Academic freedom is a hot issue on university campuses. The University of Calgary found itself in the media recently when allegations were made that its freedom was compromised by corporate sponsorship of a research centre.

Several academics contacted for a news story by CBC Calgary claimed Enbridge had too much control over the mandate and operations of the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability.

Enbridge denies it had any power over the centre, which was part of an initial $2.5-million sponsorship and bore the company’s name between 2012 and 2014, and said the opinions of those who allege influence should not be taken as fact.

“At no time did we at Enbridge interfere with the operations at the centre. At no time did we try to unduly influence the academic freedom,” said D’Arcy Levesque, a company spokesperson.

The incident is just the latest in many debates in campuses around the world. The chair of the UBC board of governors resigned in October over allegations the board failed to protect a professor’s academic freedom. In other parts of the world, people actually die each year in defence of such freedom.

The issue of corporate support it raises some complex questions:

– Under what circumstances does corporate sponsorship put academic freedom at risk?
– Do funding models for post-secondary institutions need to be rethought?
– As universities find themselves caught in a revenue squeeze, is it realistic to turn down corporate support?

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