On May 28, the Université de Moncton will award an honorary doctorate to Arthur L. Irving, in recognition of his “exceptional contribution to the world of business administration.”
This is “the highest distinction awarded by the Université de Moncton.”
We denounce this nomination, which tarnishes the image of our university.
We have raised many questions about the appointment, which was made in complete secrecy. To this day, we do not know who nominated Mr. Irving. The documents have been jealously guarded by the University. Moreover, nominations are not subject to debate: they are accepted or rejected by the Academic Senate. All we know is that we voted against this nomination.
The reasons for our position are multiple: his unabashed contribution to the climate crisis (directly and indirectly); the tax avoidance that his company both pioneered and champions in our province; the Irvings’ oligarchic control of the media; and the influence he wields to steer government decisions, which are multiplying the benefits granted to him at the expense of our population, and so on.
But the highlight of this story is the hypocrisy of the Université de Moncton, which claims to be sensitive and committed to taking action on the climate crisis… while blithely accepting funds from a champion of pollution in our little province.
They will tell us that these funds will be used to help the student population, but at what cost? This is not reassuring.
Taking action – real action – on climate change means, among other things, having the courage to refuse the monetary contributions of oil barons when they are offered to us. The Université de Moncton must have the courage of its convictions and ensure that promises of positive action on climate change are not just empty words made only for appearances.
Let’s not forget the University’s commitment to solidarity with First Nations peoples, whose interests are at odds with the Irving conglomerate.
At the very least, if Mr. Irving’s “lasting and profound contribution” to the field of business administration is to be recognized, it could have been done in a way other than by awarding him an honorary doctorate. Alternatively, when the University accepts his gift to the Evolution Fundraising Campaign, let them do so with a reference to the tax credit that the gift will entitle him to at the same time. Then we can calculate the net amount of its “exceptional contribution.”
For all of these reasons, we have to question the Université de Moncton’s claim that they are nominating these people in order to “provide inspirational role models for graduating students.”
With role models like that… no thanks.
Mathilde Thériault is the president of the Canadian Federation of Students on the Université de Moncton campus.
Note: this is a loose translation (traduction libre) of the text originally published in French.