Guide to Researching Your Campus

full version(pdf)

(packet form(pdf))


"If we do not reverse perspective, then the perspective of power will succeed in turning us against ourselves once and for all."
-Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life



Table of Contents

  1. Starting Out 2
  2. Research  
    A. Common Resources 2
    B. Administrative Salaries 5
    C. Combing the University Budget 6
    D. Military Research 7
    E. Corporate Research and Connections 9
    F. Tuition 13
    G. Diversity 13
    H. Harassment 14
    I. Student Housing 14
  3. What Next? 15
  4. Media Guide 16
  5. More Resources 19
  6. Acknowledgements 19


By Nick Schwellenbach of UT Watch

Copyleft 2003 - feel free to copy, distribute, quote, whatever. This information is no one's and everyone's.

Starting Out

So you figured out your university is fucked up and you want to do something about it. Researching your campus can help you change your university. Hopefully this modest guide will help in your research pursuits. It should be taken simply as a starting point and is not all encompassing.

The internet is an important and convenient resource, but do not rely heavily on it. Find a primary source - a person, document or organization - and go straight to it. Narrow down your topic to a manageable size.

Here is a brief list of questions to ask yourself when starting out:

  1. What are my purposes and goals?
  2. What do I need to find out and why?
  3. What questions do I want to answer in my research?
  4. How much time do I have to do research?
  5. Who will know answers to my questions? Has the research already been done? Think creatively and broadly. Don't rely on the internet.
  6. Who are my allies? Who will be willing to share research duties?


Brief disclaimer on this guide: It is geared toward public universities; many things are applicable to private schools as well. Note: many schools use phrases, terms, etc different than those used here- learn the local jargon!

A. Common Resources

Read your campus and local newspapers daily for basic information on your university. Your city may have a business journal (ex. Austin Business Journal); read it to find out what relationships exist between your university and the business community.

In early September, The Chronicle of Higher Education releases its annual "Almanac issue" containing all the statistical tables it has published in the past year. This resource is an excellent starting point for finding enrollment, financial, and administrative statistics, as many of the Chronicle's tables are sorted by university:

All student watchdog groups should gain access to The Chronicle of Higher Education (if affordable getting an internet subscription may be ideal since every member can share the password and access it anywhere, plus you can search the Chronicle's archive online); your library might already have a subscription. If they don't, request that they get one.

Go to your library and ask for three university documents: the annual financial/treasurer's report, the annual report on sponsored research, and the annual reports to the president by each department. If the library does not have public copies of these documents, find out what they are called and request copies from the appropriate university offices. These documents can be quite intimidating- you may want to seek economics or accounting allies in trying to decipher what's going on in these documents. Also there may be people doing work outside of the university who may be willing to help. In Texas a group called Texans for Public Justice helped UT Watch understand the personal financial reports of the Regents.

Your university most likely offers free access to Lexis Nexus ( for students. You may have to go through a library computer or enter a school ID. Lexis Nexus allows you to search years of media documentation - newspapers, news wires, etc. The Guided News Search provides options for selecting a preferred media type as well as searching for various terms throughout the articles. Students will usually want to select General, Business and University news. Look for old articles on fee increases, administrative scandals, student protests, etc. Also search your school newspaper's archives, and ask around to see if any alternative publications existed in the past.

Other common tools for researching are the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state Open Records Requests (ORR). FOIA's can help you obtain information relating to the federal government. ORR's are used to retrieve information at the state or local government level.

A link for an excellent open records request letter generator:

ACLU's FOIA guide is very useful; it gives you the basics, examples and more:

If you would like a printed FOIA guide, then send for a copy of:
"The Freedom of Information Act: A User's Guide."
Freedom of Information Clearinghouse
PO Box 19367
Washington, D.C. 20036

Also, an FOIA help-line service is available at 202-512-FOIA.

An FOIA letter generator:

To find information on where to send an ORR, go to your university's website or call the office of financial affairs/business administration or a similar office. Your school may challenge your FOIA or ORR, so get the contact information of your local ACLU for help. Also FOIA or ORR requests can sometimes be costly, so to get around paying for them say that the request will be used for the public interest. Ask for a fee waiver.

Organizations like the College Board can act as general information sources. For example, the College Board's website has a useful feature that allows you to compare various university/college statistics:

The Center for Responsive Politics (nationally focused) and The Center for Public Integrity (state politics) are great resources for retrieving money-in-politics data:

As a final suggestion, pick up a copy of The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigator's Guide to Documents and Techniques by John Ullman and Jan Colbert. This book explains how to research almost any topic and find the information you need. It will blow your mind! I discovered it while writing this guide.

B. Administrative Salaries

"...administrative budgets at public universities have increased at almost three times the rate of increase in instructional budgets."
-Mark G. Yudof, chancellor of the UT System and highest paid university administrator in 2002

Salaries of the top ten officials at any private university are located in the university's I-990 form, an IRS tax form that all non-profit organizations must file. In a few states, it may be kept for public inspection in the public charities division of the state capital. Otherwise, download and print form 4506-A ("Request for Public Inspection or Copy of Exempt Organization Tax Form") from the Internal Revenue Service by going to: Once you fill out the form you need to take it to an IRS disclosure officer. Call 1- 800-829-1040 to find the closest IRS office.

At public universities, the salaries of top administrators are usually in the state budget, and the regents and president will most likely be required to file a financial disclosure with the state. Check with the same bureaucracy that handles financial disclosures for political candidates or call the president's/regents' offices and ask for copies of their Personal Financial Statements. Other names to look for can be (or are similar to): General Operating Budget, Annual Financial Statements, Statement of Economic Interests, etc.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a database listing the salaries of private/public university presidents, as well as the 5 highest paid university employees for most schools.

C. Combing the University Budget

When you obtain copies of your university's budget and/or financial statements, they can be quite intimidating at first. Researching the budget is a daunting task, but there are several places you can start.

Try to find a listing of endowed chairs at your school. Corporations or individuals donating money to your school fund these chairs, but the university usually matches at least part, if not all of the private contribution. In many instances, such chairs are merely glorified, private-sector employees who are subsidized by your school and who may not teach any classes.

For a contextual analysis, faculty salaries in general can be examined alongside endowed chairs or broken down into various categories. You will most likely find that women and minorities are making less than their white, male counterparts. Finding out which faculty members have (or don't have) tenure and tenure-track may also be enlightening.

Another great starting point may be to discover how your tuition and fees are being used. If this money is funding the construction of various research centers, then it is most likely subsidizing corporate/military research. Your tuition might be paying off years of debt incurred by your school from such construction (look for "tuition revenue bonds").

Not With Our Money has an excellent guide to higher education bonds and how your tuition money funds Lehman Brothers, a global investment bank supporting the for-profit prison industry. Check out:

Look around and don't be afraid to bring questions to your university financial officer.

D. Military Research

"People in the university science-and-technology community who are supported by the Pentagon should crawl under their desks in shame."
-Gary Chapman, former green beret

Your university may be willing to provide you with a free listing of all externally funded research, both corporate and military (try "Office of Sponsored Projects", "Sponsored Projects Office", "Office of Research Administration", etc.). Track down your school's office and obtain materials on campus research. If the office does not help you, remind them that as a taxpayer you have the right to obtain information on all publicly funded research!

Much of this is available on the internet- search your university's site and search engines such as Google. Terms that will uncover projects include: DoD, DARPA, ONR, AFOSR, ARO, LLNL, LANL, Defense, etc. Be creative and follow the links. Also, surf the web pages of researchers, professors, and labs at your university. Most often the funding agency will be listed somewhere on the page. For quick searches use the "find" option on your browser by holding the "Control" and "F" keys at the same time. The DoD page can yield info on contracts to universities

Search for your university's name and check the results. Other great DoD sites to look for information are the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) Industrial and Corporate Programs site at, the Army Research Office's (ARO) Program Divisions page at, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) page at

Another available option is to apply pressure within the university in order to obtain a current (not a 2-year-old) list of contracts, and then pursue other means if you are refused. You can also try the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and request work unit summaries at your school by sending a letter to: Defense Technical Information Center, 8725 John J. Kingman Rd., Suite 0944, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6218. There's also a website (after all, the internet is a civilian military spinoff!) -

If needed other key terms to use are "federally funded contracts", "grant applications" and/or "research proposals".

If you acquire a list of contracts by agency, you will be able to request the specific contracts themselves. Each research contract includes 100 pages of irrelevant information, so it is best to choose what you want carefully before becoming inundated with paper. If your university refuses to provide the contracts, you should use the federal FOIA to obtain them.

Federal funding includes: the Army Research Office (ARO), Office of Naval Research (ONR), Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL), the Dept. of Energy and NASA. Non-federal includes: industry, business assoc's, foundations, and foreign, state/local gov't.

Use the National Science Foundation's (NSF) reports. The NSF is a great resource for general data. The NSF Division of Science Resource Statistics website provides many search options to research a single institution or the nation as a whole. The website is The National Science Foundation's "Academic Institutional Profiles" (, outlining the sources of research funding for particular universities, are especially helpful. NSF has other great information about science and research statistics.

A good info source on the FOIA and the military is:

Another good source for researching a university's ties to the military is:

E. Corporate Research and Connections

"Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
- Benito Mussolini

Corporate research contracts are sometimes harder to track down. The procedure is the same as for military contracts, except that you cannot go to the federal government for assistance since they do not fund the contracts. At public universities corporate research contracts will be available under open records statutes, although in some states segments of contracts dealing with "proprietary" information will be deleted. You might discover a few leads by checking the advisory boards for all technology-related university departments and buildings (biotechnology, nanotechnology, microelectronics, engineering, business - Capitalism has gone high tech!). Find which corporations are represented. If you do get a copy of a corporate contract, see if it is a subcontract of a military contract. Is a company farming out a small piece of its weapons research to your school? Does the professor who works on that project consult for that company? Looking at endowed chairs (names like IBM endowed chair on microelectronics are obvious) can give you an idea of what is being researched and for whom.

Use tips from the military research section above, they are also useful in uncovering corporate research. Finding lists of technology licensing can also be useful (try "Office of Technology Licensing", "Office of Technology Transfer", etc).

[adapted and updated from Z magazine, 2/90] - Administrators or faculty members that are beholden to outside companies may have agendas or time commitments which get in the way of their teaching duties. Such outside ties are worth exposing if they will show how the university is concealing the profit motive of a company - using up public resources which could otherwise 10 be used to directly help people. From our experience, you are better off focusing on one or two particularly bad cases of conflict of interest, because if you go after everyone simultaneously you scare the faculty, your attack loses focus and the people you attack gang up on you.

Guess which academics are the most likely corporate agents. Go to a business library and try to find at least one board of directors on which each individual sits. Once you find one company, you can find out the other "directorships" of that individual by obtaining the proxy statement for that company, which is sent to all shareholders in advance of the company's annual meeting and is available for free if you write the company. The proxy will also have a photograph of that person, a brief biography, his or her board subcommittees, the number of meetings attended, the annual stipend he or she receives for sitting on the board, and possibly additional consulting compensation.

Once you find this information, search through the administration's newspaper and look for the names of the companies you discover. You may find some interesting connections. Also check out the company in the business press. The Wall Street Journal Index, The New York Times Index, and The Business Periodicals Index will be your best and most accessible sources - they will be available in any business library. Once you find articles concerning controversies involving the company, start calling individuals or organizations that have previously struggled with the target company. Unions and environmental groups will be particularly helpful, but anyone who's fought a large company at any level is likely to have files to share and stories to tell.

Also, if the company has recently been involved in a lawsuit, call the county courthouse where the suit was filed and ask for a copy of the "original complaint" for the suit, as well as any "amended complaints." If the trial is over, you can even get transcripts of the proceedings. And don't forget to call the other litigant or her/his attorney for further leads. - [end of adaptation]

Professors and their corporate connections may have conflicts of interest. Obtain the professor's curriculum vitae/resume through an FOIA of any research proposal they have submitted to the federal government. Often, this info is available through a personal homepage or a university public relations office. Also check out faculty publications for corporate connections. Most universities have limits on how much time can be spent doing outside work, but are often lax in enforcing them. If you find enough outside activity, then you may be able to demonstrate a conflict of interest.

More sources:

  • The "Board of Regents/Trustees": They usually give the final "OK" to research funding and other corporate ties -- the minutes of their meetings should give a survey of what's going on. Their ties to corporate boards can also be found in the proxy statements of specific corporations available in most business school libraries, Who's Who in Finance and Industry, Who's Who in America, and in university catalogs. One method for establishing some corporate affiliations is to create a list of regents/trustees and compare this to listings in Who's Who in Finance and Industry.
  • University/Industry Relations Office: A university office dedicated to linking researchers with industry! Check out their information and any seminars -- find out their annual budget!
  • University propaganda: Universities frequently promote their corporate ties in department newsletters, glossy brochures, annual reports for donors, university newspapers, and alumni magazines.
  • University web sites: Enough information may be organized here to allow keyword searches.
  • Corporate annual reports: Check them out at the job placement office, business school or engineering school. They may mention projects at your university.
  • University policies: on "extramural" (outside) funding, patent policies & guidelines, research ethics, disclosure on conflict of interest.
  • SEC Documents: your school or regents may own a considerable share of a corporation. Look at a company's proxy report to see which individuals or institutions own 5 percent or more of the company, the names of board members, and the pay of top officers. A system called EDGAR archives all SEC documents and is available for free at this site; look especially for the 10-K and shareholder proxy statement, and the DEF14A. These are good places to find out just who the major stockholders are, if school officials double as corporate directors, which lawsuits are pending, what shareholder resolutions are being considered at the annual meeting, etc. If your school has over $100 million in holdings, it must also file a 13F with the SEC, outlining these investments, which may be another route to obtain this information if your school is private and/or not respecting open records request for their portfolio - be sure to ask for a 13F both under your school's proper name and "Trustees/Regents of insert name of University."

Once you discover the corporate interests at work on your campus, dig the dirt. Find out about their record with the environment, labor, etc.

The site has profiles on over 14,000 corporations. Also find the corporation's website - it may include full reports that you can get info from.

Campaign Contributions
For Federal Election Commission data, see:,, or

More and more state information is coming online as well. See:

Environmental Data
The EPA website has a feature that allows you to search for compliance information on a company or facility from a variety of databases at once:

The Environmental Defense Fund has a website that allows you to view environmental data on a specific geographic area:

You can see what the corporations themselves say in their environmental reports at:

Job Safety and Health Data
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a database of inspection records, including complaints issued:

Keeping an Eye on Business
Check out the Center for Comprehensive Corporate Research:

F. Tuition, getting screwed?

Start researching tuition by looking at statistical handbooks, annual financial statements, etc. It may be useful to compare tuition increases to changes in state appropriations, overall budget and revenue generated by tuition. Many schools distinguish between tuition and fees and therefore can say that tuition has increased only so much, thus leaving out the fact that fees have increased at a faster pace. UT Watch created our own tuition and fees report last year. Check it out:

The College Board puts out an annual report on tuition and financial aid availability. The 2002-03 report is at: They also put out two yearly reports - Trends in College Pricing, and a similar tabulation of financial aid availability. Their conclusions are sometimes questionable, but their data is vital to gauging the affordability (or lack thereof) of your university.

Finding out where your tuition and fees are going and what they were 20, 10 or 5 years ago can help in fighting skyrocketing tuition at your schools (go to Section C for more info). The Chronicle of Higher Education also has data on tuition and fees.

G. Minority Enrollment and Faculty Representation

[taken from a Center for Campus Organizing research guide]
Your first task is to gather enrollment statistics, which your university is required to keep if it accepts government funds (look for Statistical Handbook). A summary by race appears each year in The Chronicle of Higher Education for all colleges except those which escape the reporting requirement by refusing government financial aid money. Are these figures correct, or is your university playing with the numbers to escape the heat? Network with other minority students to see what efforts have been made to correct any deficiencies in minority representation.

While you are gathering statistics, demand a tally of minority and women faculty by department and by tenure status from the President or Provost of your school. You may ask whether the official faculty regulations and hiring policies contain explicit anti-racist language. If affirmative action is endorsed by the administration but left up to individual departments, do departments ignore this policy? We must publicize the numbers so that departments with bad records will feel the heat and open up a few slots to untenured women or faculty of color.

H. Harassment (sexual or racial)

[taken from a Center for Campus Organizing research guide]
For harassment research, you are likely to encounter some obstacles. You can check campus police crime reports, but internal university records on harassment by faculty members are seldom disclosed. It may take quite a bit of digging around, including meetings and interviews with other students, to identify professors prone to racial or sexual harassment or insults.

An open records request may be useful here. Do a request on complaints against campus police, administrators or whoever you want info on.

It may be helpful to consult the discrimination related government agencies of your city, your state, the US Department of Education, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Finally, go to the clerk's office in the courthouse of the county in which your school is located to see if your school is a defendant in any active cases which may relate to sex or race discrimination. Simply look up the docket numbers of the cases your university is involved in and request to see them.

I. Student Housing

Many students live in unsafe and unhealthy living environments on and around campus at inflated prices. The best places to go to obtain records are property ownership and rental housing records. Since most communities have housing codes that require standards to be met, inspection records can be useful when researching a housing situation. The city public works department or appropriate local agency is the best source. Also check land ownership records.

What Next?

Now that you possess a wealth of information about your university, you need to find a way to publicize it that will grab people's attention. Some issues like tuition and student housing are relatively easy issues to gain student support on since they directly affect students. Corporate and military research can be an uphill battle. Show how such research runs contrary to a free exchange of ideas at the university, and then interconnect these issues with tuition increases and curriculum.

You may find you are fighting a battle over what and for whom the university exists. Read books like The Uses of the University by Clark Kerr, the writings of Free Speech movement leader Mario Savio, as well as critiques of them. You will find them surprisingly applicable to today's corporate university.

Most universities charters or mission statements can be used against your average corporate university technocrat. Those old 19th century statements typically say something to the effect of the school is supposed to be used for the public good and to promote positive social change and to be affordable (especially if it's a public school) to all citizens. Gaining community support can really make the difference.

Good luck! Remember be creative and resourceful - this guide is not a bible.


[The following piece was taken from the 180/MDE site at]

Brief Guide to Using the Media

Media exposure can broaden the impact of a campaign or an event. Television or newspaper coverage enables you to reach thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people in your community. Such coverage can help you advance the goals of a campaign, educate and influence the public and elected officials, enhance your group's name recognition and credibility, and attract new members.

Many seasoned activists recommend devoting ten percent of your organizing time to attracting media attention. There are virtually boundless opportunities to seek out the media. A few of the best opportunities include: the launch of a new campaign, before or after an important vote, a major visibility event, after a victory has been secured, the release of a report or new information, the recognition of an anniversary, or the announcement of a new coalition.

Getting Prepared:

Develop a list of all local/regional media outlets, including television stations (network and cable), newspapers (campus, dailies, and weeklies), radio stations, and news wires (i.e., Associated Press, Reuters, UPI). Familiarize yourself with the general programming content of the different media outlets. Try to determine which reporters might be more inclined to cover stories on your issue or organization. For each outlet, include its name, address, phone number, fax number, and contact's name on your list.

Media Coverage Techniques:

- Press releases are used to announce newsworthy events and to get your comments on an event into easily printable form. You write a press release as if you were the reporter covering the event. It allows you to answer a reporter's questions before they are asked and to frame the issue as you want it to appear. Press releases are written in conjunction with a press conference or when you want to notify the press about something important.

- Press advisories inform a reporter or editor about an upcoming event or press conference. It should include the date, time, place, and purpose of the event or press conference. Be sure to mention if any important speakers will be present or special visuals will be used. However, the advisory should not describe the event in detail, so as to leave incentive for the press to show.

- Press conferences are used to 'make news.' These are often the best way to generate television coverage and act as signs to the media that your story is particularly urgent or important.

- Media events are often used to capture the media's attention in order to dramatize a message. These often require large numbers of people or a creative flair to be effective. Examples would include rallies, protests, marches, etc.

- Letters to the editor are one of the best ways to publicize your campaign's message or organization's point of view. Your letter is more likely to get printed if it is a response to recent editorials, articles, or other letters to the editor. Be sure to check the paper for length requirements.

- Radio feeds are thirty second opportunities to give your opinion on the air to a large audience. They are generally done in conjunction with press conferences, press releases, or major events. Feeds are generally played during morning or evening commuting times or at mid-day, so call radio stations between 5:00- 6:00 am, between 10:30-11:30 am, and before 4:00 pm.

- Public service announcements (PSAs) are used to publicize an important event that is not necessarily newsworthy, such as a general meeting. Some TV and radio stations are required to run PSAs for free.

- New briefings provide a group of reporters with in-depth, background information on an issue. These are often useful at the beginning of a campaign.

- Editorial board meetings are held with the editorial boards of media outlets and are used to educate them on the issues, build your reputation as an expert, and win their support. These are good opportunities to involve credible and influential coalition partners.

- Talk shows provide an opportunity for you to address the public directly and response to their questions. [Media Coverage Techniques adapted from the Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network's Skills Manual.]

The Media Timeline:

- Fax a press advisory four days before the event to TV stations and newspapers. Follow-up with a phone call that day to verify that your fax was received.

- Make reminder calls to all media outlets on the day before the event. Use this call as an opportunity to plug the event's newsworthiness directly to the reporter.

- On the day of the event, call all media again to confirm that they have information on the event. Try to call during the first hour of business-often 5:30 for radio, 7:00 am for TV, and 8:00 am for daily newspapers. If a reporter does not know about the event, offer to fax him or her the press advisory. If you contact someone who wants to cover the event but cannot attend it, arrange to call him or her afterwards.

- At the event, staff a table marked "Press." Have each reporter sign-in and hand out a press packet to each. The press packets should include a press release, fact sheets, one page biographies of the people speaking, hard copies of any speeches being given, news clips, visuals, and reports.

- After the event, follow-up with both the media outlets that did and did not attend. Fax a press release to all no-show print outlets and do a follow-up call. Call all no-show radio and TV media sources and offer to do a feed on the event over the phone. Ask the reporters that did not attend, what should be done to compel them to attend the next event. For those outlets that did attend, call them to ask if they have any questions and thank them for coming.

- Be sure to save copies of all media coverage that you receive and keep good records. Maintain good relationships with all receptive reporters-personal contact is key to getting coverage.

Press Release:

Standard layout -

- At the top of the page, note on what date the news is relevant and who the reporter can contact for additional information.

- An informative and catchy title should be used to get attention.

- The opening paragraph should lay out the who, what, when , where, and why of your story.

- The second paragraph should include a quote that personalizes your story.

- The third paragraph should provide more factual detail to support your story.

- The fourth paragraph should include another quote from you or a coalition partner.

Tips -

- it should be no longer than one or two pages

- set margins at 1 inches & double space

- spell-check and make sure it is free of errors

- more: a release running more than one page, use the word "more" at the bottom of each page

- mark the end of release, by written either "-30-" or "###" at the center bottom of the last page


Selected websites:
UT Watch-
Harvard Watch-
180/Move for Democracy and Education- http://
Student Press Law Center-
Campus Greens-
Center for Responsive Politics (Money in politics data)-
Corporate Watch-
United Students Against Sweatshops- http://
UC Demilitarization Project-
Campus Activism-
National Lawyers Guild-

Some useful books:
Universities in the Business of Repression by Jonathon Feldman
Academic Capitalism by Sheila Slaughter and Larry Leslie
The Reporter's Handbook: An Investigative Guide to Documents and Techniques by John Ullmann and Jan Colbert


Many thanks to the writers whose guides and information were used here - Center for Campus Organizing guide put out by Rich Cowan, UW-Madison's Alliance for Democracy guide, Robert Ovetz and Scott Henson. Thanks to John Pruett, David Peterson and Forrest Wilder for their wisdom and advice while reviewing this guide.