It’s no secret that colleges and universities could always use some extra cash. So it’s highly notable that Kwantlen Polytechnic University turned down $300,000 from Trans Mountain Pipelines last week.
The oil-pumping firm had offered the money – doled out over 20 years in small increments for bursaries and small scholarships, mostly – as part of its campaign for the twinning of its pipeline, which runs straight through north Langley.
Not surprisingly, the Kwantlen First Nation has not been entirely enthusiastic about the prospect of an expanded oil line running through its traditional territory. They are intervenors in the National Energy Board hearings that will determine whether or not the project goes forward.
The protest against the expansion last April, one of the largest this side of the river, began on the Kwantlen First Nation reserve, and was organized by Kwantlen member Brandon Gabriel.
Seeing the college named after them take money from Trans Mountain apparently provoked some discussions between the two Kwantlens.
Normally, we would expect this kind of thing to be brushed off. The money would go to environmental education and helping students, the university could say.
But the leaders at KPU seem to have sincerely listened to the concerns raised by the First Nation’s leadership. And last week, they announced they were pulling out of the deal with Trans Mountain.
It’s no surprise that those who are against the pipeline expansion – and there are many – have been pleased with the news.
But fans of educational independence in general should be pleased.
Major corporations always make these donations with few or no strings, maybe just naming rights. But such donations are made as part of public campaigns for goodwill. Universities must remain places of free speech, and they must not only be free, they must be seen to be free of outside influences. KPU’s decision helps keep them above the fray.