Students before CEOs

The University’s business relationships should prioritize benefiting students.

Daily Editorial Board

With sponsored classrooms and a sponsored football stadium, itâÄôs obvious that the University of Minnesota doesnâÄôt mind corporate ties, especially as a revenue source. But these ties should produce real benefits for students and not simply be exploitative or one-sided.

In this monthâÄôs Twin Cities Business magazine, President Eric Kaler puts his ambitions simply: He plans to pursue âÄúenhanced collaborationâÄù between the University and the business community. This collaboration will include âÄúcross-pollination in the areas of teaching, research, philanthropy and lobbying,âÄù Kaler said.

Kaler goes on to say that while he wants to be engaged in the corporate world, he isnâÄôt going to sell the University to it.

The University would never be able to make a very good case to the state Legislature of its value without being plugged into goings-on in the business community. But the partnership should always have whatâÄôs best for students âÄî not for CEOs âÄî in mind. When the University works with businesses, it should protect students from private sector exploitation; it shouldnâÄôt just be giving business free access to a pool of cheap labor.

ItâÄôs important for the University to engage itself in the business community to give students access to professionals and job opportunities as well as to bring in adjunct faculty. ThatâÄôs good for businesses, too, because they want access to a talented, educated workforce.

But benefits should also be tangible now, when students are still in school. The University should pursue scholarships and philanthropy from business and keep the right to assign the money where the University and students need it, not where businesses want it. Kaler must woo business without selling out students.