Carleton renegotiating $15M donation for Manning school

Carleton University says the $15-million donor agreement for its school of political management, fronted by Preston Manning, will be renegotiated for failing to respect the university's academic independence.

Oil tycoon's foundation has control over politics program's curriculum and hiring

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 independence and will be renegotiated.

The concession comes after the Canadian Association of University Teachers took aim at what it called "unprecedented and unacceptable" provisions in Carleton's secret deal with Calgary businessman Clayton Riddell.

The Riddell donation is announced in June, 2010. From left, John ApSimon, interim dean of Public Affairs, Chris Dornan, director of Kroeger College, Prof. Andre Turcotte, Preston Manning, Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte, Chancellor Herb Gray and Board of Governors chair Jacques Shore. (James Park/Carleton Now)

James Turk, executive director of the teachers' association, said he fears some cash-strapped Canadian universities have given up their academic independence to the highest bidder. Carleton quietly released the donor agreement for the Clayton H. Riddell Graduate Program in Political Management just before Canada Day after fighting The Canadian Press for almost a year to keep it under wraps.

The contract shows the Riddell Foundation effectively appointed three of five people on a steering committee that was given power over the graduate program's budget, academic hiring, executive director and curriculum.

A statement from the university says the donor agreement does not fully reflect Carleton's policies and procedures and that the offending provisions will be redrawn in collaboration with the donor.   

The University of Toronto has faced a raft of similar criticisms over one of its schools, the Munk School of Global Affairs, established and partly funded by Barrick Gold Corp. chairman Peter Munk but with $50 million kicked in by the federal and Ontario governments.

Munk's deal with U of T gives him or his heirs sole discretion to yank $15 million of his donation if they're not happy with the school, and forces the university to rent office space to a foreign-affairs institute funded by Barrick Gold and Munk's family.

Corporate control outcry

Private funding of programs and schools within public universities has become a flashpoint for arguments over academic freedom, corporate control and public policy manipulation.

In another case, more than 200 professors at York University in Toronto signed a letter in March requesting the university stop a deal with a think-tank funded by former BlackBerry magnate Jim Balsillie until academic safeguards could be negotiated.

The letter stated that a proposed agreement with the Centre for International Governance Innovation to fund 10 research chairs allowed "unprecedented influence over the university's academic affairs."

In April, the Canadian Association of University Teachers warned it would launch a boycott this fall if two universities in Waterloo, Ont. — Wilfrid Laurier and the University of Waterloo — don't "amend the governance structure for the Balsillie School of International Affairs so that academic integrity is ensured."

And last September, Postmedia News prevailed in a three-year freedom-of-information fight with the University of Calgary over the release of funding details on two charitable-status trust accounts used by climate-change skeptics.

The documents revealed that the university received $175,000 from Talisman Energy for a public relations and lobbying campaign against government programs to restrict fossil fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The University of Calgary subsequently issued a statement acknowledging "that there was insufficient management and governance oversight" and announcing new internal controls.

With files from CBC News