Chancellor Rebecca Blank on Monday signed away one more piece of UW-Madison’s soul.
Foxconn is receiving $4.5 billion of state amd local taxpayers’ dollars as incentive to build a presence in Wisconsin. Seen in this context, the historic “gift” that Chancellor Blank referred to at Monday’s signing ceremony represents a paltry 2.2 percent reinvestment of Foxconn’s taxpayer handout into the university.
In exchange for this drop in the bucket, Foxconn will see its name in lights at a major research center for years to come. The company will receive joint ownership of intellectual property rights pertaining to research conducted there -- rights that could be worth a whole lot more than $100 million to Foxconn. Furthermore, Foxconn will gain influence and access to the direction of university research and teaching at the center, further threatening academic freedom on campus.
Chancellor Blank and other university leaders should see the giant strings attached to this gift and proceed with tremendous caution. In fact, they would do well to consult with faculty and students in UW-Madison’s highly ranked classics department. The Trojan horse was presented as a gift as well.
Benjamin Olneck-Brown, graduate student, UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs