Nova Scotia

Dalhousie University senators question business leaders' $387K MIT trip

It wasn't on the agenda but Dalhousie senators took the opportunity during a senate meeting Monday to question Richard Florizone about the university's decision to send 9 business executives to MIT.

Senators asked university president about MIT trip for 9 business executives

Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone said the MIT program falls under the university's "service" mission (CBC)

It wasn't on the agenda but Dalhousie University senators took the opportunity during a senate meeting Monday to ask university president Richard Florizone about the university's decision to send nine business executives to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university funded the $387,220 trip upfront to expedite enrolment in the program, according to university spokesperson Brian Leadbetter. 

Florizone said he intends to eventually fundraise the full amount from the private sector.

Florizone defends MIT decision

Dalhousie University senators Françoise Baylis and Letitia Meynell questioned the university's spending on the venture. 

Meynell asked Florizone to explain why the university should support the venture instead of the province, and was disappointed with his response.

Florizone pointed to the three missions of the university, including research, teaching, and service. Florizone said the program falls under the university's service directive.

"We agreed as an institution that we want to foster more of the economic and social development of the region," said Florizone. "So, we're putting our energies behind that. Now, in this case, it will be entirely externally funded." 

'Entirely externally funded'

Florizone said the university has now raised half of what it will cost to send the group of business leaders to the meetings, which will take place every six months for two years. 

Florizone said the list of donors to the project will be made public when it is complete. He said the list includes president and CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods John Risley, who will be on the team of executives attending the program in October.

The Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program matches the participants with MIT experts to develop strategies for economic challenges in specific regions.

According to the school's website, MIT admits eight to 10 regions into the program each year. Typically, participant regions have a population of between three and 10 million people.

At the last census in 2011, Nova Scotia's population was 921,727. 

'A good partnership'

Nova Scotia will be the first region in Canada to participate and by far, much smaller than others, including Istanbul, Scotland, and Finland. 

Florizone said the choice to move forward with the program had nothing to do with his personal connection to MIT, being an alumnus of the school. 

"Not at all," Florizone said. "I have my degree already.... It seems like a good partnership," he said. 

When asked if the trip will benefit someone struggling with unemployment, or on limited income in Nova Scotia, Florizone said: "If it doesn't, we'll have failed." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca

now