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When speaking at Carleton yesterday, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell emphatically said, “Symbols are important.” She broached this with regards to a private member’s bill in the House of Commons considered this week on making the national anthem more gender neutral. I thoroughly agree and am now inspired to do my part to change a negative symbol associated with Carleton, namely and quixotically, our street address.

Carleton could choose any street on campus to use for its street address. University Drive would be an excellent choice, especially since it is visible to anybody driving from the airport to downtown Ottawa. While nerdy, Library Road would be another good choice. Or if we want to be spectator-sport-crazy, Raven Road would be an interesting choice that is short, sweet, and alliterative. But the choice of Colonel By Drive is a symbolic nightmare. Colonel John By was a military man who helped build the Rideau Canal that was supposed to help keep British supplies moving between Kingston and Montreal in the event that the American military invaded portions of the St. Lawrence River between the Thousand Islands and Cornwall.

Carleton is on unceded Algonquin territory. Carleton is at least trying to make a symbolic effort to respect the Algonquin peoples who share these lands with us. It is, however, utterly disrespectful using a street address named after someone who helped colonize these lands. Furthermore, the military rank ‘colonel’ has the same etymological root as the term ‘colonial’. The spelling is not a coincidence (see here). It would also not be advisable for Carleton to use the street address of Bronson Avenue. Erskine Henry Bronson was a politician and businessman who built the hydro-electric power plants at Chaudíere Falls, thereby desecrating an important Anishinaabe place, Asinabka. Given that we could pick any street address on campus, we might as well go for one that does not represent repressive colonial heritage. Symbols matter.

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I loved playing and watching football. When much younger, I was a decent blocker and seemed to have glue on my left hand when catching passes. Of course, my right hand invariably acted like it was catching a hot potato. And I was never big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to be a great blocker. I had a coach’s eye for the game, watching endless hours of football on television. No nuance on the offensive or defensive lines eluded my notice. I could often call games better than many television announcers. I even lived a few blocks from RFK Stadium, home of the storied professional football team in Washington DC, the team with the racist name. Those were exciting times indeed. But I have grown older and hopefully wiser.

Football teams acts like financial black holes, usually redistributing wealth to one person or occasionally a handful of people per team. Even though Carleton promised not to spend a dime of its own funds on football – those funds were supposed to come from John Ruddy [see the footnote at the bottom of this post] and other old crows – our football team has taken over the soccer team’s old practice and playing field. And thus Carleton just spent what I am guessing is a couple hundred thousand dollars on a new beautifully drained artificial turf soccer field between Bronson and parking lot P3, all because of being displaced by football. I suspect that the old crows did not pay for that field. As a former board member once suggested, I wonder whether the motivation for a new $35 million parking garage over the O-Train and its proposed multiple additions were motivated by having adequate parking for university and professional football games. See the following link for how much money football teams cost universities, even the supposedly good teams, i.e. they pretty much all lose huge sums of money that universities could have found far better uses for.

Football is downright sexist. Did the old crows donate any monies to women’s athletics when they came up with the initial payment of $5 million for men’s-only football? Did Carleton’s equity services office ever weigh-in on this gender-biased donation? How many women’s football teams have you seen, at any level? The only obvious one is the recently re-named Lingerie Football League, a group of paid (I cannot say ‘professional’) scantily clad women playing football. It’s hard to get more sexist than that.

Football is an officially sanctioned group of people physically assaulting one another. Tackling and blocking would be criminal offenses if you did that to someone on the street. The recent spate of domestic violence reports by football players may be players forgetting about context: the violence and assaults that are allowed on the playing field are simply not allowed off the field. Maybe not as bad as boxing, but football is really violent. One of Carleton’s preeminent neuroscience researchers, Matt Holahan, studies effects of concussions. The number of concussions and consequent chronic neurological problems is finally being documented and is pervasive in football. This month, the National Football League admitted in U.S. federal court to a conservative albeit staggering estimate that one-third of their players have suffered cognitive problems as a result of on-field head injuries (see the New York Times story). Should a place of higher education such as Carleton be sponsoring an activity like football that often causes permanent brain damage? The only sporting hypocrisy that I have seen worse than university football was one of my nieces being on a fencing team for her Quaker high school. Quakers are supposed to be pacifists, but who somehow enjoy the entertainment of a good sword fight!

In the past decade, the Ontario Ministry of Labour has impressively stepped-up worker safety efforts. Workplace injuries now occur much less frequently and are less severe because of these important government regulations and oversight. With the extreme number of per capita injuries in football, why doesn’t the Ministry of Labour intercede? Professional football is certainly a workplace and should be regulated as such. The U.S. (but not yet Ontario) government specified that, unlike other students, university football players are employees, so all labour laws apply (see the Chicago Tribune). Maybe a pipe-dream, but it would be fantastic if the Ontario Ministry of Labour regulated workplace safety of university and professional football, holding these teams to the same standards as all other occupations and workplaces. As much as I want my students to learn, even more, I want them to live long healthy and happy lives, not ones marred by irreversible effects of officially sanctioned violence of university football programs that are bankrolled by corporate interests.

Better late than never, many old football fans like me are finally seeing the problems associated with the sport. These old fans are abandoning the game, including abandoning watching football. As Steve Almond recently wrote in the Washington Post, “The future of football will be determined not by a mass boycott or a government crackdown but by individual fans who confront the brutal realities of their favorite sport and act as their own consciences recommend.” It is curious, if not foolish, that Carleton is on the wrong side of history here, recently lavishing space and even money on a new football program, when much of the rest of the world is coming to its senses and no longer glorifying the extravagant expense, sexism, and violence that pervades football.

  • John Ruddy provided half of the $5 million donation to start Carleton’s football program. He is a former member of Carleton’s Board of Governors and co-owns the local professional football team that several of my academic colleagues affectionately call the “Ottawa Rednecks”.

On 12 August 2014, I posted a link to Carleton University’s “Notice of Intent for a Major Capital Expansion Project” to the province, without any interpretation or analysis of that very important document. I want to partially remedy that omission here.

Carleton’s plans for major capital expansion were done without any meaningful consultation with either Carleton’s Senate or Board of Governors. With the strategic mandate agreement, both the Board of Governors and Senate were foreclosed from consultation by the administration speciously rationalizing that supposedly short provincially-imposed timelines precluded consultation. However, given the forewarning by the province and the date of the final directive by the province in November 2013 (see provincial directive here), there clearly was time for consultation. While not consulted, at least both the Board of Governors and Senate were apprised of Carleton’s strategic mandate document prior to its submission to the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. By contrast, not only did Carleton’s upper administration fail to consult with the Board of Governors and Senate about the proposed intent for major capital expansion, but the upper administration failed to report the 27 June 2014 proposal to both the Board of Governors and Senate. Senate met the following day, 28 June 2014, but has never been provided with this major capital expansion document. It seems unbelievable that I had to unearth and provide the link to this capital expansion document to the Carleton community, a document that all members of the Board of Governors and members of Senate should have received – but never received – directly from Carleton’s administration. And even after my 12 August 2014 blog posting, Carleton’s administration has still not come clean and disseminated that publicly available capital expansion document, which should be of interest to the entire university community.

The province asked (here) that the strategic mandate proposal and the proposed major capital expansion be based on the strengths of each university. Carleton somehow recast one of our weaknesses, health science, using Orwellian doublespeak to egregiously and repeatedly call health science one of our strengths. Until June 2014, the health science department had one faculty member. Supposedly three new faculty members were hired in health science during summer 2014. However, as of today, there is no record of these people on the official health science website nor is health science even listed as a department on Carleton’s official phonebook. Even if Kim Matheson takes over the helm of health science, which I suspect she will eventually do, health science will still not be a huge strength for Carleton, especially compared with many superb home-grown departments that have existed for decades. At least, in the major capital expansion document, Carleton admits that our health science bachelors program is not intended for ‘pre-med’ students…although I wonder whether anybody is telling that to high school students we are recruiting.

Carleton’s administration admitted (see the 28 August 2014 edition of the Charlatan) that the provincial half of the funding for the new health science building is contingent on long-term enrolment growth. The latest report on enrolments given by Suzanne Blanchard at an open session of Carleton’s Senate showed that enrolment for health science was well below expectations, which does not bode well for a new building, although it does indicate that health science may not be as much a strength as advertised. Furthermore, if the province does not provide capital funding, is Carleton’s administration willing to go it alone to erect new academic buildings?

The provincial directive that drove the strategic mandate agreements and proposals for major capital expansion had as its primary focus jobs and economic development. While jobs and the economy should be a component of many universities efforts, making it the primary focus seems misguided because innovation almost never arises from such pragmatism. Nonetheless, that is what the province asked for. Therefore, it seems very peculiar that Carleton has recommended that our other major growth area will be the business school. Carleton’s most recent budget provided a much larger increase for business than for any of our other four faculties (see my 29 April 2014 posting herein). The major capital expansion proposal suggests a new $35 million building for business, half of which supposedly will be paid for out of Carleton’s own capital funds. The problem is that people who majored in business in the U.S. (there is no reason to believe Canada is any different) reported extraordinarily high levels of dissatisfaction after graduation. A recent survey of 68,000 workers by PayScale revealed that 60% of employees with bachelors degrees in business state that they are under-employed (see here). In that survey, the only undergraduate major that did worse than business was criminal justice, with 61% reporting under-employment. So, if Carleton is really looking to improve jobs and the economy, then investing in business may be the wrong tack. Maybe Carleton’s upper administration is hoping the provincial government will not notice this major problem with business programs. Instead, at least according to the PayScale survey, there is a far better return on investment in science, engineering, and law students, of which only 22-31% of graduates (depending on major) reported under-employment.

The document proposing major capital expansion, mentions Carleton’s plans to establish satellite campuses in Cornwall in Indigenous policy and Niagara in entrepreneurship, Given the raging debates around Navitas (see here regarding corporatization of post-secondary education), CultureWorks (at least we gave them a fourth-floor space that had some of the worst flooding on campus this rainy spring and summer), and our theocratic friends at Dominican College (abrogating “the establishment and maintenance of a non-sectarian college with University powers, having its seat in or about the City of Ottawa” per the Carleton University Act), I can only imagine how unions at Carleton will react to satellite campuses. But I must use my imagination because, once again, there have been no meaningful consultations with Carleton’s Board of Governors or Senate about the proposed new satellite campuses.

On a final note, I was recently asked what Carleton could do to improve Indigenous scholarship, in which Carleton makes some modest efforts. Indigenous studies in its many guises is no more of a strength at Carleton than is health science, even with the funding for one new forthcoming tenure-track hire in Indigenous policy administration (see the 27 June 2014 posting in my Senate blog for details). This contrast between Indigenous studies and health science is illuminating. We are trying to make health science a strength by hiring eight new tenure-track faculty members and giving them a $35 million new building. Why not take half of those resources – especially given our underwhelming enrolments in health science – and divert those funds to Indigenous studies, i.e. hire four new tenure-track faculty members and provide them with $17.5 million for new space to study and teach Indigenous studies. Better yet, trade some of those building costs that will largely be coming from internal capital funds to hire even more tenure-track Indigenous scholars. Or, even better yet, hire faculty in Indigenous health. Apparently, Carleton is starting to lose Indigenous scholars to Queen’s University, a university that actually is putting money behind such efforts, rather than trying to chase dollars of people who will never get into medical school or people who end up severely dissatisfied with their business degrees. This is just one of many suggestions. Maybe such an investment in Indigenous studies is not that answer. But the least that Carleton’s upper administration could do is meaningfully consult with Senate and the Board of Governors about the university’s long-term plans, especially regarding new or growing academic programs, engaging in real discussions, not just town hall meetings that are nothing but a public-relations veneer on a fait accompli. And Carleton’s administration needs to give Senate and the Board of Governors the courtesy of seeing and consulting on the university’s requests to the province, rather than simply hiding them from these bicameral institutions that are supposed to have cognizance over such matters per the Carleton University Act. The secretive machinations surrounding Carleton’s strategic mandate agreement and Carleton’s request for major capital expansion lacked even a modicum of due process.

This blog simply reflects my impressions and opinions from Carleton University Board of Governors and Senate meetings, with a focus on due process. These postings are exclusively from OPEN SESSIONS of Board of Governors and Senate meetings, as well as publicly available outside sources. These blog postings are simply meant as my synopsis and analysis of matters that are already public. For official reports, please see the formal minutes of the Board meetings, as well as minutes of Senate meetings. And, as always, I truly welcome your feedback, especially in trying to make Carleton University a better place for us all to learn.