The Times’ editorial (March 19) on UCLA’s relationship with Michael Milken was grossly misleading.
The decision of the Anderson Graduate School of Management to invite Milken to participate as a guest lecturer in a finance course and to contract with him to develop a video of the class was based entirely on educational considerations, not financial gain.
The course, offered through the MBA program, was designed by Professor Brad Cornell as a point-counterpoint between Cornell and Milken (as well as other guest speakers) on corporate finance and financial markets. Cornell was responsible for all aspects of the course, including preparation of examinations and assignment of grades.
The Anderson School agreed to contract with an educational firm established by Milken to produce a high-quality video of the course; the school’s interest was in making this unique educational experience available broadly to others and at no cost to UCLA.
The Times criticized UCLA for the terms of the video agreement, stating that naive university negotiators were duped by Milken into an unfavorable financial arrangement. This is hardly the case.
The contract, negotiated by experienced representatives of the Anderson School and reviewed by a veteran university attorney, calls for the Milken educational firm to pay the considerable costs of videotaping, editing and distribution. UCLA pays nothing but secures the video for its use and use by other universities and shares modestly in any profits.
The Times also scurrilously suggested that the video contract was a quid pro quo for Milken’s financial contributions to UCLA. Those who negotiated the contract on behalf of the Anderson School were not even aware of donations over the years from Milken family foundations to various programs on campus. In any event, such generosity does not buy anyone a “sweetheart” business deal or an opportunity to guest lecture at UCLA.
Criticism of the video contract, in my opinion, is nothing more than thinly veiled condemnation of the decision to permit Milken to participate in the course.
Milken was not presented as a role model but as an expert on corporate finance and financial markets. I am confident UCLA’s graduate students understand the difference.
The finance faculty and the dean of the Anderson School believed that Milken had a valuable perspective to offer. I support their right, exercised in accordance with university rules, to offer the curriculum and guest participation they believed would be most academically enriching.
Students deserve to be exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints in their university education. UCLA students (certainly graduate-level management students) are mature enough to evaluate ideas, ask penetrating questions, find the truth, and make responsible choices without our censoring what or from whom they are permitted to hear.
I would hope that The Times, which is rightfully a dedicated advocate of freedom of the press as a means of ensuring an informed citizenry, would recognize, as well, the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom as essential elements in providing the educational base necessary for an effective democracy.
CHARLES E. YOUNG
UCLA was wise to attract Milken’s general largess and to de-emphasize profits in its videotapes deal. Any fool knows that profits seldom materialize in Hollywood; the smart money gets on-board above the line.
JAMES S. CATTERALL
Graduate School of Education, UCLA