[CAFR-L] U of L and political donations

Daniel O'Donnell daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca
Wed Jan 11 17:03:31 MST 2012


I suspect your reading is probably correct. And I'm not sure about how I 
would react in the same circumstances. On the one hand, one does have to 
have qualms about it; on the other, as a presumably senior officer of 
the institution, you might feel it is your duty to ensure the U of L is 
not left out of the goodies--i.e. see it as a kind of lobbying. This is 
why you end up with organisations like transparency watch, of course, 
since the only way to break such systems is to call attention to them.

All that being said, though, it is also not surprising that we do not 
seem to have been leading the charge in changing that system (the 
University's statement suggests we acted very reactively to changes in 
the law and only after it changed). We are simply not a leader in 
transparency and strict process, in my opinion: we don't need to 
rehearse all the examples we've discussed over the last few years, but 
if there is a bias here I'd say it is generally towards privileging 
short term gain whenever possible over the long term benefits that 
accrue from reliable, predictable, and transparent adherence to 
rule-based collaboration and governance. And as you know, I believe that 
the administration has also developed a very dangerous us vs. them 
mentality: far too much attention is devoted to preserving their 
positions as a group, even at times when this involves creating obvious 
moral hazards or creating significant division.

Things are as bad as they are here, in my opinion, because our 
administrative culture is one that treats the handbook and the bylaws as 
weapons of advantage in an adversarial contest between itself and 
students and faculty. We'd be much better off if we could trust them to 
be interpreted with an eye to ensuring the common weal, even if that 
means the occasional short-term loss or draw. The true culture of an 
institution comes out when things are not black and white. And we do not 
wear grey well.

-dan

On 12-01-11 12:12 PM, Mueller, Richard wrote:
> Dan,
>
> I fairness, if this is how the game was being played at the time by U of L and the other public institutions, then perhaps this was just a race to the bottom. I heard something on CBC this morning that some official body (can't recall which one) is requesting disclosure of this information from the other Alberta public institutions.
>
> Rick
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: O'Donnell, Dan
> Sent: January-11-12 12:08 PM
> To: Mueller, Richard
> Cc: cafr-l, MailList
> Subject: Re: [CAFR-L] U of L and political donations
>
> Even if things were not illegal, one does have to wonder about the ethics of it. Maybe Alberta culture at the time was such that you felt the need to do it despite one's qualms, but surely somebody in the Board or Admin would have felt a little queasy about handing $4k over to the Premier's office every year for the dinner in the years before the law apparently changed.
>
> The problem that I see as being simply endemic here is the lack of concern for how things appear--people seem to be quite willing to walk into situations where they should know they are going to look bad in the future, regardless of the letter of the law. And of course we have discussed a number of examples over the years here where scant enough concern seems to have been paid to the actual letter either (of our bylaws and handbook, at any rate).
>
> I'm glad if it turns out that the University's explanation really is correct and the law wasn't broken. But that it looks bad really is in keeping with the culture here. We shouldn't need to run round finding ways of explaining how it isn't as bad as it looks: we should be conducting ourselves in ways that don't lead to creating a poor perception.
>
> On 12-01-11 11:35 AM, Mueller, Richard wrote:
>> What is interesting about the Wildrose Party's press release of yesterday, is the information provided by the university. The following was linked to the press release:
>>
>> http://www.wildrose.ca/media/2012/01/UofL-FOIP.pdf
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: cafr-l-bounces at uleth.ca [mailto:cafr-l-bounces at uleth.ca] On
>> Behalf Of Mueller, Richard
>> Sent: January-11-12 11:32 AM
>> To: O'Donnell, Dan; cafr-l, MailList
>> Subject: RE: [CAFR-L] U of L and political donations
>>
>> Postings to this list are *Publicly Archived.* This is an unmoderated list and posters are solely responsible for the content of their messages.
>>
>> --------------------
>> Here's the university's response to the Wildrose Party:
>>
>> http://www.uleth.ca/notice/display.html?b=300&s=17130
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: cafr-l-bounces at uleth.ca [mailto:cafr-l-bounces at uleth.ca] On
>> Behalf Of Daniel O'Donnell
>> Sent: January-11-12 10:14 AM
>> To: cafr-l, MailList
>> Subject: Re: [CAFR-L] U of L and political donations
>>
>> Postings to this list are *Publicly Archived.* This is an unmoderated list and posters are solely responsible for the content of their messages.
>>
>> --------------------
>> Good point John. I guess I should have said b) At least it stopped before the current administration. It was probably some brave soul in Accounting called them on it.
>>
>> The first point remains: that it was going on at all is part and parcel of what I believe is a serious, systemic problem with rule-based governance in this University's Board and Administration. You don't have to be an ethics professor to see that there is something smelly about applying for reimbursement from public funds to cover political donations by an individual. Any senior member of the administration who is so ethically challenged that they couldn't see any issues with this in advance doesn't deserve to be in Administration. Any board that was doing anything like its due diligence would have dealt with the person involved as soon as they discovered what had been going on.
>>
>> That the problem arose and that nothing was done, however, are direct results of what I see as this culture of fundamental disrespect for procedure and transparency. At a certain point the culture is going to have to change, if for no other reason that excellence requires transparency. Since there doesn't seem to be an explicit recognition on the part of the Board or the Administration that they have a problem, however, I suspect the collapse of the culture will be ugly: now that we have an opposition that knows how to use FOIP and get publicity for their research, any skeletons that exist are almost certainly going to be brought to light. I hope there aren't any more, but having watched this problem get worse over the years, it wouldn't surprise me if there were.
>>
>> I thought it was interesting, by the way, that this morning on the radio the PC party was busy hanging the U of L out to dry by arguing that they couldn't be held responsible for this kind of thing if the University was going to break the law by reimbursing people for their donations.
>> You know you are in trouble when the Alberta Tories think you are maybe a bit too casual about following the rules.
>>
>> -dan
>>
>> --
>> Daniel Paul O'Donnell
>> Professor of English
>> University of Lethbridge
>> Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4
>> Canada
>>
>> +1 403 393-2539
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> cafr-l mailing list
>> cafr-l at uleth.ca
>> http://listserv.uleth.ca/mailman/listinfo/cafr-l
>>
>> _______________________________________________
>> cafr-l mailing list
>> cafr-l at uleth.ca
>> http://listserv.uleth.ca/mailman/listinfo/cafr-l
>
>
> --
> Daniel Paul O'Donnell
> Professor of English
> University of Lethbridge
> Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4
> Canada
>
> +1 403 393-2539


-- 
Daniel Paul O'Donnell
Professor of English
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4
Canada

+1 403 393-2539



More information about the cafr-l mailing list