activism Corporate Greed Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Students, Campuses and Dominant Corporate Power

Students need to think about civic engagement and the corporate power over the educational institutions that the students attend.
A protest organized by students in Des Moines, Iowa  (Phil Roeder / Flickr)

By Ralph Nader /

When it comes to corporate power and control over their lives, now and into the future, today’s college students are perilously dormant. When it comes to putting pressure on Congress to counter the various dictates of corporatism, there is little activity other than some stalwarts contacting their lawmakers on climate violence.

Much of campus activity these days focuses on diversity, tuition, student loans, “politically correct” speech demands and conforming conduct.

This campus environment is strangely oblivious to the corporate abuses of our economy, culture and government. This indifference extends to the endless grip of corporate power over the educational institutions that the students attend.

Companies see universities and colleges as profit centers.

Corporate vendors influence or control the food students eat on campus, down to the junk in vending machines, along with their credit cards, iPhones, very expensive textbooks and, of course, student debt.

College Boards of Trustees are dominated by corporate executives or corporate affiliated people. Corporate science is – as from drug companies, biotech, military weapons and fossil fuel companies – co-opting, corrupting or displacing academic science which is peer-reviewed and unencumbered by corporate profiteering (See Professor Sheldon Krimsky’s books:

Corporate law firms dominate law schools, with few exceptions, seriously distorting the curriculum away from courses on corporate crimes and immunities and courses that show how corporations have shaped public institutions such as Congress, state legislatures, and the Pentagon along with state and federal regulatory agencies.

Business schools, except for a few free-thinking professors, are finishing schools for Wall Street and other businesses. They operate in an empirically starved environment regarding what is really going on in the world of global corporate machinations, while feeding their student’s dogmatic free-market fundamentalism.

Engineering departments narrowly orient their students toward corporate missions, without educating them about the engineering professions’ ethical and whistleblowing rights and duties. (See, Ethics, Politics, and Whistleblowing in Engineeringby Nicholas Sakellariou and Rania Milleron, CRC Press, 2018).

Social science courses are largely remiss as well. There are very few courses on plutocratic rule and uncontrolled big-business ways of getting commercial values to override civic values. Teachers may be wary of raising such taboo topics, but the enthusiastic student response to Professor Laura Nader’s course on “Controlling Processes” at UC Berkeley over the years might indicate deep student interest in courses on top-down power structures.

Active students in the nineteen sixties and seventies took their environmental, civil rights and anti-war concerns directly to Congress. They, with other citizen groups, pushed Congress and got important legislation enacted.

Students in about twenty states created lasting full-time student advocacy groups called Public Interest Research Groups or PIRGs (See:

Today the PIRGs are still making change happen in the country (See, Right to Repair Project: However, few new PIRGs have been established since 1980. Students need to embrace how important, achievable and enduring such nonprofit independent PIRGs can be. With skilled advocates continuing to train students in civic skills and provide students with extracurricular experiences for a lifetime of citizen engagement, the PIRGs create a vibrant reservoir for a more functioning democracy.

As a leading European statesman Jean Monnet said decades ago – “Without people nothing is possible, but without institutions nothing is lasting.”

Students need to think about the civic part of their years ahead and focus on building the pillars of a democratic society that dissolve the concentrated power of giant corporations and empower the citizenry as befits the “We the People” vision in our Constitution.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.


  1. I remember taking my son to an Ivy League college for an interview. While he was being interviewed I wandered into a classroom where they were teaching students how to safely dismantle US chemical weapons canisters. That’s an example of American “education”.

  2. Ahh, I have taught as precarious faculty since 1983 …. All over, as in El Paso, Las Cruces ,Washington and Oregon and Mexico. Ralph doesn’t understand that universities and colleges are Zombie Land. Sponges for retail disease and turning youth in to abiding servants of consumerism. Style and hipster mentality. Then compliance. Does he not think that having them over many barrels can’t change their collective DNA? The forced indebtedness and the forced vaccinations (way before the planned pademic… As in jabs for meningitis… Or no school) added to the solitary confinement embraced by youth. Imagine, the digital campus where youth putter around in pajamas and play with the junk dished out in those retrograde courses. Imagine colleges still pumping money into asinine athletics. Imagine all that DoD and tech and pharma and AI cash flooding colleges.

    So imagine the future where the rest of the world including global south and Russia and china and India embrace real learning and mutual aid and national pride. And then look at AmeriKKKa and its perverse politicians and deceitful corporations and a society based on scams and ripoffs and fines , tolls, penalties, code violations, tickets, addon fees, evictions and foreclosures and asset forfeiture and repo men.

    And nanny state and police state. Think of Germany on a grands scale. Little Eichmanns and Broke back mountaineers.

  3. Corporations are aided and abetted by the administrative state with 450 departments, bureaus, and agencies.

  4. Love Nader’s common sense. We need more plain-spoken voices out there pointing out the Empire’s lack of clothing.
    Obsessive contact with their iphones seem to paralyze students and other young people today. Too much exciting content keeps them engaged, rather than the state of the nation/world in which they live. Very sad.
    I think we’re toast as a species, even sadder to say, even more difficult to accept.
    Insatiable greed rules the world, to the detriment of all Earth’s life forms.

  5. As usual, the Hon. Ralph Nader tells it like it is! We need the blessing of the Lord to give him freedom of speech and the time to tell the truth to the citizeny (including those living under bridges.,

  6. Several years ago, when mass shooting in America were beginning, I made the observation that there was a correlation between the decline of the humanities being taught in schools and the mass shootings. While I cannot prove a direct correlation, it is interesting to note they are occurring at a time of these simultaneously concurrent crises, yet young people do not have the tools to try and understand the world and, without these tools, they lash out in the most destructive ways possible.
    It is also not an accident that the public school system is under attack and being defunded in favour of charter schools, schools which are based on business models and created by corporate executives, who have no investment and no real understanding in education. They only want students who can take tests without actually learning anything, so they can only be smart enough to read screens and operate machines, working bullshit jobs, to borrow a term from the late anthropologist David Graeber, for barely sustainable wages under conditions of super alienation and exploitation, while the executives steal more and more of the wealth we have created.

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