OTTAWA (CUP) — Author activist and York University Professor David Noble paid a visit to the University of Ottawa on October 17 to speak about the corporatization of the university campus, a topic Noble has studied for decades.
In his speech, Noble outlined a brief history of the corporatization of campuses, which he believes started in the 1970s. The oil crises, he said, left people looking for new ways to make money. “They came up with intellectual capital,” he said. “A knowledge-based industry. Where is intellectual capital? Where are the oil wells of intellectual capital? They’re in the universities.”
It was then, Noble said, that the “universities were identified like never before as central to the future of the political economy and economic hegenomy.”
Universities were looked at as a place to make money through which capital can grow, he said. “Not character,” he clarified. “Capital.”
Noble spoke of patents that corporations put on intellectual property that can lead to the signing of non-disclosure agreements.
He also touched on the more in-your-face aspect of the corporatization of universities, such as the exclusivity deals that universities (University of Ottawa included) have with corporations such as Coca-Cola.
“When people talk about the commercialization or the corporatization of universities, it’s a fact that everywhere you look there’s logos-branding,” he said. “It’s important that we’re all drinking one form of Pepsi rather than another form of poison. All this stuff is important.”
But, he said, below the surface, the corporatization of the university has been going on, by and large, invisibly for 25 years.
That brought Noble to the main point of his speech.
“People have been talking about this for a long time,” he said. “They’ve been writing about this for a long time. And with no discernible effect.”
During the question-and-answer period, Noble was asked how students could make a difference.
“Maybe we have to get busy outside the university,” he said “Then come back and take it over. It’s not our fault that we haven’t been successful … We’ve been trying to do something that maybe has been impossible because it required something going on outside the halls of academia.”
Noble, who considers himself an optimist by nature, said, “This talk is not to discourage. It’s just to bring a little sobriety to the discussion of the corporatiztion of universities.”
As well, the night’s event sought to generate discussion, according to David Moscrop, VP External of the Political Studies Student Association of the U of O. The PSSA and the U of O’s division of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group hosted the night as part of a series of speakers.
“There was a lack of engaging speakers coming to campus,” said Moscrop. “If we get these engaging speakers, we can perhaps create debate-hopefully intelligent. And get real discussions going on topics that matter.”
While introducing Noble’s speech, OPIRG’s Trevor Hach