Conference explores academic freedom in context of donor agreements

September 20, 2012

On September 6, uWaterloo, WLU, and AUCC co-hosted a conference to debate the impact that donor agreements and university partnerships have on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Universities have become more adept at managing public and private partnerships, said Dal's research VP, and institutions can and do say no to partnerships when donors overstep their bounds. "Part of negotiating properly is knowing that you can walk away," said McGill's research VP, noting that McGill has refused a partnership on several occasions because the condition of academic freedom could not be guaranteed. Former uSask president Peter MacKinnon defended the Balsillie School of International Affairs governance structure and called CAUT's threat to censure uWaterloo and WLU "unjust." Both MacKinnon and CAUT officials agreed the Balsillie School dispute didn't revolve around the academic freedom of individual professors. Rather, argued CAUT, the academic integrity or institutional autonomy of uWaterloo and WLU is at stake. Carleton's provost responded to criticism about the power of the steering committee for the university's graduate political management program. He said a clarified donor agreement makes it clear the committee is not involved in program management and has no authority over academic decisions such as faculty hiring. "Those criticisms are completely unfounded," the provost said. "The academic integrity of the program is completely guaranteed." University Affairs