Microsoft VP objects to “open” language in education report

The Commission on the Future of Higher Education was formed last fall to draft a report that would shape US government spending priorities for academia. The Commission’s work is now nearly done after an August 10 meeting in which all but one of the members signed off on a draft of the report. Unfortunately, at least one of the Commission members who voted for the report had not actually read it. When she did eventually read it, she had objections to a paragraph that mentioned “open source,” according to Inside Higher Ed, which has been following the story.

The member, Gerri Elliott, is Microsoft’s Public Sector VP, which means that she oversees more than 1,000 salespeople who target government, healthcare, and education markets. According to her bio, she has a “passion for delivering business value.” Business value is not passionately delivered by writing statements endorsing open source software into government reports, though, and so Elliott issued an objection by e-mail after the vote had already been taken (Elliott tells Inside Higher Ed that she has never advocated any particular platform or software and that she does not represent Microsoft while working on the Commission).

The objectionable paragraph, found on page 24 of the report, reads: “The Commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education.”

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