Dalhousie to recoup costs for sending Nova Scotia execs to MIT, spokesman says

Article and Photo from CBC News

By Susan Bradley, CBC News
Posted: Aug 29, 2016

Dalhousie University can expect a backlash from students and faculty this fall over its decision to foot a $387,220 bill for nine highly paid executives to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, say two Dalhousie professors.

"To put students hard-earned money into the business community — there is a profound sense of frustration across campus right now," Jason Haslam, who teaches in the English department, told CBC's Information Morning.

Julia Wright, also in the English department, predicted the topic will be before the university's senate in September.

Both Haslam and Wright are former members of the Dalhousie Senate.

'Bad start'

"A bad start to the year," Wright said, adding students will be very vocal about the expense coming on the heels of a three-per-cent tuition hike.

"The students have every right to find out why their tuition money is being spent for free tuition for some very wealthy people."

Earlier this month, the provincial Tories released documents that showed Dalhousie is paying for nine Nova Scotians to participate in MIT's Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program in October.

The cost is $300,000 US, or $387,220 Cdn.

The program matches the participants with MIT experts to develop strategies for economic challenges in specific regions. Emera CEO Chris Huskilson, Clearwater Fine Foods co-founder John Risley and a number of other Nova Scotia corporate executives and high-ranking government bureaucrats are among the group going to the prestigious Cambridge institution.

Dalhousie to be reimbursed

Dalhousie spokesman Brian Leadbetter said Friday the university paid the fees to expedite enrolment in the program.

"We had to provide that in order to proceed with the program starting for the Nova Scotia team this fall. We are fully confident that we are going to raise those funds and secure that funding through private sector partners. Absolutely," he said.

"We've been working with the partners who are affiliated with the program. We've also been connecting with a  number of enthusiastic private sector partners. We're not in a position where we can speak to those today."

He said an announcement about the funding will come very soon.

Global participation

Haslam said none of the members are part of the Dalhousie community,  with one exception — university president Richard Florizone, who is overseeing the team.

"This past summer, we couldn't offer summer courses. That would have been profitable ... yet there's enough money to send a billionaire to MIT," he said.

MIT has worked with teams from London, Hong Kong and Bejiing and across the globe in the two-year program. 

"Nova Scotia is by far the [smallest] region that has been accepted by MIT," Leadbetter said.

"They have expertise to enable business to grow. I think the companies they have been affiliated with have $2 trillion in assets or capital and I think they've fostered 26,000 spinouts [initiatives]," Leadbetter said.