From the Ordinary to Corruption in Higher Education

[We’re pleased to welcome author Mildred A. Schwartz of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Schwartz recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “From the Ordinary to Corruption in Higher Education.” From Schwartz:]

When I moved to New Jersey after many years of teaching in Chicago, my interest as a political and organizational sociologist was piqued by theJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg kind of corruption I learned of.  Not fully satisfied with existing theories and explanations, I began thinking of how to approach corruption as a sociological phenomenon.  Then, when I read local press coverage about misconduct at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), I felt that I had found the ideal case
for exploring how corruption could arise even within such an unexpected setting–a university dedicated to the health care professions.

Of all the findings that came from my research, at least two were surprising.  One was the prevalence of many of the illegal or unethical behaviors found at UMDNJ in other U.S. universities that had medical schools.  The second was the ability of UMDNJ and other universities, despite misconduct, to still fulfill their duties to train health care professionals, advance scientific research, and treat the sick.

I would like to think that my findings will inspire efforts at controlling organizational corruption, particularly as it is manifested in higher education.  At least three guidelines emerged from the larger research, discussed in my book, Trouble in the University:  How the Education of Health Care Professionals became Corrupted (Brill, 2014).  One is the importance of enough transparency to allow organizational participants to understand how decisions are made.  Second is the need for accepted avenues through which to express complaints without fear of reprisal.   Third, and this is especially relevant to state-supported universities although it is not confined to them, is the need for firm boundaries between politics and education.

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