So Nottingham University is to accept £3.8 million from British American Tobacco to teach corporate social responsibility. (Now I have seen everything. Or is it just a matter of time before someone founds a Pinochet Centre for the Study of Human Rights?) Of the many reasons why this deal is objectionable, two stand out. First, tobacco companies market their products particularly to young people. They have to do this because few people first take up smoking after their early 20s. Why would any university want to be associated with a company whose products will harm its students?
Second, universities are supposed to uphold high standards in research. The tobacco industry has an appalling history of subverting such standards. For more than 40 years, it used lies, deceit, obfuscation and other meretricious tactics to suppress or deny the evidence that its products were killing people.
To have a tobacco company sponsor anything in a university, let alone "social responsibility", should be recognised as a fundamental contradiction of what universities stand for.
Director of comparative American studies
University of Warwick