Disputes over funding

University, faculty split on MDRC projects and research

Graphic by Joshua Awolade
Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Space and equipment were recently redistributed at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Sun Life Financial Movement Disorders Research and Rehabilitation Centre, causing tension between administration and faculty.

The centre was born out of funding provided by the university, as well as a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, secured to renovate the school’s Northdale campus and acquire the necessary equipment.

The centre is known for its research of movement disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease.

Though the grant was awarded to a collective group of faculty researching movement and movement disorders, disaccord between members was the cause of the recent redistribution.

“Those faculty members originally cooperated around application for a lot of money for a centre to study movement and movement disorders,” said Max Blouw, president and vice-chancellor of Laurier.

“However their conflict was not one that we could reconcile, that we could resolve, and because of that the space and the equipment that was originally intended to be a collective asset — a collective resource amongst them all — has had to be subdivided among them so that they can each get on with their research.”

While the university has said the new projects fall within the boundaries of the movement research goals and should receive funding, there is dispute as to whether the space and funding will be allocated for its intended purpose.

“[The collaborators] put their names on the grant, but then once they did the renovations on the building and all of this amazing equipment came to the university, they decided to back out and to try and take that equipment and use the space for things that don’t have anything to do with movement disorders,” said Quincy Almeida, director of the MDRC.

An additional point of disagreement lies with the amount of redistributed resources.

Blouw said roughly 95 per cent of the space and 80 per cent of the equipment was retained by the Parkinson’s research and rehabilitation section.

These are figures Almeida said are “pure fiction.”

“The fact of the matter is that our largest lab was taken away. And the most vital piece of our centre, a unit made up of rooms to be able to do assessments and very high-level research, that was also taken away,” he continued.

Members of the Parkinson’s research and rehabilitation section of the MDRC believed a redistribution of any amount would run contrary to the integrity and best interest of both the centre and the university.

“If 100 per cent of the equipment was given from an innovation grant that was supposed to be for innovation in Parkinson’s disease, and you took away even five per cent of that, that would be a problem,” said Almeida. “The most important thing is that if that 20 per cent loss of equipment is preventing us from being one of the top research centres in the world for Parkinson’s disease, then what type of choices has administration really made?”

The university however remains adamant that the redistribution should not have any major impact on the work done by the Parkinson’s team.

“What I do believe is that they have almost all of the space, they have a lot of equipment,” said Blouw.

“I’m given to understand that a very large portion of the work that had been carried out there can continue.”

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