Universities 'Worry' about Teaching Atlas Shrugged

Some interesting back-story here about BB&T’s support for pro-capitalism courses at universities around the country.
This article is from Marshall University, where apparently some faculty members are uncomfortable with the idea that someone besides themselves might be deciding what students are required to read.
…Cause, you know, faculty members are so objective and disinterested in promoting an ideological agenda. Riiiight.

Some Faculty members have expressed concerns over the BB&T grant that required the teaching of Ayn Rand’s text “Atlas Shrugged.”
The grant money will be used to create the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism at the Lewis College of Business.
Components of the curriculum are to include a course to focus on Rand’s text as well as Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and a lecture series advocating economic and political freedom, according to a university issued press release.
The University Curriculum Committee is traditionally responsible for approving new course additions, but not for determining the content of the courses, said Calvin Kent, vice president of Business and Economic Research.
This new course is experimental and can exist for two semesters before applying to the curriculum addition process.
“The concern is you have industry proscribing the course. Now if you had industry giving money for a building, if you had industry giving money for a scholarship, that’s a little different than for a specific curriculum,” said Larry Stickler, Faculty Senate Chairman, at an executive committee meeting Monday.

Kent, who will serve as director of the Center and will most likely be teaching the course in question, said the text is standard and has been taught for years. Kent said the course or textbook is not bypassing the university-established process.
“I certainly don’t think there’s been any influence on what the course content is supposed to be, and we’ve discussed it. I’m sure that there’s not going to be any other influence, but they did want to make sure the material in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ was covered,” Kent said.
The BB&T charitable arm has donated large sums of money to numerous colleges and universities across the state and nation, including West Virginia University, Duke University and North Carolina University, all of which were required to use Rand’s novel, Kent said.
Meredith College in North Carolina rejected $420,000 from BB&T because of concerns that the money would be used to promote economic propaganda, Clark Davis said a National Public Radio news story.
Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning Elaine Baker said she was worried that a business would be dictating teaching material at Marshall.
“When anybody, whether it’s business or it could be a religious institution or it could be the government, comes and says to us ‘you will teach this course and this is the content, the basic content’ it totally degrades the idea that faculty has any sort of independence or regulation over the academic curriculum,” Baker said. “Students will be experiencing courses anyone can buy. As long as they give us enough money, we will provide the course whether it’s good for the students or not.”
Senior Vice President of BB&T and City Executive Dave Helmer was quick to point out that the university had the final decision in accepting the arrangement. Helmer rejected accusations of dishonesty.
“There is no devious aspect of BB&T doing this at all. It helps everyone,” Helmer said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We are very, very interested in helping in the best way we can to promote better, higher educated young people who are able to go out into the workforce and provide value.”
BB&T is a premier hirer of Marshall University business graduates, Helmer said. Chief Executive Officer of BB&T John Allison is ultimately responsible for making the decision about the text.
“The Chairman of BB&T is the one that promotes the whole concept of teaching the value and ethics of capitalism in the university setting,” Helmer said. “Several of those books are just books that carry the philosophy that he thinks is valuable as a teaching tool.”