Academics Resist Nationalization… Of Their Endowments

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

cash photoNormally, professors and college administrators see no end to their ever-expanding list of things that are “too important to be left to the free market.” Apparently, even they have their limits.

When two professors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University suggested that universities could share and redistribute their own wealth, Brian C. Mitchell of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) used the Academe blog maintained by the AAUP to dissect the idea.

“These professors decry the University of Chicago’s endowment as ‘wealth hoarding,’ arguing that if the government seized the University’s endowment and spread its $7.5 billion across public universities throughout Illinois, then the effect would be a greater public good,” Mitchell wrote. “Curiously, they do not make the same case for wealth distribution among the well-endowed flagship public universities in states, for example, like Texas, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, California, or Washington.”

“Further, we do not know how they propose to undertake redistribution. Do government leaders at the federal and state level really represent the best ‘hands on the purse strings’ given the professors’ analysis of the state of the public higher education impasse in Illinois? When Harvard’s Drew Faust has to explain to Congress how endowments are built from a combination of restricted and unrestricted funds, is the primer so basic that the Congressional hearing is at best premature or maybe even unnecessary?”

“And then there is the question of the reaction once the University of Chicago – joined by the rest of the non-profit community, including wealthy public flagship universities – files suit to prevent nationalization. Any action to nationalize funds – whether restricted or unrestricted by category – would have a chilling effect on the entire non-profit community.”

“It might be better to propose something other than raiding the coffers next door to think about the role that higher education – public and private – plays in America.” Actually, if parents and taxpayers did devote more time to thinking about that role, they might demand a refund.

Photo by 401(K) 2013

Photo by 401(K) 2013