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Who Will Accept $420K to Teach Ethics to Business Students?


    The faculty at Meredith College in Raleigh struck a blow for academic freedom Friday, and in so doing, might’ve cost the college $420,000 from the BB&T Charitable Foundation. At issue: A grant from BB&T—$60,000 a year for seven years—for an honors program featuring, apparently at the bank’s insistence, such right-wing texts as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Frederick Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. [Bob Geary, “Meredith College Faculty Reject BB&T Money: Concerns about Ethics Course,” The Independent Weekly, 4/12/2006]

Let the races begin, I sent an email to the President of my alma mater suggesting they grab this golden opportunity to educate.

    According to a news report, Meredith College has foolishly turned down a grant of $ 420,000 from BB&T, because they objected to the inclusion of works by authors assigned in classes at Mason today.

    That money and the program should be going to GMU. Therefore, I suggest someone at Mason contact Mr. Allison about securing those funds for GMU.

    I write as a graduate of Mason, who plans to return for an MBA in a couple years, and former member of our campus’ Objectivist club. In addition to the number of exceptional speaker that club invited to campus, you may remember attending a debate about the Iraq War before the invasion sponsored by that club.

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  1. I am a faculty member at this College. You are missing the point. It was rejected not because we don’t like Objectivism or Ayn Rand, but because it is a dangerous precedent to set. Ms. Rand is not at issue but that a donor can determine curriculum, not the faculty member. This issue is at the heart of academic freedom.

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  2. Prof.,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    However, I did not miss that point, but dismissed it without comment as dishonest and unjust.

    Please note that in my original post, I did not say that Meredith College had to accept the money. It was a trade and they were in their right to refuse for whatever reason that they pleased. My point is that they were foolish because they were looking a gift horse in the mouth.

    As you bring up the point, I will comment at greater length now than was appropriate in the message that I sent to GMU, which was the substance of that post.

    You repeat that on principle: conditions that donors put on curriculum should be rejected out of hand in the name of academic freedom.

    Which raises a question in my mind, Freedom from what?

    The BB&T Charitable Foundation did not seek to initiate force against Meredith College, nor to commit any fraud as its terms were explicit. I would certainly object to that.

    For brevity, let me suggest that Meredith College was seeking freedom from reality, more specifically that the producer of value has a right to set the terms by which it is used. The college’s objection was not over BB&T Charitable Foundation giving money, but that it as the producer of the value should set the terms for how that money would be used.

    While Meredith College is free to insist on this condition, BB&T Charitable Foundation was correct to refuse, and it is my hope that they will find a partner who would with deal with them on their terms.

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