Tuesday, 1 March 2011

London School of Economical with the truth

LSE used to be one of the best universities in the country, despite being the alma mater of Jim Hacker.

But like so many competitive institutions, it's rather keener on money than morals: it took large amounts of money from the Gadaffi family and in return gave Saif Gadaffi a PhD (on liberal values!) despite the thesis being plagiarised, and showered praise on Libya's 'democratic' principles - as this film shows, even Saif couldn't help joking about it in a public lecture at LSE.

The LSE's former director Anthony Giddens obligingly cast Libya as the future "Norway of north Africa," writing in the Guardian, "Will real progress be possible only when Gaddafi leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite."

Saif's also friends with the Blair, the royal family and Peter Mandelson. What scintillating parties they must have.

Still, LSE isn't the only institution to have sold its soul: Nottingham University has an International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility. Who pays for it? Why, British American Tobacco of course. (File that one under 'you couldn't make it up'). I wonder if they run courses on Educational Institutions' Social Responsibility.

Meanwhile Oxford University has the Saïd Business School.

The School is dedicated to developing a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, and conducting research not only into the nature of business, but the connections between business and the wider world.

The who business school? Wafic Said: billionaire tax-evader who made his money by attaching himself firmly to the Saudi dictatorship and becoming their main weapons dealer, particularly in the infamous Al-Yamamah arms deal, a byword for corruption and deceit so appalling that Tony Blair personally intervened to stop the police investigating it.

Having made billions supporting repression and dealing in death, the honours are pouring in:

 In 2003 he became the first recipient of the Sheldon Medal, which had been newly established by Oxford University to honour exceptional supporters of the University. He is also a member of Oxford University Court of Benefactors, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In April 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Damascus University for his "important philanthropic contribution for Higher Education in Syria".

And like tax-avoiding Lord Ashcroft, he has a tame Caribbean nation to give him a diplomatic passport and somewhere to hide his cash:

Saïd is Ambassador and Head of the delegation of St Vincent and the Grenadines to UNESCO since 1996 (hence his entitlement to the style 'His Excellency' chiefly used in the context of his diplomatic role)

A model citizen. Large amounts of his money also go to support the Conservative Party.

But who am I kidding? The Hegemon would have given Hitler and honorary degree if he'd forked out some cash. After all, we've given one to

His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister of the UAE because he is:

a pioneer in the realm of change and development and has made an outstanding contribution to society
Of course he is. And not just because we signed a contract to train this dictatorship's police forces. Is he a bad man?

Well, let's just point out one example of the UAE's approach to policing and justice under His Highness's guidance: his half-brother Sheik Issa filmed himself and his underlings torturing a man with a cattle prod up his anus, pouring lighter fluid over his testicles then setting them alight, shooting him with automatic weapons, beating him with nail-bearing planks and literally rubbing salt into the wounds, then killing him by running him over with a Mercedes. The man was a former business associate the Sheik suspected of stealing $5000 worth of grain.

You can watch some of the tape here: Youtube pulled it because it's too horrific.

But surely this honoured 'pioneer in the realm of change and development' made 'an outstanding contribution to society' by making sure justice was done?

The UAE government concedes that Sheik Issa is the man shown in the video but says he did nothing wrong. “The incidents depicted in the videotapes were not part of a pattern of behaviour,” the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement, according to ABC. 
“All rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly.”
The Interior Minister is Sheik Issa’s half-brother. They are among the country’s 22 royal sheiks.
Makes me proud. I wonder if UAE will see protests in the current wave.


Sarah Williams said...

The International Centre for CSR puts me in mind of the Unilever Ethics Centre in South Africa. Still at least they had the guts to badge that one, so you can't accuse them of trying to hide their interests - very ethical!

It brings about the whole issue of commercialising education. Isn't it a conflict of interests, whatever the academic discipline, for education, which should be objective and free from all bias, to be commercially sponsored?

The Plashing Vole said...

Delightful - but as you say, quite blatant/honest about it.

I'm with Bill Hicks on advertising: once you've taken someone's cash, you've agreed to silence your opinions and no longer have the right to be heard. Objectivity is hard enough without taking corporate cash.

There was a bad case in Bangor a few years ago: a psychologist who critiqued anti-depressants had his funding and job withdrawn when he went to a new institution which was sponsored by the pharmaceuticals company.