Re­port cit­ing con­flict of in­ter­est at U of C ‘vin­di­ca­tion’ for pro­fes­sor

Calgary Herald - - CITY - BOB WEBER

A pro­fes­sor who left the Univer­sity of Calgary over how the school han­dled a cor­po­rate-funded sus­tain­abil­ity in­sti­tute says he sees his con­cerns echoed in a re­port that found ma­jor prob­lems with the cen­tre.

“What the re­port de­scribes is fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate,” said Joe Ar­vai, who now teaches at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan. “In that re­gard, it feels like a bit of a vin­di­ca­tion of what I had said.”

The head of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Teach­ers, which did the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said prob­lems with the univer­sity’s plans to cre­ate the En­bridge Cen­tre for Cor­po­rate Sus­tain­abil­ity should be a warn­ing for in­sti­tu­tions across Canada.

On Wed­nes­day, the as­so­ci­a­tion re­leased a doc­u­ment that said the univer­sity pres­i­dent was in a con­flict of in­ter­est, since she took part in plan­ning the cen­tre while hold­ing a paid po­si­tion on one of the Calgary-based en­ergy com­pany’s boards. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found the project was poorly ad­min­is­tered and sub­ject to in­flu­ence by its donor.

The univer­sity has re­jected those find­ings and has re­ferred to a 2015 re­port that cleared the school of wrong­do­ing. It de­clined to pro­vide any­one for an in­ter­view.

Ar­vai, who was the orig­i­nal choice to lead the cen­tre, strongly sup­ports the as­so­ci­a­tion’s con­clu­sion that fac­ulty and staff have been in­tim­i­dated from ex­press­ing their con­cerns. He re­ferred to a fel­low pro­fes­sor who was dis­missed as direc­tor of a re­search cen­tre af­ter op­pos­ing univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion on en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

“To me, (that is) telling of how I cer­tainly felt when I was there — to go up against the Univer­sity of Calgary would be to in­vite reprisals.”

At least two other aca­demics have ex­pressed sim­i­lar con­cerns in me­dia re­ports.

Ar­vai said that the wider aca­demic com­mu­nity is start­ing to no­tice.

“Ab­so­lutely, yes. I’ve heard from peo­ple who have been short­listed for jobs there, and have been in­ter­viewed, who have de­clined an op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue em­ploy­ment at the Univer­sity of Calgary be­cause these con­cerns were raised.”

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