Thursday, 15 March 2012

Canadian professors threaten censure over Balsillie deal

Canadian professors threaten censure over Balsillie deal
Louise Brown 14 march,2012
Canada’s professors’ union will consider issuing a formal “censure” —academic boycott — of York University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University over joint programs it feels are dangerously cozy with a think tank run by BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers will vote in April on whether to give the three universities a six-month ultimatum to change agreements they have signed with Balsillie’s Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) to remove any say the Waterloo-based think tank may have over academic matters — or it will impose “censure” in November, which would discourage academics from working or meeting at those schools.
The move was prompted by a $60-million deal York signed recently with CIGI to launch an international law program with 10 research chairs (experts) and some 20 PhD students. The deal gives CIGI two spots on a five-person steering committee that would advise on hiring and research — but as of Friday, that deal has been changed to remove any veto power the committee has over hiring.
Despite the fresh amendment — which York vice-president Patrick Monahan said provides binding protection to academic freedom that has been signed by both sides — the professors’ association is against CIGI being on any academic committee at all.
“It is still unacceptable for CIGI to have any voice in academic matters, even if they no longer have veto power,” said James Turk, executive director of the association which represents 66,000 professors, librarians, researchers and other professionals at 122 universities and colleges.
CIGI already has partnerships with Waterloo and Laurier to run programs through a new joint Balsillie School of International Affairs, which Turk said also give the private think tank too much influence over the choice of program and staffing.
But York’s Monahan noted these university-private partnerships are becoming more common and have even been encouraged as recently as Friday by MPP Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, who called on corporations to start investing in higher education.
The university will draw up shortlists of candidates for the 10 research positions. In a statement, Monahan said “in cases where there is any difference of opinion on the shortlist, the matter will be referred to an independent committee of scholars, experts in the relevant fields, who are at arm’s length from CIGI.
“The views of the independent committee of scholars will be binding on CIGI.”
Fred Kuntz, CIGI’s vice-president of public affairs, stressed that CIGI does not have a veto over hiring, but wants to be on the steering committee to ensure that the areas of research are relevant to the field of international governance, “and not Norwegian folk music.

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