Foxconn’s $100M deal with the University of Wisconsin has students worried

At the end of August at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rebecca Blank and Foxconn President Terry Gou announced the largest industrial research partnership in school history. The Biggest University in Taiwan will invest $ 100 million in schools and help establish a new research facility for engineering colleges. "UW-Madison and Foxconn share their efforts to broaden the boundaries of knowledge through cross-disciplinary research and thank Gou for his support and partnership," Blank said.

Last year, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker took Foxconn to the country with a $ 3 billion subsidy promise of $ 4.1 billion, including environmental regulations, state court special treatment and other temptations. But the company's plans soon began to change. Foxconn has said it will build a much smaller factory, and most jobs are called "AI 8K + 5G" for knowledge workers, not manufacturing, to create an ecosystem. There is no doubt about the value of the Foxconn project, but the partnership with the University of Wisconsin has shown that the company will be profitable in the region.

However, this partnership on campus is controversial. Last week, Ian Robertson, Ian Robertson, president of the Ian Robertson Institute, held the city hall and asked questions that were pointed out to the graduate students concerned about the impact of the partnership on intellectual property and academic freedom and the overall opacity of the partnership. "We did not say anything," says graduate student Sonali Gupta. "

A memorandum of understanding (MOQ) signed in August explains the development of the Foxconn Institute. Foxconn-owned buildings and" Foxconn sponsors "in the company's industrial complex near the Madison campus, but UW-

The Memorandum of Understanding is not legally binding and details are still being addressed, but researchers at Graduate Schools are concerned that the process is not transparent. To commercialization plans and strategies, research and development work plans, systems, methods and designs.

Graduate student Hridindu Roychowdhury said, "Many of the conventions are being held privately. "

John Lucas, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said via e-mail that the University is" open to the public " We are compliant with the law and ask for Foxconn to be involved. The Wisconsin State Journal gained a memorandum of understanding with the MOU a few weeks after signing and students requested and received some additional documents, including contracts related to artificial intelligence in the healthcare field. Other documents refer to autonomous vehicles, 5G networks and smart cities as possible areas for collaboration.

Company partnerships are an increasingly common way for universities to build new infrastructures despite the lack of state funding. An official at the University of Wisconsin said state support was cut by $ 362 million between 2012 and 2017 and Robertson opened last week by scoffing at the budget deficit. If the university says there is no change in funding, it would have to cut the program and lose faculty, he said.

However, partnerships extend beyond funding new facilities, funding new faculty, and sharing intellectual property. The Cooperation Agreement lists three types of research contracts that can result from partnerships, with only one sending intellectual property across the university. The other two types of contracts grant Foxconn the intellectual property rights of the research, either explicitly or through negotiation. It is unclear how research belongs to which category, and how ownership is negotiated, and researchers fear Foxconn will face a situation where intellectual property arising from its work is destroyed.

"We now own ownership of the intellectual property we generate," says Gupta. "If graduate students do not sit at the table during the negotiations, will graduate students give up their ownership by working in the Foxconn building?"

"Sometimes there are no options and they are placed in the lab. What if it's Foxconn Institute?" Graduate student Apoorv Saraogee There is no money in it, and I envision a scenario in which I will push students into sponsored programs.

In an email, Lucas may require a mix of contract types to be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the scope of the activity, Foxconn's expected supervisory level and intellectual property rights. "

" Traditionally UW- The contract did not give up ownership of IP and UW-Madison does not claim ownership of the researcher's intellectual property rights, "wrote Lucas. "UW-Madison assigns intellectual property rights to a researcher and / or student to a university or a named person so that the university has"

Kali Murray, co-head of the intellectual property program at Marquette University Law School, says graduate students can find out why they are uncomfortable about partnerships. New faculty especially because of ambiguity about employment. "The parties are working to open FIRST by at least 100 researchers by 2020, and the parties have agreed to discuss the cost sharing to mobilize new faculty," the memorandum says. Foxconn and the University will work together to nominate and hire FIRST Executive Director, including recruiting staff, establishing new research plans, and maintaining postgraduate research programs.

The ambiguity of this provision is rare and says Murray has opened up a number of possibilities to influence intellectual property and academic freedom. "What does it mean to share costs with Foxconn, does it make the faculty essentially a joint commitment?" Murray asks. "They are professors at UW Madison, but who would be an employer in that situation if Foxconn paid 50% of the wages in a dispute between Madison and Foxconn?" She also wants to clarify the language of what copyright is going to be. The researcher must handle the right to publish.

She says that clarity is especially important for graduate researchers. "In essence, working with a professor, it's not clear what your job status is until you are working for UW Madison and Foxconn at the same time."

In the town hall, Robertson worked exclusively for employment research He said there would be no professor. Lucas said the most likely form of Foxconn faculty funding would be "a form of funding from a startup fund and / or a nominated professor," a new faculty member told UW-Madison faculty. "He said. He also states that "The Board is asking the UW to prohibit research contracts that do not allow the disclosure of research results and to retain ownership of the research material under the policy. He previously held the position of FIRST's Managing Director at Foxconn Staff in the Wisconsin Journal

Murray raised concerns about the relationship between funding and employment decisions Professor Murray said that the new faculty financing is unclear, suggesting that "universities are trying to maintain a great deal of flexibility in the way they work." The relationship is not necessarily wrong, but the recent scandal, George Mason A note on employment decision making at George Mason University and elsewhere Given the influence of donors, the University of Wisconsin should "be more cautious and transparent about how this consensus is structured in relation to employment."

With the formation of partnerships, And some of the students are sharing pamphlets at Foxconn events, which are commonly used on campus and working with graduate unions.Gupta said, "Professors and students I want to know how to sit at this table, "he said." I want to know what we should do to sign the university before we reach that table. "

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