The recent negative national press concerning Carleton University and the controversy with the Riddell donor agreement has highlighted the dangers inherent in the shifting of the public university into a corporate institution run by a growing administrative bureaucracy. For over a year our administration refused to release the agreement, and when pushed by the Canadian press, offered a heavily redacted version. When compared to the entire agreement a picture is revealed of just how far out of touch our administration has gotten from the core values of what a publicly accessible University that offers quality education and scholarship should be.
Among the sections redacted for 'Economic Interests' were the guidelines for the composition of the program's steering committee whose purposes included: “To advise the [program] on strategic issues, such as curriculum development...” and “To approve the annual budget, the selection of adjunct faculty and staff, … and to participate in the faculty hiring decisions.” Although difficult to see the economic interest in these details, clearly their impact on academic freedom is chilling given that this steering committee is currently composed of less than 50% Carleton faculty. The time and effort spent by our administration to conceal these details not only from the Canadian Press, but from the Carleton faculty, represents a dramatic change in the core value of Carleton as a University where ideas are exchanged in a climate of collegiality and where academic freedom is protected.
Even more worrisome is the fact that these provisions, which act against the best interests of a free and open university environment apparently did not even originate with the donor. According to the Ottawa Citizen Clayton Riddell has said "I met with them, we talked about what it is we wanted to do, and they drew up the agreement… I'm sure they drew up the agreement. I know that I didn't, so I presume that they did." An administration truly concerned with balancing the need for funding with the protection of academic freedom would consult with the faculty community and the Senate in order to draft an agreement that defends the core principles of what a University should be. In this case, they even chose to completely redact the section detailing with whom President Runte was consulting (it is probably no surprise that there were no Carleton faculty members among this select group).
Unfortunately this type of issue is not an isolated incident. The growth and empowerment of the university bureaucracy leads to decisions being taken on Carleton's behalf, OUR BEHALF, with little to no consultation with those that are involved in the day to day, year to year, improvement of our programs and training of our students. Case in point, the Provost recently assured the Senate that with regards to a deal with Culture Works “...Senate will be informed as and when discussion take place” while the President commented that to facilitate a fuller discussion “Any decision will be made in consultation with Senate” (Minutes of the March 30, 2012 Meeting, Carleton University Senate). And yet the Provost has said a deal has already been signed. Given the negative fallout from the recent Riddell agreement, what will be left of Carleton's reputation after calls for the details of the administration's agreement with Culture Works are made?
For the Riddell donor agreement visit the following links:
Riddell Agreement - Non-Redacted
Riddell Agreement - Redacted
For recent articles written on this issue visit the following links:
Universities Promise Funding Guide Amid Carleton Donor Backlash - July 14, 2012 - Globe and Mail
Carleton Donor Agreements Need to be Made Public: Faculty Association - July 13, 2012 - Huffington Post (Canadian Press)
Carleton Controversy a Reminder That Even Cash Strapped Universities Can't Cede Control - July 13, 2012 - Globe and Mail
Carleton Donor Unaware of Concerns Over Contract - July 13, 2012 - Ottawa Citizen