Presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s comments questioning the purposes and intentions of UR’s Board of Trustees, made in his speech in Strong Auditorium on March 24, provoked responses from the administration. “Do we really need to say it?” Nader said to a sold-out crowd. “[UR] has long been known as one of the most corporate universities.” He went on to criticize the Board of Trustees saying, “[UR] trustees should [implement civic classes], they should take off their corporate jackets and look out for the interests of the students.” He also noted that the board was composed mainly of high-ranking executives and lawyers from corporate law firms. President Thomas Jackson questioned the extent of the knowledge Nader possessed about the university and the board. “I find it interesting to think that Mr. Nader knows enough about this university, or its board, to make sweeping comments of the sort that have been reported in the press,” Jackson said. Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett also questioned Nader’s basis for making such comments. “Several items in his speech were particularly interesting to me including the general allegation that ‘UR has long been known as one of the most corporate universities,'” Burgett said. “According to whom? And compared to whom? To call this university ‘one of the most corporate-dominated colleges in the country’ has no basis in reality.”Associate Dean of Students Mat Burns disagreed. “Such comments lead to scrutiny and legitimate examination, not to mention the fact that freedom of speech is an essential part of education,” Burns said.Many students are unaware of UR’s partnerships and expenditures and declined to comment. “I honestly don’t know enough about the school’s corporate policy to make an educated comment,” freshman Chris Hannon said. Other students, however, noted the decreasing value of housing and meal plans and the rising cost of tuition.Whether or not Nader’s characterization of the university was fair, the university does have a problem with communication, according to students.Even more mysterious to students were the activities and identities of the Board of Trustees. “[The] U of R Board of Trustees are not really in touch with the students,” freshman Marquis Harrison said. “They meet about twice a year to vote and make decisions that are usually about finance and politics. They take no direct action on campus,” Harrison added. Harrison also commented that the board was made up in a large part of donors to the university. Burgett disagreed. “If you look at our Board of Trustees, most of whom are UR alumni, you’ll find an uncommonly deep concern not only with the affairs of the university but with the success of our individual students,” Burgett said.Some, like freshman Michael Iannotti, asked what the term “corporate” means about a university. “I think the school is a bit blind and deaf towards the students,” Iannoti said. “If that means that UR is corporate, then so be it.” In his speech, Nader warned that corporate partnerships could lead to biased interests. According to the Annual Report of Sponsored Program Activities for the fiscal year 2003, UR received over $250 million from sponsors that gave over one million dollars. Some of the many companies included Amgen, the Department of Energy and Teva Pharmaceuticals. UR’s endowment is currently a little over one billion dollars. While corporations are a source of funding, the government plays a much larger role. Burns stressed the importance of these partnerships. “I have seen institutions thrive because of such partnerships, gaining resources they otherwise would not have had,” Burns said. He did, however, warn that they need to be handled wisely. “Such relationships need to be forged carefully. I think there are some potential conflicts of interest, and I think colleges and universities need to know exactly what the partnership would mean to both organizations,” Burns said. Lindstrom can be reached atmlindstrom@campustimes.org.



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