OTTAWA - Carleton University says the $15-million donor agreement for its showcase school of political management, fronted by Preston Manning, does not reflect the university's academic policies and will be renegotiated.
The concession comes as the Canadian Association of University Teachers, or CAUT, prepares a broadside at what it calls "unprecedented and unacceptable" provisions in Carleton's secret deal with Calgary businessman Clayton Riddell.
The latest incident highlights what James Turk, CAUT's executive director, called a worrisome trend in which some cash-strapped Canadian universities have given up their academic independence to the highest bidder.
"The integrity of what universities are is at stake," Turk said in an interview.
"As soon as you allow people to buy positions in the university through their donations — to influence who's hired, what the curriculum's going to be, what kind of research questions are asked, what kind of answers are come up with — then really the public would lose, and should lose, its confidence in what the university is and the university would lose its distinctiveness."
Carleton quietly released the donor agreement on the Friday afternoon before Canada Day after stonewalling The Canadian Press for almost a year to keep it under wraps.
The contract reveals the Riddell Foundation effectively appointed three of five people on a steering committee. That committee was given sweeping power over the graduate program's budget, academic hiring, executive director and curriculum.
Said Turk: "That's just unheard of."
Manning, the former Reform party founder, chairs the committee, while his former chief of staff Cliff Fryers sits on it along with Chris Froggatt, the former chief of staff to Conservative cabinet minister John Baird, and two university representatives.
Carleton plans to "rework the provisions in collaboration with the donor," spokeswoman Beth Gorham told The Canadian Press in an email.
The donor agreement, said the university statement, "did not fully reflect Carleton's policies and procedures with regard to budget management and selection of staff."
The university stressed that all hiring decisions for the Clayton H. Riddell School of Political Management, which enters its second academic year this September, were made using regular, proper procedures.
"Donor participation at Carleton is not unusual," the statement noted. "But there is a difference between participation and decision-making and it's an important distinction. The university provides direction and makes decisions according to established academic policies, processes and procedures."
The political management school was launched in October 2010 to much publicity, with the stated aim of providing practical, "cross-partisan" training for aspiring political staffers.
Manning and his staunchly partisan conservative Manning Centre for Building Democracy were front and centre, while the university trumpeted Riddell's $15 million pledge as "the largest single donation in Carleton's history."
"The vision and determination of Mr. Manning and the generosity and wisdom of Mr. Riddell exemplify the transformational power of individuals," university president Roseann O'Reilly Runte said in a Carleton release at the time.
But when the particulars of the donor agreement were sought under Ontario's access to information law, Carleton refused outright. A heavily redacted version was eventually released following mediation; the case was going to arbitration when the university released the full document on the eve of a summer holiday weekend.
Private donor agreements within publicly funded universities have been making news of late over issues of academic freedom, corporate control and public policy manipulation.
This spring, the Canadian Association of University Teachers threatened to boycott Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo if they did not "amend the governance structure for the Balsillie School of International Affairs so that academic integrity is ensured."
York University's Osgoode Hall subsequently cancelled a deal with the Balsillie Foundation over similar concerns.
CAUT has studied the newly released Carleton agreement and "it raises all of the same questions," said Turk.
"Arguably it goes farther than the agreement between Balsillie and Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier. It's absolutely unprecedented and unacceptable for a university to give a donor or a donor's foundation any voice whatsoever in hiring or curriculum or any other academic matter."
Turk noted the irony that the suspect agreement comes from a school designed to train future political support staff who will advise the country's leaders, but he absolved Riddell of blame.
"The bad guys, if I can put it that way in this, are the universities and not the donors. That donors would want to have influence is not surprising. But they only have influence if the universities give it to them."
And given that the Manning Centre is proudly partisan, Turk said the decision to hand over control of the steering committee to Manning and Riddell's proxies is perplexing.
"So the fact that the university then would agree to the governance of this program being in part given over to the donor just makes the whole program suspect. But in a more worrisome way it just makes the whole university suspect."
While Carleton had argued its concern in releasing the document was over Riddell's financial privacy, the redacted sections suggest otherwise.
Provisions blacked out by the university simply reveal the timetable for Riddell's publicly announced $15-million donation, along with a provision that his foundation can assess the school's performance after five years and withhold the final $10 million if it is not satisfied.
The existence, composition and function of the steering committee was entirely redacted.
So was a paragraph in an appendix stating, "This initiative enjoys the full support of Carleton University President and Vice-Chancellor Roseann O'Reilly Runte. She is working closely with an advisory group on the formation of this graduate program."
That group included Manning, former NDP national party director Robin Sears, former Liberal cabinet minister and Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin, and Christopher Arterton, an American academic with connections to the Democrats who founded a school of political management at George Washington University.
The Washington-based Centre for American Progress published a study in October 2010 that exposed numerous problematic deals involving American universities and major energy companies.
The study, titled "Big Oil Goes to College," examined 10 agreements worth almost $1 billion and concluded that almost all of them undermined the schools' independence and integrity.
In addition, news reports exposed that the billionaire Koch brothers have been giving universities funds for entrepreneurial studies provided their staunchly Republican foundation could pick the faculty and set curriculum. And since 2005, U.S. banking giant BB&T has spent millions to get colleges and universities to develop programs on Ayn Rand's books and right-wing economic philosophy.
CAUT is currently conducting a study in Canada looking at collaborative research deals between universities and third parties. It has collected between 15 and 18 such agreements and will produce a report in the autumn.
"It's becoming more pronounced in Canada," said David Robinson, the director of research and advocacy at CAUT.
"This is something that's relatively new. Unfortunately it's not isolated just to Canada. It's happening in the U.S., it's happening in Europe as well."
Top Schools In The World
Here's the top 20 schools in terms of reputation as listed by Times Higher Education.
#20: Kyoto University
Kyoto University was only one of two non-Anglo schools in the top 20 of the ratings.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jun Seita" target="_hplink">Flickr/Jun Seita</a>)
#19: University Of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania's famed Wharton School of Business is shown here.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/teofilo/" target="_hplink">Flickr/teofilo</a>)
#18: Johns Hopkins University
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins is particularly known for its sciences, and research from the institution is among the most referenced in the world.
#16: University Of Toronto
The only Canadian university to make it into the top 20 schools for reputation, U of T, with its three different campuses, ties with Cornell University for 16th place.
#16: Cornell University
The iconic Uris Library and McGraw Tower sits on top of a hill at Cornell University.
#15: Columbia University
Located in New York City, Columbia University is renowned for its business, education, and journalism programs.
#14: University Of Chicago
The city of Chicago may be known as the "Windy City" but you're not likely to find any airheads at this university, thanks to its strong focus on academic exploration and research.
#13: Imperial College London
One of three British Universities to penetrate the top 20, the Imperial College London has roughly 13,000 students and four faculties: business, natural science, medicine, and engineering.
#12: University Of Michigan
Established in 1817, the University of Michigan was one of the first public universities in the U.S. Since then, the university has expanded into three different campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint Michigan with nearly 59,000 students enrolled.
#11: California Institute Of Technology
Many students and alumni have walked the halls of the Broad Center for Biological Sciences at California Institute of Technology. The university has more than 30 graduates that have gone to win Nobel prizes, and one alumnus has even walked on the moon.
#10: Yale University
Students attending Yale can have the satisfaction that they're studying in the same buildings as five U.S. presidents and 17 Supreme Court justices. Yale is also America's third-oldest university and the birthplace for mascots and residences.
#9: University Of California Los Angeles
Since this university is situated close to Hollywood, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's a school's known for its film and television program. For those looking for a program with less glitz and glamour, the university has five health science schools, seven post-graduate schools and five undergraduate colleges.
#8: University Of Tokyo
The second university from Japan to join the list, the University of Tokyo has seen 15 of its students graduate and become Prime Minister. The school also has 11 institutes focused on researching phenomena like cosmic rays and earthquakes.
#7: Princeton University
Size isn't everything and Princeton University can certainly attest to that. The university is one of the smaller Ivy League schools with its 500-acre campus and a population of roughly 7500 students. Still, it's diminutive size hasn't stopped the school from featuring 30 Nobel laureates among its past faculty and alumni.
#6: University Of Oxford
Yale may be America's third oldest university, but the University of Oxford is the third oldest surviving university in history. With such an established history in post-secondary education, it's no surprise that 26 British Prime Ministers and at least 30 other world leaders have once called Oxford their home.
#5: University Of California Berkeley
Home of the iconic Campanile Tower, the University Of California Berkeley, or UC Berkeley for short, has about 36,000 students. The university is also where vitamin E and the flu virus were discovered and where the first no-fault divorce law was drafted.
#4: Stanford University
Getting into Stanford is tough -- just ask the 93 per cent of applicants the school rejects annually. But those who graduate tend to do well and have gone off to establish large corporations like Hewlett-Packard and Google. Stanford is also the third-richest university in the world.
#3: University Of Cambridge
Modern science and technology owes a great deal to the University of Cambridge and its graduates. Names like Issac Newton, Ernest Rutherfords, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, James D. Watson and Sir Francis Crick all spent some time at Cambridge.
#2: Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
The motto at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology is Mens et manus -- meaning "Mind and Hand". It reflects the institute's hands-on approach to education, similar to European polytechnic institutes. Their approach can be seen in any one of the school's six faculties and in their over 10,000 students.
#1: Harvard University
With age comes wisdom and Harvard is a university that certainly has age. As America's oldest university, the school has over 21,000 students and over 40 alumni that have gone on to become Nobel laureates. The school has also produced two Canadian Prime Ministers: Mackenzie King and Pierre Trudeau.