Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century


I recently explored a fairly new building on the University of Minnesota campus. It covered a whole city block, and I was curious what departments were located there.

I entered and noticed these fancy letterings above several classrooms in the building: Deloitte. Classroom, Securian Classroom, Donaldson Classroom, 3M, Supervalu, Travelers, Wells Fargo, Int’l Dairy Queen, General Mills. Most were accompanied by their corporate logos. Then I noticed I was walking around in the Target Atrium. Upstairs were the U.S. Bank Recruiting Lounge and the Toro Learning Support Room.

Yes, I was in an expansion of the Business School from across the street, at least the second expansion in the last several years. The school was almost gobbling up the university. So I walked across the skyway on the second floor to see if the original building had similarly-named rooms. Immediately across the skyway were the Deluxe Corporation and the Northwestern Mutual: The Commons Resource Group Teaching Assistants Rooms.  Most of the other rooms in this building did not have the fancy lettering and corporate logos above them, but their names were just as revealing: Accenture, Valspar Corporation, Ceridian, Piper Jaffray Companies, General Mills Foundation, U.S. Bancorp Foundation, and Minnesota Power Meeting Rooms. And the Hormel Foods, Goldman Sachs & Co., ING ReliaStar, National Computer Systems, Deluxe Corporation and Foundation, and Wells Fargo Classrooms. And on and on. And of course the Cargill Foundation IT Help Desk, as well as the ornately lettered Honeywell Lecture Hall and 3M Auditorium.

I did find a couple General Purpose Classrooms, but even those caused me to pause. About the only other rooms in the building without a corporate sponsor were the Men’s and Women’s rooms.

I am so naïve.

I stopped in the Business School Undergraduate Studies Office, told them I was an alumnus of the University — not of the Business School — and I know this helps keep tuitions from skyrocketing even more than they already are, but I was embarrassed for the U. They didn’t have a clue what I meant. I asked if one could really hold a discussion about anti-personnel fragmentation bombs in the Honeywell Lecture Hall, or about the poisoning of our children in the General Mills Classroom, or about the economic meltdown in the Goldman Sachs & Co. Classroom. I told them about the only rooms one could hold an ethical discussion in were the Men’s and Women’s rooms, and I didn’t want to hold such a discussion only with men. They looked at me like I was from another planet.

So I went to the MBA office with the same alien questions. They chuckled a little, but told me those discussions could surely be held in other buildings, and you could even discuss those issues in these rooms. I suggested if they had too many discussions like that, maybe their corporate sponsors would stop buying their classrooms. They didn’t really get it either.

Next I went to the Dean’s office. The young woman receptionist immediately got my point. I told her I had just come from the MBA office, where the reaction was totally different. She said she wasn’t a grad student here but was just finishing her Ph.D. dissertation at Arizona. “Oh, in Business?” I asked. She said, “No, English Literature.”

Aha! Now I knew why she got it.

P.S. That same week, the student newspaper had an article about a pharmaceutical company buying medical students textbooks. Each chapter of the book started with “Daiichi Pharmaceutical Corporation distributes FLOXIN Otic solution and gave a grant to the Ameircan Academy of Otolaryngology for the revisions and distribution of the book.”