The Record, March 21, 2012: “Universities must serve the public interest, not private ones”
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Clarifications & Corrections webpage is an opportunity for the university to provide comments and corrections to information written and published about it by other sources.
An opinion article by James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) entitled, “Universities must serve the public interest, not private ones,” appeared in The Record March 21, 2012. His article states CAUT’s concerns regarding academic freedom and donor influence and uses the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) as an example.
Correction/Clarification: The following statement clarifies Wilfrid Laurier University’s position on academic freedom. Below the statement we addresses specific points contained in the article.
Wilfrid Laurier University has always been, and will continue to be firmly committed to protecting academic freedom. Our involvement with the BSIA is no different; the governance document developed for the BSIA ensures it. The document serves to firewall academic freedom policy, academic program governance and faculty working conditions completely within the university and separate from third-party influence.
To quote directly from the BSIA governance document:
“BSIA fully respects principles of academic freedom and will not hinder or impede the exercise of academic freedom by BSIA Members. Every BSIA Member has the right to publish or otherwise disseminate the results of her or his research, scholarship or creative activities.”
“The universities have exclusive authority over BSIA Academic Programs, which includes curriculum, student recruitment, student admissions, student evaluation, awarding of degrees, as well as employment of faculty in accordance with either the Memorandum of Agreement (for
UW faculty) or the Collective Agreement (for Laurier faculty).”
This document was developed with a great deal of faculty consultation and was approved by the Wilfrid Laurier University Senate and the University of Waterloo Senate – the bodies that govern the academic functioning and educational policies of the universities.
To view the governance document for the Balsillie school, please click here.
Below are excerpts from the original article, followed by Laurier’s response:
1. Original Story:
That is why we were so surprised when the administrations of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo agreed to give Jim Balsillie’s private think-tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), voice and veto over key aspects of the two universities’ Balsillie School of International Affairs.
The BSIA board consists of four university representatives and two CIGI representatives. All are obligated to seek a common position. In a board of six, finding consensus is not an insurmountable challenge, but there is no path whereby a CIGI ‘veto’ can affect the content, quality, or quantity of the academic programs housed in the BSIA.
2. Original Story:
Those aspects include deciding which Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier programs can be Balsillie School of International Affairs programs, which academic can be chosen to be director of the school, as well as final budgetary and operational authority for the school, and setting the strategic research direction of the school.
- The director will be an employee of the Balsillie School, and will have no authority concerning any academic matters.
- The governance document states “The BSIA and the universities agree to designate certain academic programs as ‘BSIA Academic Programs.’ Such designations require approval of the Board and the two universities.” (As outlined above, the board consists of four university representatives and two CIGI representatives.) Further, “The universities have exclusive authority over BSIA Academic Programs, which includes curriculum, student recruitment, student admissions, student evaluation, awarding of degrees, as well as employment of faculty in accordance with either the Memorandum of Agreement (for UW faculty) or the Collective Agreement (for Laurier faculty).”
- The BSIA budget is completely segregated from the main allocations to the three graduate programs; all of these expenses remain firmly in the control of the two university partners.
- The operating budget of the school is a small fraction of the total cost of running the academic programs at the Balsillie School. It covers the cost of staff, website maintenance, sundries, and discretionary funds for student travel to conferences, visiting speakers, etc.
- Setting the strategic research direction describes the activities of a partnership seeking to maximize the payback to the investments of the province and the country in both CIGI and the BSIA. The people of CIGI and BSIA are first a community of scholars and experts animated by and determined to have an impact on the unprecedented challenges facing Canada and the world today. Of course scholars wish to speak to one another, to collate experiences, ideas. To the extent that scholars propose large projects to pursue a problem, there should be some oversight on behalf of the partners.