All Posts Tagged With: "Donations"
Donors, schools and profs disagreed on big gifts
Billionaire philanthropist Seymour Schulich is a man of maxims — one of which stands out after a bruising year of donor controversies in Canadian academia.
“Giving away money intelligently is truly more difficult than earning it,” Schulich, 73, likes to say.
Donors, university administrators and professors are looking for a smoother path forward in 2013.
Schulich, Canada’s most generous education benefactor, rolled out a new set of $60,000 scholarships this year that he hopes will rival the Rhodes.
Yet he’s sounding concerns that a donor chill might follow all the bad press that has surrounded benefactions amid concerns over academic freedom and integrity.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers, or CAUT, has been threatening sanctions against schools over donor deals that give benefactors influence on the curriculum, hiring practices and academic management of the sponsored program.
Canadian Association of University Teachers isn’t happy
Changes to “clarify” a controversial, $15-million donor agreement at Carleton University are more cosmetic than substantive and miss the main point — protecting academic independence, the Canadian Association of University Teachers said Wednesday.
Carleton’s administration released a newly rewritten agreement with wealthy Calgary businessman Clay Riddell this week to clear up what it called confusion about the steering committee for the fledgling graduate program in political management.
“A revised clause of the agreement clarifies the role as that of strategic adviser,” university president Roseann O’Reilly Runte said Tuesday.
But the academic freedom and tenure committee of CAUT, the national university teachers’ association, spent more than an hour poring over the single-page clause and said the problematic deal “in some ways has been made worse.”
Canadian Blood Services needs to change its policies
Students at Carleton University voted this week to continue refusing to work with Canadian Blood Services because of the organization’s policies, which prevent most gay men from donating.
I, for one, applaud the students’ decision.
Of course, Blood Services must take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the blood supply, but all reasonable precautions does not mean every theoretical precaution. Blood is tested before it is used, and Blood Services could reasonably ask questions about recent high-risk behaviour.
To ban all men who have had sex with other men, even once since 1978, is going too far. It excludes numerous healthy donors, generates ill will among citizens generally, and, worst of all, promotes the false and damaging stereotype that being gay is equivalent to being diseased and vice versa.
High severance package given to former president has alumni wary of giving.
Donations to Concordia University have dropped as much as 80 per cent following the (alleged) firing of president Judith Woodsworth. Student newspaper, The Link reports that “donations fell to $50 on some days—an average day before the dismissal could see callers bring in several thousand dollars.”
While it’s certainly not surprising that donations dropped dramatically in the wake of Woodsworth’s departure, I’ve got to note that the details in the Link’s story are anecdotal and based on anonymous interviews with students who solicit donations from alumni by phone. The University has said it’s still too early to comment on the effect Woodsworth’s departure had on donations.
The main issue seems to be the large severance package given to Woodsworth.
“Most alumni just said, ‘You just wasted $700,000 on a leaving president, I don’t feel like donating to you now.’ It seemed to me like the focus was on the severance pay,” one solicitor told the paper.
Interestingly, the donation-soliciting students were briefed by the school’s communications director during the second week of the semester.
Munk School of Global Affairs sends students to the side doors
Move to the back of the bus. Give your vote to your husband. Let them eat cake. Now, use the side door only, please.
History is littered with examples of the powerful using their wealth and influence to push the little guy to his knees. Now the University of Toronto is falling in line. U of T is accepting tens of millions of dollars in private donations to create the Munk School of Global Affairs. But in so doing, they are letting Canada’s elite decide how the university’s lowly everyday students will be treated.
Tucked away on the on the bottom half of page 14 of the agreement between the U of T and the Munk Charitable Foundation, sits this paragraph:
“The main entrance of the Heritage Mansion will be a formal entrance reserved only for senior staff and visitors to the School and the CIC. Usual and customary traffic for any occupants of any future developments adjoining the Heritage Mansion will be through one or more entrances on Devonshire Place.”
The agreement also notes that the building will be the headquarters for the new school and at least 75 per cent of the building is to be reserved for that purpose.
This paragraph of the agreement makes the Munk Foundation seem more interested in the appearance of austerity, than the delivery of a high quality academic program. But that could be too generous. They could be more interested in the significant tax breaks their donation offers one of Canada’s wealthiest couple.
Either way, by reserving the gilded front entrance of their new school for senior staff and guests to be impressed, the school is sending a very clear message to students: This is now a class-based system, and students are at the bottom of the pile.
Alone, the move could seem innocuous. But so did asking a segment of society to move to the back of the bus. The University of Toronto needs to make sure that, in accepting the donation from the Munk Foundation, they are not also allowing donors to dictate how students should be treated.
Policies need to be in place to make sure academic voices aren’t lost in the shuffle
Two professors at the University of Toronto are concerned that philanthropic gifts are doing more to determine academic priorities than the school’s own academic faculties. And their concerns aren’t completely unfounded.
Following a large donation to the Munk School of Global Affairs, the university included in the donor agreement a line that announced “international studies is a top academic priority of the university.”
But according to professors Paul Hamel and John Valleau, that was never discussed in the traditional academic circles.
“Who decided that?” Hamel asked the Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto.
“Departments will put through their academic plans that they have an idea and we find ways of doing it. An academic priority is identified on the ground,” Misak added to the newspaper. “The idea that donors are driving academic priorities is crazy, just crazy.”
But the shift towards making philanthropy a significant source of income for post-secondary institutions is still new. Only in 2007, the head of fundraising at the University of Ottawa speculated that donations could become a permanent fixture of university priorities.
“It’s become a permanent feature of how universities do their job,” David Mitchell told The Globe and Mail. “The machinery of fundraising has come of age at universities in the last generation. I don’t think it is about to end.”
And since then, the amount of donations accepted by universities has been growing steadily.
While still representing a low total number in their overall budgets, donations now represent the second-fastest growing income source for universities, growing an average of nearly 11 per cent a year between 1997 and 2007.
And with hundreds of millions of dollars lining up at their door, it’s hard for universities to say no. That’s the problem Hamel and Valleau are now worried about.
While the University of Toronto’s donor agreement specifically affirms the academic freedom and freedom of speech of their faculty, that these two professors are concerned is reason for concern itself.
The way academic priorities are decided needs to be transparent to the academic community. It’s through this transparency that faculty can feel free to bring forward their own priorities and contribute in innovative ways to the university community.
If professors feel that priority setting is solely the domain of higher bodies, disenfranchised faculty will begin to wear down the institution’s morale.
It’s important to remember that donors don’t always get to set the priorities. As Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons, told The Globe and Mail: “There is no such thing as a bad cause really, but you have to focus your efforts,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I have an obligation to give something back.”
Universities have a strong history in Canada of academic independence, important discoveries and developing brilliant minds. Donations are a necessary part of this process, but shouldn’t determine priorities. The University of Toronto needs to demonstrate to its academic faculty that this is still the case, or they will face increasing scrutiny from disenfranchised academic leaders.
Tax-free giving plummets about 80 per cent; endowment funds could suffer
The sorry state of stock markets is stoking concerns among Canada’s largest charities that big-ticket, shares-based philanthropy will plummet with the indexes.
Over the last decade, capital gains tax incentives for donated stocks have laid a philanthropist pipeline that has funnelled billions of dollars worth of shares to Canadian charities.
In 2007, Canadian donors gave about $1 billion of common stock to large institutions such as universities and hospitals, said the head of philanthropic advisory services at the Scotia Trust asset management company.
But the tumbling world economy could soon turn the stock contribution surge into a trickle, experts say.
“This year, it’s almost non-existent,” said Scotia Trust’s Malcolm Burrows, who advises philanthropists and charities. “There’s been a significant drop off, I’d say probably about 80 per cent.”
Since 1997, Canada’s wealthy have been taking advantage of tax cuts for donated shares.
In 2006, the Conservative government removed the capital gains tax on stocks donated to public foundations and registered charities. Last year, the government eliminated the capital gains tax on gifts to private foundations.
Donors not only save in taxes, they also collect tax credits.
Burrows said due to the incentives, stock contributions went up 160 per cent between 1996 and 2007. But as well-to-do Canadians shift their focus to more immediate needs, he predicts large institutional charities and endowment funds will sustain heavy blows.
“It’s a basic fact that people give when they feel like they have excess, when they feel secure, and in this environment there’s not much of that,” Burrows said.
“For the most part, Canadians tend to dig deep in down times – they look to community needs. It may be slightly different this year, just because of the depth of the economic situation.”
An umbrella group that represents 1,200 Canadian charities says many charitable organizations across the country have reported a drop in large stock gifts.
In some cases, funding for existing foundations has been put on hold, said Jocelyne Daw, vice-president of marketing and community engagement for Imagine Canada.
“Obviously, people aren’t going to give gifts of shares if their shares are worth half what they once were,” Daw said from her Calgary office. “I don’t think too many people are going to be worrying about capital gains this year.”
Surprises everyone by changing $2.5 million to largest gift in university’s history
Legendary oil tycoon Boone Pickens has dropped a $25-million bait-and-switch on the University of Calgary.
But nobody’s complaining.
The Texas billionaire and former Calgarian was expected to donate $2.25-million to the Harley Hotchkiss Brain Institute Friday.
But when it came time to show the money, Mr. Pickens added another $25-million – for a total of $27.25-million, the largest gift ever given the university.
The donation came at the ribbon cutting of the Boone Pickens Centre for Neurological Science and Advanced Technologies.
University president Harvey Weingarten assured Mr. Pickens the money will be well-invested and spent.
“We have assembled one of the most incredible groups of individuals in this field,” said Mr. Weingarten. “We could use a lot of surprises like this.”
The donation is the only philanthropy Mr. Pickens has conducted outside the U.S. and the oilpatch guru partly credited his friendship with Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss, who has also given generously to the university.
“I lived here in the ’60s and Harley and I have been friends so when he asked me to help, I did,” said Mr. Pickens.
“I have fond feelings about Calgary.”
The promise of that investment was apparent with researcher Michael Colicos implanting living brain cells onto computer chips to discover what makes them dysfunctional.
A benefactor of his work could be his own two-year-old daughter, Alexandra, who has epilepsy.
“There’s obviously a double-edged sword … it’s a unique dynamic,” said Mr. Colicos.
In his lab, scientists are able to induce seizures on a silicon chip and treat them in a variety of ways.
“We see the cells that are dying and we can work at ways of stopping them from dying,” he said.
“We can look at thousands of drugs at the same time.”
The process is being commercialized and could help those suffering from conditions ranging from autism to spinal cord damage.
- The Canadian Press