Peter Munk, the founder and chairman of gold mining giant Barrick Gold, has again stuffed the coffers of the University of Toronto with a recent $35 million donation to the school. The donation pays for establishment of the Munk School of Global Affairs, while the Centre for Comparative Literature and the Centre for Ethics are shutting their doors. This follows Munk’s previous gifts totaling $25 million for the creation of the Munk Centre for International Studies. With these two donations, Munk has effectively branded entire areas of international study, including Public International Law, International Development, and Global Policy Analysis.
According to Linda McQuaig’s new book, “The Trouble with Billionaires”, Munk’s latest donation comes with strings attached to ensure that the school will likely “fit with the political views and sensitivities of Peter Munk.” McQuiag writes that “according to Munk’s written agreement with the university, the Munk donations will be paid over an extended time period, with much of the money to be paid years from now — and subject to the Munk family’s approval of the school. For that matter, the school’s director will be required to report annually to a board appointed by Munk ‘to discuss the programs, activities and initiatives of the School in greater detail.’ This sure sounds like Munk will have influence over the school’s direction — and will indeed be able to withhold money if the school doesn’t please him.”
This is not unlike Munk’s previous donations to the University. The U of T’s student paper, The Varsity, made public the conditions of his previous donation of $6.4 million to establish the Munk Centre for International Studies. According to information gathered through the U of T’s Access to Information Policy, the student paper uncovered an agreement that had been signed two years previously without consultation with the academic board. The $6.4-million donation, to be paid over 10 years, came with conditions stipulating that a council set up for the centre would have to cooperate with the Barrick Gold international advisory board. Another condition forbade the university from cutting Munk Centre funding for 30 years, which would amount to an opportunity cost for other departments during periods of government cutbacks. According to The Varsity, this contract was later amended due to outcry from the University’s Faculty Association.
As a company that is accused of human rights violations, labor violations, environmental devastation and/or corruption in nearly every country where they operate, students have cause for concern that their school is so closely connected with this company. But the Munk donation has more implications than merely undermining the reputation of the University of Toronto.
Last October, the Harper government appointed the founding director of the Munk Centre, Marketa Evans, to the newly formed post of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) counselor. Her job is to assist companies and stakeholders in the resolution of disputes related to the corporate conduct of Canadian extractive companies (mining, oil and gas) abroad. Criticized for her performance so far, Marketa has yet to pursue a single investigation. Also, as a requirement of her post, she requires consent from a mining company before she can review any allegations against that company.
Marketa’s promotion to this post raises questions about how the prestige of the University is being used to get people favored by industry into government posts. It also raises concerns about the bias of the 19 faculty of this new School of Global Affairs and it’s emphasis on the study of Corporate Social Responsibility, which is largely supported by industry as it emphasizes voluntary standards and avoids government regulation.
What’s more, according to the Munk Memorandum of Agreement, up to one quarter of the Heritage Mansion is to be set aside (and remodeled to accommodate) the Canadian International Council (C.I.C). According to a recent article “The Perils of Philanthropy: The Case of the Munk School” by UofT academics John Valleau and Paul Hamel, “this organization is not part of the University, and indeed is not an academic organization at all. It can best be described as a right-wing ‘think tank’, comparable in its make-up and ideology to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (C.C.C.E.) but with a self-interested focus on Canada’s posture in foreign policy and trade. The C.I.C. appears to be the creature especially of 18 high-profile Canadian corporations (including for example Scotiabank, the Power Corporation, Research-in-Motion, Goldcorp, Manulife, Magna International and of course Barrick Gold), the CEOs or Presidents of which constitute the C.I.C. Senate. Its Board of Directors combines such people with other influential people such as Perrin Beatty (now CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce), Bill Graham (former Foreign Minister) and Janice Stein (current Director of the Munk School).”
As the negative impacts of extractive industries have become undeniable, the question of how to mitigate these impacts has finally come to the fore. The Munk donation has turned the University into an ideological battleground for a political match that will shape the next era of corporate globalization. The venue has been chosen; now, it’s up to the students to step up to this opportunity and become a voice in the debate to end corporate impunity.
“Ex-UofT President David Naylor gets named to Barrick Board of Directors“, by Sakura Saunders, with research from Joeta Gupta. Dec 8, 2013
“Money really can buy anything – even at the University of Toronto”, by Gerald Caplan, The Globe and Mail, Dec. 17, 2010
“Excerpt: The Trouble with Billionaires by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks”, The Toronto Star, Sept 10, 2010
“Welcome to your corporate campus”, by Alex Kazia, Naushad Ali Husein and Jade Colbert, The Varsity Apr 10, 2008