Oct 112011
(Business section, link no longer valid)
By Rory MacLean, The StarPhoenix October 11, 2011

University of Saskatchewan senators who this summer called for the board of governors chair to resign because of her ties to Cameco Corp. are now saying the senate itself has a democratic deficit.

They formed the group University Senators in Saskatchewan Working to Revive Democracy (USSWORD) earlier this year to criticize the corporatization of the university.

The group was created after environmental lawyer Stefania Fortugno penned a letter that accused board of governors chair Nancy Hopkins of having a conflict of interest between her financial interest in Cameco and position as chair of the search committee for the next university president.

Elected senator Mary Jean Hande said a number of senators and faculty have since voiced their support for USSWORD, but are afraid of repercussions if they should be seen as aligning themselves with the group.

“They’re afraid to speak out about these things because they’re worried about repercussions,” she said. “They’re worried about bullying and they’re worried about harassment.”

Hande wouldn’t specify exactly how many senators are involved, but she admitted it is less than half of the 28 elected to the body.

It’s been difficult for the group to communicate with the other senators, said Hande, because communication is vetted by the senate secretary and the senate email list has recently been disabled.

Motions submitted by USSWORD to be put on the last senate meeting agenda calling for an investigation into Hopkins’ apparent conflict of interest were rejected twice for being out of order.

“They told us there wasn’t enough time to discuss these motions at the meeting, so they basically rejected them. They don’t have the power to do that,” said Hande.

Hopkins earlier denounced the accusations as “absurd,” saying they stemmed from the fact that Cameco is in the nuclear business, “which is a big flashpoint for many people.”

A recent chart issued by USSWORD outlining different corporate ties at the university reveals a nuclear focus, bearing the title Radioactive Trinity: A study of partnerships of government, industry and the U of S, though it also outlines links to several oil companies among university governors. These connections call the university’s autonomy into question, said Hande.

“The university is a public institution. Its role is to serve the university community. That type of influence takes the university away from the influence of the people of Saskatchewan. We’re concerned that the university is being transformed into some sort of think-tank for the energy industry.”

USSWORD will be bringing three motions to the next senate meeting and is asking any interested members of the public to attend. The Occupy Saskatoon protesters will attend the meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday in Room 150 in the College of Law building.


The growing Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrating against corporate power and economic disparity hits Saskatoon on Saturday.

The Occupy Saskatoon event starts at 9:30 a.m. at the University of Saskatchewan, where the rally will support a group of academic activists and elected officials speaking out against corporate influence at the university.

The rally then marches to downtown Saskatoon and stops at Friendship Park for the day-long demonstration.

Occupy Wall Street is a continuous demonstration that has attracted thousands of people to New York to protest corporate influence in American society and government.

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