MAC: Mines and Communities

Toronto students barrack world's biggest gold miner

Published by MAC on 2011-04-18
Source: Blogs

They won't take a chunk from "Munk the skunk".

University of Toronto students protest Munk donation

By Louise Brown

7 April 2011

About 100 University of Toronto students and a handful of professors staged a noisy demonstration Thursday to protest a donation from philanthropist Peter Munk they fear could lead to corporate meddling in campus research.

Banner Drop Targets Peter Munk at the University of Toronto
Banner Drop Targets Peter Munk at the University of Toronto
Photo: Peter Munk out of UofT

They were joined briefly by American intellectual Noam Chomsky who had been speaking at Hart House on the growing privatization of universities. Chomsky addressed the crowd outside stately Simcoe Hall where the Governing Council was conducting business.

He repeated concerns over the growing corporate influence on universities, and called for free tuition as a way to open the door for students of all economic backgrounds.

The protesters were opposing Munk's $35 million gift last year for a new school of global affairs, which they claimed is tainted by allegations that Munk's international gold mining operations are guilty of pollution and human rights violations.

They managed to work their way to outside the council chambers where they pounded on drums and chanted "Munk's a skunk" in an attempt to disrupt the meeting.

"We don't want Munk's money affiliated with the university and we fear it could push a right-wing agenda and shut down academic freedom," warned first-year student Juan Carlos Jimenez of the Anti-Corporatization Working Group, a subgroup of the U of T General Assembly coalition.

"His mines in South America and Tanzania have been accused of human rights abuses and environmental violations - will it really fund research that would investigate these charges?" said Jimenez.

Provost Cheryl Misak said the protest was unfortunate, but did not disrupt the work of the meeting.

University President David Naylor has stated that all donors sign an agreement that prohibits them from shaping academic policies or curriculum.

"The claims made in the case of the Munk School about real and potential threats to academic priority-setting and academic freedom are false," said Naylor in a recent speech.

"Sent to Canada by his family as Hungary fell under the control of Nazi forces, Peter Munk arrived here with next to nothing. Education at the University of Toronto became his springboard to a new life in a new country. It is therefore little wonder that Dr. Munk is a firm believer in the vital importance of higher education, and has sustained a lifelong passion for the study of international relations."

The donation by Munk, chairman of Barrick Gold, is to create the Munk School of Global Affairs, a professional school born out of the Munk Centre for International Studies, a think tank that does not grant degrees.

Munk's gift came with a $25-million boost from the provincial government.

One of the first degrees will be a two-year Master of Global Affairs, to be housed in a heritage building being renovated at Bloor St. and Devonshire Place.

University of Toronto Community Rallies Against the Corporate Takeover of UofT

Peter Munk OUT of UofT

7 April 2011

The Anti-Corporatization Working Group of the UT General Assembly is calling a rally today outside of the University of Toronto's Governing Council to protest the Munk "donation" and the privatization of education. Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking at a public lecture in the afternoon, has expressed support for the cause and is expected to make an appearance at the rally.

Organizers claim that the administration wants to generate discourses around global issues that are financed by and subject to the annual approval of the Munk Foundation. Peter Munk is the chairman of the mining company Barrick Gold, a corporation facing frequent allegations of international human rights and environmental abuses. What's more, Barrick is currently pursuing lawsuits against three academics who have written about these issues.

"The University of Toronto does not belong to Naylor nor to any private interests for that matter," says Gavin Smith, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and member of the anti-corporatization working group. "It belongs to all of us - students, teachers, staff workers and the community at large. This is where its quality lies, not in acting as the front for token gestures by rapacious mining interests."

Even the UofT administration seemed to expect controversy surrounding the acceptance of Munk's money. Negotiations around the agreement were kept secret, even from the Governing Council - a body that is, at best, a façade of democracy. At the last GC meeting, when a student governor presented notice of a Munk-related motion, the chair tried to prevent her from speaking. Though the motion was served with due notice, the executive committee of GC arbitrarily voted to remove the item from the agenda of Thursday's meeting, thereby stifling any debate on the topic.

"The omission of the motion from the agenda comes as no surprise. Its indicative of broader patterns of exclusion, marginalization and silencing of student, faculty, and workers' voices from decision-making at the University," stated Joeita Gupta, a student member of the University of Toronto Governing Council. "Please come together to keep our university public: say no to the corporate take-over of the University and to back-door fee increases."

In addition to protesting the Munk contract, the rally targeted the privatization of the University of Toronto. At the meeting, the Governing Council is set to approve tuition increases that would ensure that for the first time ever, tuition and other fees would surpass public sources of funding in UofT's projected budget.

The message of the rally is clear: students, teachers, staff workers, and the public are not silent sources of profit; they are the university. And they will rally to enact a new vision for UofT that reflects the interest of their community, not corporations and not neo-liberal governments.

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