get it ourselves,” said Fred Gable, chairman of the music department at the University of California at Riverside. “It goes against the entire notion of UC as a public school that gets funded by the state.”

When UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced that its dean — now economist Laura Tyson — would be called the BankAmerica dean, some alumni raised questions, said associate dean Jay Stowsky.

“Our answers have always been consistent,” he said. “What is the alternative? If the state of California is reducing the budget for the university, we have to make sure the university has top-notch faculty. We have to turn to private sources, rich individuals and corporations.”

Sometimes just the possibility of a conflict of interest is enough to ignite controversy. In 1997, UCLA’s history department turned down a $1 million grant from the Turkish government to fund a professorship in Turkish history after the Armenian community complained that such a post would help Turkey cover up its role in the massacre of a million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.


Older campuses with more alumni raise far more money than their newer counterparts. UC Berkeley and UCLA attracted as many million-dollar donations last year as the other seven campuses combined.

Private fund raising creates disparities among departments as well. Without private money, departments have trouble paying for visiting professors and research assistants. They lose graduate students when they cannot offer enough financial support.

Recently, Atkinson encountered a young anthropology professor struggling to find research money.

“She has to scrape by, and students scrape by,” Atkinson said. “And yet she can look across the campus at someone in computer science and every time they turn around, someone is trying to support their program. Those contrasts are very tough.”

Santa Cruz’s astronomy and astrophysics department, which runs Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, is considered one of the nation’s best. But just two graduate students decided to join the department last fall. Many declined to enroll because comparable private schools offered them more fellowship money.

“It has gotten dire,” said Stanford Woosley, department chairman. Woosley said he doesn’t know how to court private donors.

“I’m not very good at going and asking somebody to give me money, particularly if I don’t know them very well,” he said.


In reaching out to corporate America, fund-raisers bring companies — and sometimes controversy — into the universities.

After the pharmaceutical company Novartis donated $25 million to UC Berkeley’s department of plant and microbial biology, it was given two of five votes on a research committee as well as rights to license and sell some of the products of that research. This prompted hearings in the state Senate last year into conflict of interest issues, but the corporation ultimately retained its seats.

Some departments set up corporate affiliates programs to foster relationships with executives. At the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, members of the affiliates program receive a report on the school’s financial status, research and education programs during quarterly meetings with the dean.

“Our dean is very committed to partnering with industry,” said Jeff Nagle, external relations program director at the Jacobs school. “I think we take it to a new level.”

Their approach affects undergraduates such as Will Navaja and classmates who spent hours beneath a Nokia banner in the mechanical engineering laboratory, designing an automatic cell phone antenna. The work was part of a required course that features hands-on design projects sponsored by industry.

“I’d much rather do something for a company than for some (professor) out of his file cabinet,” said Navaja.

Professor Nate Delson said students benefit from their real-world experience but do not profit financially. Nokia budgeted $3,000 for the antenna project, Delson said.


Outside funds are shaping more than research agendas. Both individuals and industry affect curriculum when they fund academic subjects that interest them.

— Twelve corporations, including Goldman-Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean Whitter, provided seed money for a new master’s degree program in financial engineering at the Haas School of Business. The program will produce graduates whose training in analysis of financial markets could benefit these firms.

— Bloomberg LP, a financial news service, provided $585,000 to the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley to start a business reporting program.

Some worry about the lack of a clear line delineating just what a private donation can purchase at the university.

UC Berkeley history professor Litwack, who came to the campus as an undergraduate in 1948, said all donations should be like the one funding his endowed chair — “no strings attached.”

He’s concerned about partnerships such as the one that had students designing a cell phone antenna for Nokia.

“I don’t see the university existing for the benefit of corporations,” Litwack said. “. . .There should never be any corporate influence on the curriculum.”

UC Santa Cruz computer science professor David Haussler, whose salary is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, acknowledges concerns about conflict of interest when private entities start funding academic research, but said:

“You don’t want to be so adamant about conflict of interest that you discourage entrepreneurship among the professors, especially the engineering schools, but also the biotech area, especially microbiology. There’s a lot of exciting things happening with companies.”


This story was reported by students at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and edited by The Chronicle. Part of the story is based on a student-conducted survey of fund raising by departments in 11 academic areas at the eight University of California campuses with undergraduate programs. Eighty-one of 130 departments responded to the survey, which was part of a course financed by the Schumann Foundation. Data collection was performed by Olga Rodriguez and John Cote of the journalism school.


The University of California received $1.2 billion in gifts during the 1999-2000 fiscal year from alumni and friends, corporations and foundations, the sixth consecutive record-breaking period.

— Gifts by area of study

Total: $1.2 billion

Health sciences $638.9 million (52.3%)

Agriculture $9.6 million 0.8%

Business/management $20.9 million 1.7%

Letters and sciences $86.3 million 7.1%

Law $12.6 million 1.0%

Engineering $160.8 million 13.2%

Other* $292.9 million 24%

* Administration, athletics, chancellor discretionary funds, energy labs, libraries, museums, public programs, financial aid, etc.

— Gift totals by year (in millions)

’99- ’00 Total: $1.2 billion

Author: Joan Obra, Stacy Schwandt, Peter Woodall

News Service: San Francisco Chronicle


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