Hold The University of Calgary Administration Accountable
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Hold the University of Calgary Administration Accountable:
The mismanagement of the University of Calgary has put the institution’s students and reputation at risk. President Elizabeth Cannon and her executive administration have misused tuition fees, tax dollars, and their executive powers to further personal interests. Below, we have chosen to focus on three main scandals that show why Cannon should be dismissed from her position, and why the rest of the administration should be held accountable. We have also included a list of demands for the Board of Governors that will serve to prevent such issues in the future.
1.) Annexation of MacEwan Hall
The Students’ Union (SU) has a 55% majority ownership of the building, and has produced compelling evidence to support this, while the administration has remained silent. Furthermore, the SU has invested over $19 million in funds into the building compared to the University’s $3.5 million. The university administration has engaged in underhanded tactics designed to pressure the SU into renouncing their ownership claim by refusing to renew the contract, and threatening eviction. In defense of students, the SU engaged administration in legal action over MacEwan Hall so that it may remain the centre of academic life for students. However, the day before the scheduled court date, administration agreed to mediation. It is clear that their bluff had been called.
However, the battle for justice on campus is not over. The revenue generated by MacEwan Hall goes directly to efforts that keep tuition affordable, and provides funding to healthcare, student programs, and other invaluable benefits unique to the university. Other programs and centres directly funded by the SU through MacEwan Hall revenue include Volunteer Services, an LGBTQ centre, a campus food bank, a second-hand textbook store, an assortment of SU clubs and spaces, an Information Center, a student convenience store, and a bar and restaurant. Over 80% of SU funding comes from MacEwan Hall, and without this revenue, it is feared most of these invaluable services will be lost. President Cannon and her administration’s actions have endangered the ability of the SU and all of its associated programs to continue.
2.) The Enbridge Affair
Enbridge, a corporation headquartered in Calgary, has allegedly used their former board member, Elizabeth Cannon, as their mouthpiece to impose their demands in the Haskayne School of Business’ highest professorial positions. Enbridge devoted $2.5 million over 10 years to establish the “Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability” at the university. More important than the initial donation was the potential for more funding in the future.
Through a freedom of information request, reporters at the CBC discovered details that suggests a pattern of corporate influence during the attempt to establish the centre. Besides hurting the school’s public perception, the emails also showed the discontent of senior-level academic talent. Among the emails obtained, was one between Cannon and Leonard Waverman, then dean of the Haskayne School of Business. In the email, Cannon warns that Enbridge was “not seeing [Waverman’s] leadership on this file, and that this was, “not good for [Waverman] or the university”.
Dr. Joe Arvai, a professor at Haskayne School of Business at the time said he was under “the impression that Enbridge sees the center as a PR machine for themselves”.
Faculty members, such as business professor Dr. Harrie Vredenburg, described Enbridge's influence at the university as a classic case of, "he who pays the piper calls the tunes", in an email complaint to the business school dean.
Simultaneously, President Cannon was being paid $130,500 a year to serve on a corporate board at an Enbridge related company, The Enbridge Income Fund. Company documents also show that at the end of 2014 Cannon was owner of 25,300 shares in the Enbridge Income Fund, with market worth of approximately $810,000. If the centre was the PR machine that has been suggested, it seems Cannon would stand to financially benefit.
Other Canadian Academics have commented on the situation, including James Turk, a professor at Ryerson University and former executive of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. In response to Cannon claiming she could objectively separate her Enbridge Dealings from her decisions made as University President, he said, “To try and pretend that you can separate the two is simply untenable”.
3.) Executive Spending
In 2013, amidst the province cutting the school’s annual operating budget by $41 million, the executive renovated the administration building at a cost of $8.1 million, with 4.6 million being put specifically into the space that housed President Cannon and her vice-presidents.
Included in this budget was an expansion of Cannon’s office to over 400 square feet, an adjoining 175 square foot ensuite bathroom, and a $150,000 staircase that would allow executives to travel between floors without having to share a nearby stairwell with students. While these renovations went ahead, infrastructure on campus was crumbling, and certain student areas still contained asbestos in the walls.
An internal report shows the Board of Governors warned the executive of the “reputational risks”, as they expanded the project and nearly doubled the initial budget; however, the project continued on.
Creating the Palatial Office
Albertans and students alike can do better than Elizabeth Cannon, her administration, and the feeling of entitlement in the executive offices at the University of Calgary.
After years of corporate deference and anti-student policies, we have all had enough. It’s time for Cannon and her administration to be held accountable. We ask for your signature for us to bring this petition to The Board of Governors who have to the power to dismiss Cannon from her post, and enact overall change for the better.
Through this, we hope to achieve new leadership for the university that represents the interests of students and citizens alike.
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