CIGI, WLU under fire

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) doesn’t seem to be too pleased with Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo and York University as of late.

Due to fears that the partnership between the universities and local thinktank Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in particular with the Balsillie School of International Affairs, may hinder academic integrity of the institutions and the Balsillie School, CAUT has notified the three universities that they would impose a censure on them if they don’t alter their agreements with one another.

“Generally, when a donor gives money to a university, the rule is that the donor has no say over academic matters,” explained James Turk, the executive director of CAUT, labelling the donor as CIGI. “We want to get problems solved, we don’t want to censure people, there’s serious problem in our view here we want to get the university to change it.”

According to Turk, CAUT believes that CIGI’s governance model that was approved by both the WLU and UW senates for the Basillie School – which is a separate entity from CIGI – will infringe on the hiring, recruitment and the direction of the research at that particular institution. Laurier and UW supply the Balsillie School faculty, curriculum and other items regarding academic matters.

The board that governs the Balsillie School is made up of equal representatives from WLU, UW and CIGI and they have the ability to appoint a director of the institution and approve the curriculum.

“Now all of those things in our view are academic matters and CIGI should have a seat at the table, much less veto power,” Turk said.

“Our academic and tenure committee is so concerned about this that if it doesn’t get changed, we will take a recommendation to our council meeting at the end of April,” added Turk, noting that if a censure was approved by the CAUT membership it would be imposed in November.

Deb MacLatchy, the vice-president: academic and provost at Laurier, discredits CAUT’s claim of there being a loss of academic integrity and freedom at the Balsillie School.

“We are always open to questions and comments that people have about what we’re doing as a university but we would appreciate it if they contacted us in person,” said MacLatchy. “We have protected academic freedom, we have protected employment rights of faculty members, we’ve protected senate’s right to oversee programs and we disagree with any claims that have been made that the governance structure does not do that.”

In a separate issue from the Balsillie School, Turk asserted that York’s $60-million deal with CIGI for a ten new research chairs for the next ten years will explicitly break academic integrity, claiming that CIGI has too much control in the hiring of research chairs.

“What we have now is an agreement where Mr. Balsillie’s private think tank has veto power over what areas the chairs will be able to work in, will have the veto power over the plans of the research chairs,” Turk continued.

Fred Kuntz, the vice-president of public affairs at CIGI, calls that, as well as the accusations made against Laurier’s and UW’s involvement in the Balsillie School, a fallacy.

“CAUT is trying to present this picture that CIGI has a veto in the hiring of staff. And that is false,” he explained, adding that CIGI is letting all academic matters, especially the hiring of chairs, in the hands of the respective universities.
CIGI, according to Kuntz, only has a say in where the research takes place, and not the hiring. The research needs to be in accordance to CIGI’s mandate of international affairs, he added.

“What CAUT would like CIGI to do is close its eyes and throw a bag of money over the fence and not care about how the money is spent,” explained Kuntz. “But some of that may not align with your mandate, your responsibilities and accountabilities.”

Kuntz stated that CIGI only has involvement in funding of research, not the hiring, as in with the case of York, in research chairs and academic staff. He added that if CAUT was to push a censure on all three universities, it may backfire.

“The number one thing that censure would do is diminish the reputation of CAUT,” he concluded. “They are playing a dicey game here with their own reputation by being extremist [and] over the top, really.”

Leave a Reply