A University of Saskatchewan professor says President Peter MacKinnon’s endorsement of a Saskatchewan Party minister is unprecedented and constitutes an “abuse of power.”
MacKinnon is quoted in a brochure saying: “Rob Norris is the finest minister responsible for post-secondary education that I have been privileged to work with in my (13) years as (president).”
Len Findlay, Director of the Humanities Research Unit at the university, said presidents are required to stay neutral. “It’s a publicly funded institution and it’s a provincial responsibility,” Findlay told the StarPhoeix. “Provincial governments change and the interests of the institution and the public interest is best served by the university not being seen to align itself with one party…”
MacKinnon said there’s nothing wrong with the comment. He said that it’s important to be careful during election campaigns, but the comment was made in a speech before the writ was dropped.
But are such endorsements, even during elections, really unprecedented as Findlay suggests?
Here are some recent examples of how university and college presidents have praised political parties. You be the judge.
In March, University of Guelph President Alastair Summerlee endorsed federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s “Learning Passport,” calling it “absolutely amazing” and “a very, very positive contribution,” reported the Guelph Mercury.
In September, York University President Mamdouh Shoukri said in response to the Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal platform that: “the goals of having the highest postsecondary attainment rate and most educated workforce in the world are the right ones.”
That same week, Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University, said that the Ontario Liberal’s platform included “the most progressive change in tuition policy I have seen in 40 years.”
And while their words came after the election in October, both University of Manitoba President David Barnard and Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth offered their gratitude to the NDP for promises of new funding that came in Manitoba’s Throne Speech, according to CKNW.
MacKinnon’s comments may be controversial, but such endorsements aren’t unprecedented.