University of Calgary faces independent review over Enbridge donation

CALGARY – The University of Calgary will face an independent review over concerns about corporate influence at the institution.

“Questions have been raised regarding the creation and operation of the Centre for Corporate Sustainability, and the potential infringement of academic freedom of those involved,” Mark Starratt of the university’s board of governors said in a release Friday.

“We believe that academic freedom is a fundamental value of all universities. We’ve been listening and are taking action.”

The school’s board of governors initiated the review following reports that alleged Enbridge (TSX:ENB) interfered at the University’s Centre for Corporate Sustainability after the company provided a donation.

Enbridge had promised the university $2.25 million over 10 years for the centre, but its name is now off the centre and its donation has been cut by $1 million.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has said the former chairman of the centre claims he was fired after raising concerns about Enbridge’s influence. Another allegedly left over the university’s failure to defend academic freedom.

The board hasn’t yet said who will conduct the review.

Board chairwoman Bonnie DuPont, a former Enbridge executive, will not take part. University president Elizabeth Cannon has also recused herself.

This week, Cannon also stepped down from her paid position as a director of the Enbridge Income Fund.

Cannon has said that when funds come from the private sector, there is a written agreement set out with expectations, but the university makes decisions on day-to-day operations and staffing.

She has acknowledged concerns were expressed in emails to the former dean of the university’s Haskayne School of Business. No formal complaints were made, she said.

Cannon has said the emails from 2011 and 2012 prove there could have been a better job done communicating with staff and more transparency on the decision when it came to corporate sponsorships.

Her involvement with the Enbridge Income Fund began six years before she was named university president and was approved by the university’s board, the release said.

“I welcome this review and believe the findings and recommendations will make our university stronger,” Cannon said in the release.

The institution has also told Minister of Advanced Education Lori Sigurdson that it’s willling to be the first post-secondary institution in the province to participate in the government’s review of agencies, boards and commissions.