Publicly funded institutions can become co-opted or captured by special interests.
Some university faculties have a better or worse reputation for pandering to special interests when compared to other disciplines. Business schools are not well respected by other faculties for their independence of thought.
I’ve seen it at my old school and confirmed it in other universities as well.
The Greeks defined 3 modes of persuasion:
- logos (reliance on facts and figures: can be true or false),
- ethos (authority, honesty of speaker, morality), and
- pathos (appeal to emotions, sense of injustice, outrage).
Franchisees appear in front of public hearings and rely almost entirely on the rhetorical device of an appeal to justice: “It’s not fair that they did this and that.” Policy makers listen and judge its “truthiness“.
- Generally, their narratives are concrete, visceral and credible.
Big Franchising responds if they have any remaining credibility, directly with at times shaky logos and ethos.
1. Consider the following article in Australia’s SmartCompany: Survey reveals drop in franchising disputes as franchising inquiry continues.
A new survey of Australia’s $130 billion franchise sector has shown disputes between franchisees and franchisors have declined, with just 2% of Australia’s franchisees classified as being in dispute.
Let’s stop there and list the persuasive assumptions that this single sentence relies upon:
- survey: a scientific, logical, rational, independently verifiable academic study that is reviewed by other academics [did it appear in a refereed academic journal? no],
- $130 billion sector: size matters: infers that big = successful, growth is good [uses social proof, is a huge credit crisis and run-away cancer growth good?],
- declining number of disputes: situation is getting better [what is a dispute? how many have abandoned? is the mean dispute big or small?],
- just 2% of franchisees in disputes: tiny problems, inconsequential, minuscule [can use anchoring to deceive].
This opening sentence is strictly a blatant misrepresentation, lacking in any connection to formal logic or any verifiable measure. The “just 2%” is a hallmark give away as to lack of any journalistic standards or any pretense of editorial oversight. Shame on SmartCompany but why is a university named?
If the 2008 Report is similar in method to the 2006 Report, it may be junk science: bought and paid for by its funders, the Franchise Council of Australia. Franchisor-controlled associations are well-known for blocking any changes to a statute, regulations and public regulatory body mandate.
2. Next, let’s take a look at more detail into the role of the Griffith University. See the FCA’s media release: THE POWER OF ONE STRONG SECTOR REVEALED IN POSITIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS
Authority is clearly defined as another Weapon of Influence by social psychologist Robert Cialdini that can be applied to universities. They can be used to give the impression of academically rigorous research when really the work is simply a consultant’s report.
I don’t begrudge business admin profs or their peers earning the vast majority of their income from consulting to one or the other industry.
What I wonder is whether it is appropriate for an academic to overstates their conclusions (either intentionally or unintentionally) during a time of national lawmaking?
You decide if Professor Powell has exercised undue influence or abused his duty:
“The continued growth and maturation of Australian franchising is impressive, particularly considering the current economic outlook, a recent change of government, and a franchising sector that has faced close government scrutiny” said Professor Michael Powell. Pro-Vice Chancellor (Business), Griffith Business School.
Did Professor Powell interfere with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services’s Inquiry into the Franchising Code of Conduct? I checked the 140 written submissions and didn’t see his name.
The test could be: Did he know or would he be reasonably been expected to know that his publicly funded authority could be used used to influence [inappropriately interfere?] with the operation of a parliamentary committee?
- True scholastic work is published in refereed professionally-recognized journals to ensure high quality (an editor and reviewing peers, correct methodology, usually a very, very narrow scope, transparent auditing, meets ethical and conflict of interests standards, vetted before publishing, etc.). There is a whole series of checks and balances to weed out biases [innocent and not so innocent].
- Consulting work, no matter how many PhDs are piled up, has none of these centuries-old safeguards in place.
- Blurring these lines is not fair, especially during a time of a fairly controversial public lawmaking process.
I have read enough articles and progressed far enough in a good school to seriously question the validity and reliability of this work. I imagine any academic that values their reputation would not rely or quote this report in their submission to the Joint Committee.
Unfortunately, some scholars are more closely attuned to serving dominant commercial objectives rather than the pursuit of reality-based truth (as opposed to power-based truth) as is their duty as a tenured academic.
My qualifications only go so far to speak on behalf of academic rigour and the arguments not made [eg. sunk costs as the primary and unique source of franchisor opportunism] in the current Australian public hearing.
If a second opinion were to be sought, I believe Gillian K. Hadfield might be an appropriate candidate. pdf CV