By Fabian Mayer, November 2 2015 —
University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon acknowledges the university mishandled the establishment of the Enbridge Centre of Corporate Sustainability.
A CBC investigation found that Enbridge had significant influence in setting up the centre as a result of a 10-year $2.25 million pledge. Enbridge’s name was dropped from the centre in fall 2014 after the corporation shifted some of its funding to other areas of the university.
The investigation alleges that Enbridge would have had influence over staffing and the types of students that might be considered for awards. E-mails obtained by CBC through a freedom of information request show that several academics were concerned about the company’s influence infringing on academic freedom.
Cannon admits the centre got off to a “rocky start,” including staff turnover at the director-level.
“Clearly the start up and creation of the centre were too slow,” Cannon said. “There was some confusion and concerns raised by some of our academic colleagues so I think things could have done better. No question about it.”
Cannon claims the university has learned from the issues surrounding the centre.
“With respect to the establishment of these centres and our agreements with our external partners, just making it really clear of what our accountabilities and responsibilities are,” Cannon said.
The U of C has received $66 million in corporate donations since April 1, 2011. Many buildings are named after individual donors and several classrooms bear the name of corporations. Cannon believes the university’s current agreements with donors are clear.
“Through any type of financial philanthropic support they can not be involved in the operations of the university,” Cannon said. “We’ve learned over time to be more transparent.”
According to the centre’s website, it is dedicated to finding balance among economic development, social well-being and environmental protection. Cannon is happy with the centre’s current status despite its early difficulties.