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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Corporate Endowed Academic Chairs

Interesting article the other day in Inside Higher Ed about how BMW has very generously endowed two professor chairs in Clemson's International Center for Automotive Research:

Clemson University’s two new BMW endowed chairs are among the most well endowed chairs there are. The auto giant — which while based in Germany has a major plant in South Carolina — contributed $5 million for each one. The state matched those dollars, creating endowments for each chair to support a professor’s salary, lab, graduate students and more.

Now, there is also of course so-called philanthropic chairs set up by wealthy alumni and other notable individuals.   But I'm not familiar with those chairs being set up to allow donors to interview and have a say about potential chair holders.   Apparently, however, part of the BMW endowment requires letting BMW interview all finalists for the positions.

Like others mentioned in the article, I see this as an objectionable and unusual practice and I view such arrangements as dangerous to institutional independence and academic freedom. 

Roger Bowen, general secretaryof the AAUP, put it best when he said: “Donors may designate the academic discipline they wish to fund, but the decision on who to hire should be left to a search committee composed of faculty members.”

Anyone know of any similarly-conditioned corporate endowed chairs in the legal academy?

Posted by Workplace Prof on August 27, 2006 at 01:33 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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It's a little like having a lawyer or other corporate representative on the staff of the school. I'm not sure what I think about it. Part of why I like being a professor is not having to worry about what a client thinks about the issue, but is this any different than being a lawyer (or other employee with expertise) with BMW, albeit one with a few other duties and a much larger amount of free time?

Posted by: Chris | Aug 30, 2006 1:25:47 PM

Paul, were you paid by a competing auto manufacturer to bash BMW in your blog post?

Posted by: Scott Moss | Aug 28, 2006 1:31:04 PM

the corpocracy must grow to survive.

Posted by: anon | Aug 27, 2006 8:49:07 PM

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