Press release regarding controversial CIGI deal Reply

Citing a Dangerous Precedent, York University Senators and Faculty Demand that the York University Administration Bring Controversial Deal with CIGI to York Senate for Amendment

TORONTO, Mar 20, 2012 – More than 200 York faculty members have demanded that a deal signed in August 2011 between the University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), to establish 10 research chairs, be halted, until the York Senate approves an amended Agreement that provides appropriate protections for academic integrity and autonomy. “York Faculty and Senators are deeply troubled that this agreement was signed without a full discussion in Senate, circumventing established procedures of academic governance,” said Professor Craig Heron, a member of the University Senate.

The agreement between CIGI and York “is riddled with problems,” according to Professor Richard Wellen, another York Faculty member. “To begin, it permits a donor’s private think tank to be involved in appointment decisions, in determining research areas and research plans for the academics hired, and in the approval of academic budgets. This gives an external donor’s organization an unprecedented voice in matters of academic governance.”

The York Administration claims that new protocols provide adequate protection for academic integrity and autonomy. The protocols appear to be an effort to divert attention from the more detailed and robust protocol developed at Osgoode Hall Law School, but rejected by CIGI and the Administration. York’s protocols fall far short of the changes sought at Osgoode, the Faculty whose sponsorship was originally sought by the University Administration.

The financial arrangements of this agreement are troubling. According to York faculty member Jody Berland, “the private benefactor assumes an unprecedented formal academic role, not just with his private money but also with public money and positions, which amount to the majority of the program once Mr. Balsillie’s presumed tax credit is factored in. Furthermore, the private money kicks in only after public and University money is exhausted, and CIGI can cancel its contribution before that happens if it is not satisfied with the program’s direction.”

After the Osgoode Faculty Council endorsed a detailed protocol to protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy, the York Administration withdrew the initiative from Osgoode and opted to pursue it at the University level instead. According to the February report by an Osgoode Faculty Council panel of five professors and one student: “CIGI and York are either not able or not prepared to commit to a protocol that provides the required floor of protections for academic freedom, academic integrity, and institutional autonomy”.

York Senators will bring their demands to a Senate meeting on March 22, 2012, at which time also the Open Letter of Concern signed by hundreds of faculty and librarians will be presented to Senate.

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 For further information contact:

Professor Craig Heron

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