America’s Newest Scholarship Provider: PornHub

By Dr. Watson Scott SwailPresident & Senior Research Scholar, Educational Policy Institute

I read an interesting article today about a $25,000 scholarship given to a Texas woman who was down on her luck. The 48-year old will use the scholarship to continue her education. MaryAnn Uribe completed a two-year associate’s degree and now wants to complete her BA. The philanthropist in this case is PornHub, one of the world’s largest online pornographic providers (that’s what I read…really).

The story actually gets pretty interesting. It seems Uribe was a whistleblower on her lawyer bosses. How much of a whistleblower? Well, enough that they hired a hit man to take her out. No joke. Read the story at the Washington Post here.

But that story is a complete and compelling sidetrack. Pornhub, which apparently has 79 billion video views a year, has established this scholarship to “expand their philanthropy.” I guess 79 million video views wasn’t enough. They have more to give.

According to Pornhub’s VP, there were over a 1,000 video entries and that they were looking for someone who spread “happiness and effected positive change.” As the VP stated, “She’s been through a lot. … When negative things happened, she really stood up for herself.”

I found the issue reminiscent of corporate political contributions and begs the question: is a scholarship from an organization that works in the pornographic business okay, or are there parameters around what is acceptable and not acceptable?

Recently, Bernie Sanders received a $2,700 contribution from Martin Shkreli, the guy who buys old pharmaceutical companies and then jacks up the price of their critical drugs. Sanders did not accept it and passed it on to another non-profit organization (Shkreli was arrested by the FBI yesterday on fraud charges). But when does a scholarship become toxic? When does it tip over into the untouchable side of discretion?

The use of scholarships as both philanthropy and to grease political and financial doors is nothing new. Companies have done this in a myriad of ways over the years. Organizations and individuals have provided scholarships to either (a) do a public good; (b) make them look good; or (c) influence people for future endeavors. If you are really good, you do all three.

I’m not going to say whether PornHub’s contribution is appropriate or not. I must say that I was stunned that they did this and they did it on what appear to be very legitimate and ethical grounds. On one hand my hat is completely off to them. On another, I’m wondering what the angle is.

What do you think?



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