Henry Farrell hits the nail on the head at the end of his latest Crooked Timber post:
"One of the least appreciated problems of economic inequality is that it tends to filter out ideas that are uncongenial to rich people, and to heavily overweight ideas that they like. Universities like to think of themselves as removed from all of this. More and more, they are not."
Indeed, and UK universities are just as vulnerable to this threat as those in the US.
Occasionally however even the most supine and craven of managements realize that they have gone a tad too far. I once worked at an institution where it was seriously proposed by the hi' heid yins that a well healed celebrity chef who happened to be an alumni should sit on the board tasked with appointing a professor of sociology. Eventually they were persuaded that this might, perhaps, er... lead to the appointment becoming an object of ridicule. With some reluctance the plan was dropped. What was interesting was that sociology was chosen for this stunt. I doubt they would have tried it on with the economics department.