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Letter to the editor: Enbridge scandal troubling for academic integrity

RE: U of C president admits mishandling of Enbridge sponsorship

According to president Elizabeth Cannon, lessons were learned during the Enbridge scandal. Changes were made in terms of agreements with third parties. In other words, it was worth it. We now know how to handle such situations.

On Oct. 21, 2013, the university announced a record donation to the Schulich School of Engineering. Taking part in celebrating the donation were, among others — engineering dean Bill Rosehart, Board of Governors chair Bonnie DuPont, Canadian Natural Resources Limited president Steve Laut and president Elizabeth Cannon. Pleasantries are exchanged, speeches are delivered. The president of CNRL says that “we are committed to developing a skilled workforce that will lead technology and innovation in support of a sustainable and prosperous oil and natural gas industry.”

As a result, the entire Engineering Complex will be renamed CNRL Engineering Complex. More importantly, the hint for us, the researchers who work here, has been clearly issued — the best research direction to secure our career progress would be, without a doubt, to deliver innovations that will support sustainable and profitable oil and gas industry.

The “leadership on the file” is provided perfectly, as Rosehart is now a board member of the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada.

Well, PTAC board membership does not pay off as much as the board membership in the Enbridge income fund, if at all. But you have to start from somewhere — oil and gas networking is important, and hierarchy must be observed.

Is the Enbridge syndrome happening again, this time in a much smoother and sleeker fashion, because, as president Cannon stated, the lessons of 2011-2012 had been learned? I asked dean Roseheart if the announcement infringed on our academic freedom to pursue innovations that do not necessarily lead to a “sustainable and prosperous oil and gas industry.” In fact, I object CNRL giving such directions altogether. I am yet to receive a meaningful response from Dr. Rosehart.

So, I now know how the Enbridge lessons have been learned. The Enbridge part in the name of the Centre for Corporate Sustainability had to be dropped, and Cannon had to resign from the board of the Enbridge Income Fund, but the CNRL part in the Engineering Complex name will stay, and the dean’s board membership is secure.

The “independent investigation” so enthusiastically announced by the Board of Governors is conveniently focused on the Enbridge case only. Lessons learned, indeed. The administration now knows how to handle such issues while remaining under the radar of public scrutiny.

Martin Mintchev, Ph.D., P.Eng., Engineering Professor

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