Thiv s Pleasure Palace

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Concern falls into two general areas: 1) The process of receiving donations for UWO in general, and 2) the current deal being placed before the Senate.

The Process:

  • While the time frame between the announcement of Mr. Schulich’s donation being announced and the administration’s hope to have things rushed through the Senate is a mere two months, we believe that Western has been courting Mr. Schulich for quite some time.
  • The administration has not disclosed what criteria (if any) were applied to evaluate this deal, nor have they disclosed who was consulted in formulating the criteria.
  • Why isn’t there an open process with clear guidelines established that state what the university is looking for in a benefactor and what it is prepared to share in return? More importantly, what it is NOT prepared to share or give up. This should be a framework that all who come courting us should be aware of.
  • Why is there a need to ram this deal through the Senate in such a short period of time? The medical school will still be there in a few months or years. If it is so good for the UWO we should be sharing the terms of the deal with all stakeholders so that we would all have confidence in the process. Playing things close to the vest only makes people suspicious.
  • The current process runs antithetical to what universities and their students strive for. Western is supposed to be an institution of free inquiry, where we find the truth and comfort in that truth from knowing that all avenues and possibilities were explored. We attend university not with the belief that we find all the answers in life, but that we will be capable of asking all the RIGHT QUESTIONS. This deal gives us no reason to be satisfied.
  • Medical students in particular should care about this issue. When a prospective student is interviewed by a medical school for admission, he or she isn’t just asked about questions involving pure science, they are asked about their view regarding social policy and ethics. In short they are asked to consider the implications and consequences of their actions and that of their peers in medicine.
  • Mr. Schulich’s donation may very well pass a proper evaluation with flying colours, but we won’t know until the evaluation is constructed and conducted through an open process

What is in this deal?

It is important to understand what this arrangement between Mr. Schulich and UWO is. While at first this may seem as a donation – that is a contribution or gift without any sort of reciprocation expected– is it really? We would argue that it is not. This is more of a business transaction, with contractual obligations being placed on both parties. For many years, corporate philanthropy has been viewed as a business. Companies and individuals give money in exchange for something, such as “naming opportunities”. Corporate philanthropy is big business with firms now in existence that deal solely with fundraising strategies and schools with programs that formally train people for this industry. This is the context in which we must see Mr. Schulich’s (and future donors’) donation.

If this is a business deal, how to we determine if we are getting good value? With any transaction in our personal lives, we determine what it is that we want and what is it that we are willing to give up or exchange to satisfy that want. Consider these questions:

1. What are we selling? It’s more than just a name

  • To answer this we have to ask what is being “sold”?. For the school to bear Mr. Schulich’s name, he is aligning his name with our institution. And we in turn will be aligning our name with the reputation of Mr. Schulich.
  • Our school of medicine has roots that go back over 100 years. It has a reputation for being one of the finest schools in the country with some of the greatest minds working for its betterment.
  • Hundreds of scientists, educators, administrators, and others have toiled over the years in this school’s name. They have invested an enormous part of themselves in this institution.
  • Citizens via there governments have invested tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in this institution over the last century.
  • What we would essentially be “selling” is one of the most precious jewels in the Western crown.

2. Is the price right?

  • Assuming it’s alright to “sell”, how do we know we are getting a good deal?
  • In an age where naming opportunities seem to be everywhere (hospitals, sports stadia etc.), there are few places that match the opportunities offered by a university. A hockey arena can be one name one day, and another the next. Church buildings, such as the Timothy Eaton church in Toronto offer a high degree of permanency, but less exposure for the benefactor’s name (The church doesn’t host as many rock concerts, Superbowls or monster truck rallies as it would like). Universities offer the best of both worlds. The benefactor isn’t buying into a BUILDING, he/she is buying into an INSTITUTION. Buildings decay over time, institutions can transcend time. When you buy into an institution, you are buying some immortality in a way. Think of Cecil Rhodes (imperialist and benefactor of the Oxford scholarships) or Andrew Carnegie (industrialist and public library builder).
  • In the case of Western, Mr. Schulich is buying into one of the country’s best-known elite institutions. A national if not international BRAND. Every time a scholar or research from our medical school is interviewed on television the caption at the bottom of the screen will read: “Professor John Public, Schulich Medical School”, every time a groundbreaking article appears in a prestigious journal it will bear the name Schulich Medical School after the author. (Ex. Prof. Fed Lazaar is often interviewed on business matter regarding the airline industry. He is quoted as being from Schulich Business School – Not York University)

  • This is clearly a great deal for Mr. Schulich, but is he paying enough? Consider McMaster University where Mr. De Groote paid more than $100M for having his name on their school. Some would argue that UWO is older and more prestigious than Mac, but the numbers suggest that we are only _ of the school that Mac is.
  • As noted earlier, the medical school is perhaps the most valued jewel in Western’s crown. If we accepted this offer what do we have left to bargain with when dealing with future benefactors? We gave away the best for $26-million. Everything else would probably go for less.
  • In addition to buying into 100 years of history, how long do we have to keep Mr. Schulich’s name? Forever? Can we buy him out if a better deal comes along? If the school is around for another 150 years (it will probably be around longer than that), Mr. Schulich will have acquired a share in 250 years of prestige for just over $100,000.00 a year – which won’t be worth much in a century from now.

3. What do we get?

  • We get $26-million to be used for scholarships but we are buying into Mr. Schulich’s reputation as well.
  • Purely hypothetical: If Mr. Schulich gets into questionable lines of business (such as commercialized prostitution where it is legal), are we still tied to his name without any say as to what he gets into?
  • What obligations does he have to report and answer the university’s questions on his business practices. For example, if Talisman Energy wanted to buy into our school and then later did business in the Sudan, would we be shackled to this reputation? This is not necessarily to say that Mr. Schulich is a Talisman. But we have no idea (at least publicly) of knowing who we are doing business with, no means of openly assessing the quality of the relationship. We just have the administration’s word that everything is fine and that we should just hurry up and rubber stamp the deal.
  • Does the Mr. Schulich or any other benefactor get to veto other naming opportunities tied to the med school? If so, this will limit our ability to broaden our reputational assets and improve our financial position.

Can the good outweigh the bad?

It is entirely possible that despite imperfections, a gift may still be worth embracing. Our issue is that we know THE FULL AND COMPLETE STORY before deciding. To simply say that a school needs money and that government cutbacks demand that we embrace private donations, is simply not enough.

Consider this, what if company X used its business and political power to convince the government to cut taxes to business and taxpayers? And what if this tax cut resulted in government funding being reduced to universities? Should we accept X’s gift of $5-million dollars to our school, despite having a hunch that it paid for that donation from its $10-million in tax savings? (The above company and figures are of course fictitious). In addition, should we honour this company further by not only accepting the donation, but lending credibility to it by naming one of our key institutions after it?

What are we asking for?

In the short term we are asking for:

1. A full disclosure of the terms of the agreement with Mr. Schulich. 2. A delay in the vote in the Senate to enable all stakeholders to review the disclosed material. 3. An opportunity for the stakeholders to make submissions to the Senate to express their support or concern for the agreement.

In the long term we are asking for:

1. A detailed framework to be established BEFORE AN AGREEMENT that would establish the procedures, and criteria for accepting and soliciting donations. 2. This framework must include open dialogue with the entire university community and a process to challenge any agreement before the school commits itself to it. 3. The criteria and the evaluation must be disclosed to the public.

Why does all this have to be done?

Often with all the conflict and injustice in the world, we feel helpless to do anything, and often we are just that – helpless. But on a number of occasions we have the power to at least not add troubles of the world. By asking the right questions and insisting on answers, we are doing the minimally decent thing. Even if we decide on accepting a gift, as responsible beings we understand that we knew what we were getting ourselves into.