tip of the iceberg

It was hard in some ways leaving the ivied hallways of business schools at Chicago and Penn and MIT for a university in France. There’s simply no question that the level of resources available to professors here is orders of magnitude less. It shows up in the quality of buildings, availability of research funds and of course the quality of my salary. My first job after my PhD was at the LSE which had only recently started chasing after serious corporate and alumni (and it turns out non-alumni) funds. Then, just after I left, it came out that Muammar Gaddafi had given them a lot of money as part of the PR effort that ultimately failed spectacularly with his death. The Director lost his job. Rightly so.

Still, I was frustrated when I came to France and found the attitude was far far more guarded about taking money from anyone other than the government. Each offer is met with so much skepticism, it’s very rare to hear about a donation of any size (where that’s a weekly thing for most American and UK schools).

Reading about the budding scandal at MIT—a place I know and care about—I also see some of the wisdom in it.

There is the narrative about giving to universities that is about “giving back” or “investing in the future”. I’m sure there is something to that (maybe Vivianna Zelizer should do a historical study on how corporate donations went from profane to sacred). But as a practicing “economic sociologist” there is simply no better example of the monetary bottom line value of “reputation” and “status” that I can think of. These universities are monetizing their status. Period.

I can make due with shabbier dwellings in the service of keeping the reputation of these places as far away from reflecting on these sorts as possible. And no, it’s not just about Epstein. It’s about all of the compromises needed to chase after those dollars.

Written by seansafford

September 8, 2019 at 5:04 pm

Posted in uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Thank you for the post!


    Fabrizio Coltellaro

    September 10, 2019 at 9:57 am

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