BB&T, Atlas Shrugged, and the Ethics of Corporation Influence on College Curricula

Journal of Academic Ethics 13 (4):311-344 (2015)
Tuition and government funding does not adequately support the mission of many colleges and universities, and increasingly, corporations are responding to this need by making payments to institutions of higher learning with significant contracted expectations, including influence of the curriculum and content of college courses. One large, public banking corporation, BB&T, has funded grants to more than 60 colleges and universities in the United States to address what the corporation refers to as the “moral foundations of capitalism.” These grants vary in size but average $1.1 million and typically require design of a new course that includes discussion of Atlas Shrugged, one of the novels of the author Ayn Rand. With many of the participating universities, the agreement with BB&T also stipulates the creation of chaired faculty positions, library reading rooms, designated capitalism centers, speaker series, scholarships, and the distribution of free student copies of Atlas Shrugged. Several ethics concerns about these grants, including their threat to academic freedom, are discussed in this article, as well as the need for focused guidance for university administrators regarding the temptation of large donations with attached questionable expectations.
Keywords Corporation influence of college curricula  Corporation funding of higher education  Corporation transparency of donations  University transparency of donations
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DOI 10.1007/s10805-015-9244-4
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