Take the Money and Stay Mum?

SSU's Ethics Center is the pride and joy of the school. But it also accepted money from AIG and has a director who has declined to discuss hot-button issues such as the funding of the Green Music Center


The donation by insurance giant AIG to Sonoma State University’s new Ethics Center is beyond hypocritical, since the company contributed to the financial crisis, then received a large government bailout, writes former SSU Professor Shepherd Bliss in a recent opinion piece in the Smirking Chimp, a left-leaning blogging site.

“What might AIG’s intentions have been for funding the center?” writes Bliss. “AIG has not been known for its ethics. In fact, the insurer’s risky bets on derivatives were central to the 2008 economic crash. They received a $182 billion bailout. Yes, billion, with a big B.”

Bliss spent years teaching at SSU’s psychology and humanities department and led last year’s protest during graduation when former Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill received an honorary degree after giving $12 million to the Green Music Center.

But come fall 2012, Bliss's contract was not renewed, which many believe was due to the professor's vocal criticism of how the center was funded.

The prof may have a bone to pick with the administration, but he says SSU’s accepting cash from financial giants is evidence of the increasing privatization of education.

“Corporations are pumping an increasing amount of ill-earned big money into public education throughout the United States, trying to bend it to meet their corporate goals,” he writes. “This threatens academic freedom and free speech.”

His annoyance is acerbated by a recent story in the Press Democrat in which the center’s director, Joshua Glasgow, declined comment on the ethics of the center receiving cash from Weill, named by TIME as one of the Top 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis.

In his piece, Bliss quotes Thomas Morabito of Occupy Sebastopol, who asks a question on the minds of many over the past week:

“What good is an Ethics Center that won't discuss its own ethics?”

Click here to read Bliss’s full blog

Sound off: Do you think Sonoma State was wrong to accept AIG’s $10,000 donation for the new center? Do you think SSU faculty are muzzled and then punished if they speak out? 

Alex Horvath January 27, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Wow -- great reporting. As an SSU alum, I find this to be outrageous. I hope that Shepherd Smith is reinstated and that the adminstration finds more like-minded sources for funding opportunities.


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