Oil Executives Spill All Over Alberta’s Post-Secondary Education
— Dougal MacDonald —
Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government on August 16, suddenly fired 43 board of governor (BoG) members of Alberta’s universities, colleges, and technical schools who had not yet completed their terms. The government replaced them with its own favourites, including nine new BoG chairs. Most of the new appointees are energy executives from foreign oil monopolies. The Minister of Advanced Education claims those newly chosen, after the mass firings, were appointed solely based on “merit.”
The Minister makes clear that the new appointments reflect the UCP’s conception of post-secondary education. The concept has nothing to do with creating critical thinkers or responsible citizens who participate in democracy and contribute to the betterment of society. Instead, its sole purpose is to provide training for future employees and research for corporations, funded by public money. The Minister said: “These new appointees will help our institutions build strong relationships with industry to ensure that we are getting better labour market outcomes.”
The nine new UCP appointees to occupy BoG chairs will fill each institution’s most powerful position. According to the University of Alberta website, “The conduct, management, and control of the University and all its property, revenue, business, and affairs are vested in the Board.”
Four of the new BoG chairs, their corporate position and the post-secondary institution are: Kate Chisholm, University of Alberta, Senior VP for U.S.-controlled Capital Power; Geeta Sankappanavar, University of Calgary, President of Grafton Asset Management; Alex Pourbaix, Mount Royal University, CEO of foreign-controlled energy monopoly Cenovus; and Nancy Laird, Athabasca University, Senior VP for Encana Corporation.
All appointments were made without consulting a single student, faculty or support staff member, any other education worker or anyone active in post-secondary education or concerned with its direction. This raises once again the fundamental question: “Who decides?” Who decides what role our educational institutions play in society and their direction? What part should the students, faculty, support staff, education workers and others play in educational decision-making?
This latest fiasco clearly shows what it means when narrow private interests have control over the society’s institutions such as government and continue to make the important decisions about post-secondary education and other crucial affairs that affect the lives of everyone. In opposition, many thousands of post-secondary education workers and their allies are outraged and are firmly of the mind that “We decide!” Such a change in direction requires people becoming involved in politics and taking control of their lives and society. Empower yourself now!
Dougal MacDonald is the MLPC Candidate in Edmonton Strathcona.