Students, Campuses, and Dominant Corporate Power –

Students need to think about civic engagement and corporate power over the educational institutions students attend.

A protest organized by students in Des Moines, Iowa (Phil Roeder/Flickr)

By Ralph Nader /

When it comes to corporate power and control over their lives, now and in the future, today’s students are dangerously dormant. When it comes to lobbying Congress to counter the various dictates of corporatism, there is little activity other than some loyalists reaching out to their legislators on climate violence.

Much of the campus activity these days focuses on diversity, tuition, student loans, requirements of “politically correct” speech and conforming conduct.

This campus environment is strangely oblivious to the corporate abuses of our economy, culture, and government. This indifference extends to the endless grip of corporate power over the educational institutions that students attend.

Businesses view universities and colleges as profit centers.

Corporate vendors influence or control the food students eat on campus, down to the trash in vending machines, as well as their credit cards, iPhones, very expensive textbooks, and, of course, student debt.

College boards are dominated by corporate executives or corporate affiliates. business science is – like pharmaceutical, biotechnology, military weapons and fossil fuel companies – co-opting, corrupting or displacing academic science which is peer-reviewed and unencumbered by corporate profits (see Professor Sheldon Krimsky’s books:

Corporate law firms dominate law schools, with few exceptions, seriously distorting the curriculum of courses on corporate crimes and immunities and courses that show how corporations have shaped public institutions such as Congress, state legislatures and the Pentagon, as well as federal and state regulatory agencies. .

Business schools, with the exception of a few free-thinking professors, are graduation schools for Wall Street and other businesses. They operate in an environment that is empirically starved of what is really going on in the world of global corporate machinations, while nurturing the dogmatic free market fundamentalism of their students.

The engineering departments narrowly orient their students towards the missions of the company, without making them aware of the rights and ethical and warning duties of the engineering professions. (See, Ethics, Policy and Whistleblowing in Engineeringby Nicholas Sakellariou and Rania Milleron, CRC Press, 2018).

Social science courses are also largely neglectful. There are very few courses on plutocratic rule and big business’ unchecked ways of making business values ​​trump civic values. Teachers may be reluctant to broach such taboo subjects, but the enthusiastic response of students to Professor Laura Nader’s course on “processes of control” at UC Berkeley over the years could indicate a deep interest among students in the courses. on top-down power structures.

Active students of the 1960s and 1970s took their environmental, civil rights, and anti-war concerns directly to Congress. Along with other citizens’ groups, they lobbied Congress and pushed through important legislation.

Students in about 20 states have created enduring full-time student advocacy groups called Public Interest Research Groups, or PIRGs (see:

Today, the PIRGs continue to make a difference in the country (See, Right to Repair Project: However, few new PIRGs have been created since 1980. Students should understand how important, achievable, and sustainable these independent, nonprofit PIRGs can be. With trained advocates who continue to train students in civic skills and provide extracurricular experiences for a lifetime of civic engagement, PIRGs create a vibrant reservoir for a more functioning democracy.

As a leading European statesman, Jean Monnet, said decades ago: “Without people nothing is possible, but without institutions nothing is sustainable.

Students should reflect on the civic part of their coming years and focus on building the pillars of a democratic society that dissolve the concentrated power of giant corporations and empower citizens as befits the “We the People” vision of our Constitution.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, speaker, and lawyer known for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

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