by Jeremy Richards
Thoughtful people must not cede all power to politicians and business interests; we must make our voices heard across the full range of professional, social, and civic circles.
(p. 95: Karr, J.R., 2008, Protecting society from itself: Reconnecting ecology and economy, in Soskolne, C.L., ed., Sustaining Life on Earth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p. 95-108)


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

The BoG's "very fine" legal counsel

In President Samaraseker's Q&A with the Globe and Mail, she refers to the BoG's "very fine legal counsel, our external legal counsel...". Last time I heard rumours of the numbers (a couple of years ago), the Bog's bill to Field Law was $1m per year. But lawyers mostly tell you what you want to hear, and in the BoG's case it has led to stupid decisions such as grieving against the AASUA for the CAUT investigation (and other things I can't tell you about, or I myself might be on the receiving end of a lawsuit).

BTW, I assume and expect, nay demand, that the BoG retract their ridiculous grievance after this revelation about the man they were defending.


  1. Jeremy, I totally disagree with you on the retraction. A retraction wouldn't be good enough. They need to publish a full apology to all of us and to CAUT as well. They also need pay the AASUA the full amount of costs, including time of staff, wasted on the investigation/s of matters within the faculty. Its an absolute insult and we will not forget it.

  2. I find this response from the President (as cited in the article Jeremy linked) to be extremely troubling:

    "We have to look at the circumstances under which it took place. It was a speech. There was no personal gain to him from what he did. This was not like a paper that was deliberately, if you will, plagiarism was conducted for the purpose of long-term gain, reputationally. If anything, he put his reputation at risk by a lapse in judgment."

    Plagiarism is not a relative concept! It does not matter if it is a speech or a journal article. There is no difference in the academy. Attribution of sources is one of the foundational principles of our profession. When you present other people's ideas, words, experiences as if they were your own that is plagiarism. That is precisely what we tell our students every semester.

    I'm not sure what definition of "gain" is being alluded to here. He "gained" time by not having to write an actual convocation speech. He may have "gained" respect for orating a highly motivational speech -- respect which should have been accorded to the actual author!

    Just because there was no money or merit increment at stake does not mean that there was no "gain" to be had. And since when has 'gain' been the measure of plagiarism as if there was some sort of sliding scale?

    Although the vast majority of comments to various on-line news reports indicate that most people understand what plagiarism means in the academy there have been several that express the sentiment that profs are just making a hullabaloo over "usually boring convocation speeches."

    Plagiarism is not a "lapse in judgment." It is usually intentional. A "lapse in judgment" is responding to a journalist with words that implicitly support the (albeit fewer) public voices crying that this was somehow not as 'big a deal' as misrepresenting the written word in a publication.

    Sorry for the vociferous response but just as I thought we would finally be able to put this embarrassing mess behind this institution I see this type of commentary to the media, aargh.

    This may be the type of perception that led to the unfortunate response for a poster in another thread here that the U's co-opting of his/her work was deemed "acceptable plagiarism."

  3. Sorry Jeremy but there's no way the BoG will back down. This is about control - nothing more. This is not a game changer at all. The BoG is against the AASUA and the fact they can't fully control us is at the root of it all. Fine to have us around when they set the terms. This is also why the AASUA should not have stepped back into negotiations. It is like training a dog - hard to house break it if you let it foul the house every few days. Well, from what I can see, we were firm in our position then collapsed when the BoG threw us table scraps (and likely less than we were going to get). If the arbitrator decided against our position, at least the membership would have been stronger and more resolved.

  4. Jeremy says: "BTW, I assume and expect, nay demand, that the BoG retract their ridiculous grievance after this revelation about the man they were defending."

    I second this. It seems the BoG expects the AASUA to be the lapdog of admin. God forbid it should dare act independently in favor of the faculty they are purported to represent. Is there any way to use this blog to start a plebiscite/referendum/poll, even if unofficial? Organize a mail in? Somehow generate enough news worthy embarrassment to get their attention? Short of self-destructive actions of course.

  5. Strongly agree with Anon 4:50. I also have no clue why the AASUA stepped back into negotiations. I hope that AASUA will provide some convincing explanation.

  6. "There was no personal gain to him from what he did."

    With a remark such as this, Samarasekera shows the value -- in its absence, for her -- of an education in the humanities. No one who had taken courses in philosophy or literature, or had branched out to the social sciences for courses in psychology, could make such a claim.

    Speaking of "personal gain", I poked around on the CAUT website, when other questionable activities on the part of our Administrators were the topic, and found this:

    "Institutional administrators should not be owners, or part owners, substantial shareholders, partners or office holders of companies which have a continuing substantial business arrangement with the institution nor should they sit on the governing board of any such companies."

    Is there any chance that Scotiabank or the company of any person sitting on its Board of Directors is to play a significant role in the proposed research park on south campus? We certainly can't expect Samarasekera to investigate herself, and determine how much "personal gain" accrues to her because of her seat on Scotiabank's Board of Directors.

  7. Covert, that's a really insigtful comment. Her reference to "gain" is basically an extension of the corporate discourse that now permeates our university and, consequently, our perception of scholarship. The only thing that counts in this discourse is what results in material "gain" (money, promotions, status, property) for the individual , the institution, and/or its investors. Do any Witherites out there know enough Latin to modify our unversity's motto? "Whatsoever..."

  8. Sheldon, Note that in the G&M interview, UofA President said "... as members of the academy – where our currency is about what sort of things are true; pursuit of truth is our currency." It is a rather shocking confession from someone on the listing of Scotiabank Board of Directors.

    I have not heard our current president refer to the university motto before.

    Some time ago, Keyser suggested a new Latin motto replacing the truth with gain, or something like this.

  9. Sheldon, there are a couple of candidate replacement mottoes that KS came up with last year ...

  10. Thanks, Anon, that was a real eye opener! Piotr, you just made me feel even worse. "Our truth is our currency." That is scary!


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