Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Badami '11: The debate about the Corporation is repetitive and dull

Please, dear reader, don't turn the page.

I know what you're thinking, "Another column about the Corporation? I'd rather stab myself in the eyes with Blue Room chopsticks."

I assure you, I share your feelings. But I'm torn. I, like so many undergraduates, want very badly to reform the practices of the Corporation. Yet every time

I approach the topic I am immediately turned off by the cliche-ridden arguments that populate the discursive space. It's taxing and boring and alienating. Thus, it is time we reorient the discussion surrounding this salient topic, starting with the language we use.

In a recent column, Julian Park '12 called Brown students "blissful customers ready to become blissful corporate workers" ("Corporatization and a pirate ship metaphor," Feb. 11). Really? Not only does this kind of rhetorical hand-waving come off as incredibly condescending, it hasn't a ghost of a point. What does that phrase even mean? It may just be the narrow social circles I haunt, but it seems to me that Brunonians, variegated as they are, struggle every single day with these types of questions, trying to sort out their various academic, social and political identities in light of these huge moral dilemmas. You make us sound like rapturously stupefied sheep — not the best way to persuade someone to your side.

Another argumentative approach that really miffs me is the treatment of the Corporation as some kind of colossal, feature-less, feeling-less machine: the Corporation with a capital "C" — mechanical and sinister. Park dubs them "power-drunk pirates." The word for this is de-humanizing. Again, how can you expect to attract bees when you're throwing beakers of acid at the hive? Speak to the "Corporation" like they're people — complex, flawed, ordinary people, capable of understanding the moral weight of their decisions. The word for this is empathy.

Quite honestly, I can't even parse the term corporatization. How does one go about avoiding corporatization, exactly? Does arguing for social justice mean de-corporatizing? Why are the two mutually exclusive? The assumption that corporations are bad is so hackneyed and infantile that one can't even read it without rolling one's eyes into the back of one's skull. Nevertheless, opinions columnists continually posit this supposition like it's Biblical revelation.

There are definitely ways to address these important issues without lazily reclining on empty platitudes. Let me offer a few. First, if you want transparency, don't merely harp on the necessity of keeping the devious Brown Inc. accountable — everyone's heard that. Instead, argue that transparency would allow students to gain an understanding of the trade-offs, sticky predicaments and ethical plights faced by the people who run the Corporation. Argue that you want transparency so that we can stop treating these people as non-human entities.

Second, get your finance-oriented peers on board. Can you imagine a rally in front of University Hall comprised of commerce, organizations and entrepreneurship concentrators, young entrepreneurs and future investment bankers? The novelty of this spectacle would draw more eyes and more attention than any ladder-raising Students for a Democratic Society protest could. It's fresh, imaginative and wholly unexpected.

Third, speak their language. Get an article in the Brown Spectator. Argue that, from a free market perspective, as a zealous Ayn Rand objectivist, you can't stand the dealings of the Corporation. Wouldn't that resonate with students and administrators in a more serious way?

Imagine all of the protests, the mountains of opinions columns, the innumerable barbs that have been cast at the Corporation, not just in our tenure, but throughout the entire history of Brown. Do you think there's an argument they haven't heard?

As college students at an elite university, we're supposed to be idealistic, inventive and passionate, yet we invoke the same, tired ideas over and over again — -ism this and Marxist that — and it gets to the point where you don't even feel like reading a column once you see the words "corporatization" or "Brown Inc." glaring back at you. The more these terms and arguments are thrown around, the more saturated the dialogue about this subject becomes, making the whole thing seem less consequential than it really is.

If we are to reclaim the discourse surrounding this issue, we have to attack cliche. If we really hope to change the way our school is managed, as well as the values that guide that management, we must search for an unorthodox approach. Eschewing overworked vocabulary and banal metaphors may be a small step, but it's a step in the right direction.

Anthony Badami '11 is a political theory concentrator from Kansas City, Mo. He can be reached at


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.