York University Faculty Torpedo $60 Million International Law Donation

by Julian Ku

The faculty of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto are either pretty gutsy, or totally insane…

After eight months of controversy, York University has dropped plans for a joint international law program with Jim Balsillie’s think tank, having failed to convince its law professors that academic freedom would be guaranteed.

And the collapse of the deal underscores how tricky public-private partnerships with the Ivory Tower can be, even as Queen’s Park is calling on the private sector to invest more in higher learning.

York officials announced the $60 million deal was off late Monday, just hours after the faculty council of Osgoode Hall law school voted 34 to 7 against working with Balsillie’s Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) to create 10 research chairs in international law and funding for 20 PhD students. Eight members of the council abstained.

I don’t know the details, but $60 million for the study of International Law! Wow! And it’s in Canadian dollars, which is maybe the safest currency in the world!  Hey Mr. Balsillie, Osgoode Hall may not need your money, but [insert every school ranked below Harvard and Yale], America welcomes your loonies!


4 Responses

  1. They are just sane. They want to do what they are hired to do- teach and do research, and to have that they need academic freedom. The $60 million deal (of which only 30 million come from Balsillie, the other 30 million come from the Ontario Government) came with too many strings attached. CIGI would control the hiring and the areas of research. The faculty simply said no to the money and yes to their freedom.

  2. Response…
    i have taught as a visitor at Osgoode Hall and i assure you they are not insane.  As the previous comment indicates, the donor (at least according to press reports in Canada) wanted the kind of control over faculty hiring that understandably would be unacceptable to any serious law school.  I’m surprised that the senior administrators negotiating with the donor did not communicate the relevant academic norms and suggested acceptable ways that the donor could achieve its objectives,  which would have avoided a pubic rebuff by the faculty of Osgoode.  But these are just first impressions, but there is obviously a lot more to this that i and probably most readers of opinio juris aren’t aware of.

  3. This reminds me of when Yale returned a $20 million gift, largely over the issue of faculty and curriculum independence, some years ago: http://articles.latimes.com/1995-03-15/news/mn-43008_1_bass-family

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