“Rutgers, Inc.”

For his piece in the September-October issue of Academe, William Vesterman looks back – way back – and learns contemporary lessons from early twentieth-century economist Thorstein Veblen.

Vesterman, a professor at Rutgers, explains the shameful scandal of Mike Rice, the Rutgers basketball coach who was fired after his abusive practices became public. Unfortunately, the university’s president had known about the abuse for months before it became public. The university ultimately paid Rice nearly $500,000 in severance, money that surely would have been welcomed by faculty, departments, libraries, or other academic aspects of the school. Vesterman shows that this unfortunate state of affairs was described by Veblen more than one hundred years ago:

One may find a football or baseball coach . . . carried on the academic pay-roll, in a university that practices a penurious economy in the equipment and current supply of materials and services necessary for the work of its scientific laboratories, and whose library is in a shameful state of neglect for want of adequate provision for current purchases and attendance.

By juxtaposing quotes from Rutgers’s president and Veblen, Vesterman makes a strong case that the current corporatization of the university is a process that has been going on at least since the turn of the twentieth century. Read the full article to see what lessons we can learn from the past.

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