Students’ Union president Raphael Jacob said he supports University of Calgary administration’s plans for a privately run international college, saying he doesn’t see it threatening students.
“I’m probably going to be voting in favour of [the college] unless some new information comes to light,” Jacob said. “I know the faculty association, who I respect deeply, have come out against it. But I think it will be positive.”
The college will be voted on during a General Faculties Council meeting next March. From the SU, Jacob and vice-president academic Emily Macphail each have one of the 13 total votes.
Jacob said that he found fears of corporate influence on campus overblown, as he sees current deals with the private sector benefiting students.
“Very frankly, I’m not interested in this idea of the corporatization of education,” Jacob said. “I think a lot of these arguments could have been applied to when faculties were first being named on campus or corporations were getting involved with research. People fear this can go badly, but we have internal structures to deal with all of this.”
Similar privately run colleges have been opened on other Canadian campuses, including one at Simon Fraser University. Jacob said he discussed SFU’s experience with members of the Canadian Association of University Teachers — a Canada-wide conglomerate of academic unions opposed to the college — and was unconvinced by their worries.
“I asked CAUT, what are the major pitfalls of going with this model?” Jacob said. “In the two or three years that it has been at SFU, it seems to have been a pretty positive experience. I don’t think CAUT had a very satisfactory answer.”
Both CAUT and University of Calgary Faculty Association oppose plans for the privately run college. Both groups argue that it would degrade academic freedom, lead to a loss of control over the U of C’s academic standards and introduce undue corporate influence on campus.
Jacob added that the college would increase the diversity of students on campus and help the school generate much needed revenue. He stressed that these were his personal opinions and some in the SU might disagree with him.