CALGARY – An independent investigation has found no evidence that the University of Calgary allowed money from an energy firm to limit its academic freedom.
The report from retired Justice Terrence McMahon also cleared university president Elizabeth Cannon of wrongdoing in her involvement with the school’s Centre for Corporate Sustainability.
“None of the involvement from Enbridge … resulted in any encroachment upon or compromise of the academic freedom of the university or its staff,” McMahon wrote in a report released Friday.
“As one interviewee correctly observed, there was very little academic work being done.”
The investigation began after senior academics alleged that Calgary oil company Enbridge interfered with the centre after the firm provided a sponsorship of $2.2 million.
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McMahon found that Enbridge’s involvement in the operation of the centre to be minimal. His report concludes there’s no evidence the company tried to influence who was hired at the facility, who spoke there or which students received cash awards.
The company did question why the wife of the centre’s director was hired as an associate director. The company also wondered if the director would be able to do a proper job after he accepted another position with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Those questions, said McMahon, were “reasonable for the donor to ask.”
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McMahon said Cannon had done nothing wrong. Her position on Enbridge’s board of directors was public and had been approved by the university, he said.
She has since left that position.
An email from Cannon to another university official concerning the work of the centre was just an attempt to stimulate some activity, said McMahon.
“Her single intervention was to encourage the dean of the centre to get on with it.”
Enbridge ultimately reduced its donation by $1 million. Its name was removed from the centre’s title.
McMahon concluded problems at the centre had nothing to do with improper conduct.
“The program failed because neither the director nor the dean gave it the time and attention it required before the sponsor withdrew.”