Dr. Dawg

Purchasing academe [updated]

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Carleton University is my alma mater, but I’m beginning to think I was stolen from my real mother’s cradle.

The appointment of President Roseann Runte in 2008 marked a significant change in direction for Carleton. She lost no time laying waste to the notion of academic freedom—banning posters whose politics she disapproved of, putting the “mock” in student democracy, firing a professor after a call from the head of B’nai Brith Canada, and breaking bread with racists.

It comes, then, as no surprise at all that the secretive Dr. Runte has now once again been caught in a questionable act of academic lèse majesté: accepting a major grant under politically-tainted conditions and then trying to cover it up.

This story has everything: Big Oil, Preston Manning, a loss of academic control, a valiant effort to hide the facts from the public, and then the dénouement—under a bright spotlight. The secret deal will now be “reworked” to bring the proposed Clayton H. Riddell School of Political Management securely into the legitimate academic fold.

Briefly, a year or so ago the aforesaid Clayton Riddell, described as an “oil magnate,” offered a $15 million grant to Carleton to establish the school.

University president Roseann O’Reilly Runte trumpeted the $15-million donation and the participation of a political heavy hitter like Manning when the school was announced.

But when the particulars of the donor agreement were sought under Ontario’s access to information law, Carleton refused outright.

Under pressure to obey the Ontario access to information law, Carleton first released a heavily redacted version of the agreement. But under continued pressure, it eventually produced the whole thing.

…Carleton quietly released the donor agreement to the Canadian Press on the Friday afternoon before Canada Day, after stonewalling journalists for almost a year to keep it under wraps.

The contract reveals the Riddell Foundation effectively appointed three of five people on the school’s steering committee. That committee was given sweeping power over the graduate program’s budget, academic hiring, executive director and curriculum.

…[Preston] Manning, the former Reform party founder, chairs the committee, while his former chief of staff Cliff Fryers sits on it along with Chris Froggatt, the former chief of staff to Conservative cabinet minister John Baird, and two university representatives.

Yikes. No wonder they wanted us all kept in the dark. I suspect I’m not the only Carleton alumnus shaking his head at the moment, wondering what happened to scholarship without such now-obvious strings attached.

UPDATE: Readers should check out the faculty who are aboard this newly-fledged school.

The last professor profiled at the link is Andre Turcotte, the official pollster for the Reform Party from 1994-2000. And here is an interesting connection from the here and now:

[Turcotte] is also the academic director for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, through which he has delivered short courses in practical political skills.

Yup, the Manning Centre, the very outfit that hosted the 2012 Manning Networking Conference, with a roster of speakers including Joe Oliver, Diane Finley, Jason Kenney, Tom Flanagan and Peter MacKay.

The keynote speech was delivered by Preston himself: see how it jibes with this reassuring pap:

Manning, who was not appointed by Riddell, leads the committee by virtue of his strong push for the idea in its early days, Riddell said.

“He was involved from the beginning,” said Riddell. “It was his idea to set up a school like this. He was the go-between for myself and Carleton.”

And though Manning’s history as a political leader puts him firmly on the right wing of Canadian politics, Riddell said Manning has little interest in petty partisan battles anymore.

“He’s an elder statesman, and really above some of that at this point in his career,” he said.

Surely one is entitled to raise one’s eyebrows to the hairline at this: Turcotte, the graduate supervisor of the oh-so-nonpartisan Clayton H. Riddell School of Political Management program, is also the academic director of the Manning Centre, whose hyper-partisanship is a matter of public record.

So far, no comment from the corporate media. But given Bruce Cheadle’s coverage so far, maybe this will change.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on July 13, 2012 1:00 PM.

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