University of Calgary president addresses corporate influence allegations

Elizabeth Cannon says there have never been any formal complaints about interference in University's Centre for Corporate Sustainability

CALGARY — The president of the University of Calgary doesn’t believe the school’s reputation as a research facility will be hurt by concerns from faculty members over corporate influence.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is looking into a CBC investigation in which senior academics alleged that oil company Enbridge (TSX:ENB) inappropriately interfered in the University’s Centre for Corporate Sustainability after the company provided a donation.

CAUT says in a news release that the former chairman of the Centre claims he was fired after raising concerns about Enbridge’s influence in the Centre, while another left in protest over the university’s failure to defend academic freedom.

University president Elizabeth Cannon says when funds come from the private sector, there is a written agreement set out with expectations but on the questions of day to day operations and staffing, that’s a decision made solely by the university.

She says while there were concerns expressed in emails to the former dean of the Haskayne school of business, there have never been any formal complaints.

Cannon does say the emails from 2011 and 2012 prove there could have been a better job done with communicating with staff and more transparency on the decision when it came to corporate sponsorships.

Enbridge had promised the university $2.25 million over 10 years for the centre, but its name is now off the centre and its donation has been cut by $1 million.

“Universities have an obligation to actively defend the academic freedom of professors,” says CAUT executive director David Robinson. “If the allegations are true, the University of Calgary administration will have to be held to account.”

Robinson says the matter will be discussed further within CAUT and may be taken up with a formal investigation.


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