B.C. Election: MLA candidates on private money in universities

We put questions to Kamloops' MLA candidates on post-secondary, the economy and health care

British Columbians will go the polls May 9. We put a series of questions to the candidates from both of Kamloops’ electoral districts on everything from post-secondary education to health care and the economy.

Other topics: University fundingEconomy – Priorities – Private money – Health care

WE ASKED:

In the years past, we’ve seen private corporations donating to universities in a big way. For example, all five major banks are near the top of TRU’s donor list. Do you feel that private investment in universities is a good thing? Why or why not?

Peter Milobar (Kamloops-North) and Todd Stone (Kamloops-South) – BC Liberals

“Universities around the world have benefited from philanthropy for centuries, including many named professorships, buildings and entire faculties,” they said.

Stone and Milobar believe that universities greatly benefit from private donations. Though to them, respect for academic freedom should be an essential part of philanthropy.

“Donors large and small give back to their communities by supporting students, research and building programs, enriching our society through their gifts.”

Barb Nederpel (Kamloops-North) – BC NDP

Nederpel thinks that years of neglect from the BC Liberals in funding post-secondary education has led to universities increasingly relying on outside funding. This has also resulted in higher tuition, Nederpel said.

“Corporations are obligated to act in the interests of their shareholders, and their expectations for return on investment can mean the interests of students and communities come second,” Nederpel said.

Dan Hines (Kamloops-North) – BC Green Party

While Hines agrees with some community partnerships and limited funding of universities by corporations and other interest groups, he thinks that there must be clear and well-understood limits on these contributions.

“Universities must retain academic freedom and an ability to carry on research and studies without the influence of special interests,” he said.

These issues stem from a lack of public funding into post-secondary institutions, says Hines, this forces universities to seek corporate donations.

Peter Kerek (Kamloops-North) – Communist Party of B.C.

Kerek believes that universities should be completely publicly funded.

“It is government’s job to ensure private entities are taxed appropriately so that institutions do not require private funding,” he said.

Kerek goes on to say that the presence of private funding only undermines the independence of institutions.

“When I see a university building named after a wealthy individual or corporation, I see a donor who has exploited an opportunity to profit off the backs of working class people while avoiding an appropriate amount of taxation on said profits,” he said.

Nancy Bepple (Kamloops-South) – BC NDP

Bepple says the BC Liberals have neglected to continue funding TRU’s costs, and pointed to a drop from 70 per cent institutional funding in 2002 to grants now covering less than half of TRU’s costs.

With those figures in mind, Bepple said, “I have to question whether TRU is still a public institution.”

“Unlike individual donors, corporations are accountable to their shareholders and many have questioned whether their donations to TRU are motivated less by civic duty, than by business interests,” she said, adding that the BC NDP is committed to protecting public education.

Beat Klossner (Kamloops-South) – Communist Party of B.C.

Klossner said that TRU is already not a public university, due to the fact that more than half of its funding does not come from the province.

“It is also not a private University. It is actually nothing more than a business. The province is in this way slowly privatizing our learning institutions,” Klossner said.

Klossner said that TRU’s dependence on corporate donations means this could lead to a situation where they have an influence on the curriculum and direction of the institution.

“This is not acceptable,” Klossner said, adding that universities must be independent, available to everyone and public.

Donovan Cavers (Kamloops-South) – BC Green Party

No response was provided.