Open Letter to UNB President Regarding University-Military Collaboration
Bellow is an open letter delivered to Dr. John McLaughlin, President of the University of New Brunswick on April 6, 2007. Dr. McLaughlin has failed to respond to this letter despite it being published in the Daily Gleaner.
Our concerns about UNB/Military collaboration have not waned. Since the Advanced Learning Technologies Symposium in March 2007 UNB has continued to collaborate with the Canadian Military, most notably through the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society. It is difficult to determine in what other ways UNB is working with the military given its silence on this issue.
Open Letter to Dr. John McLaughlin, President of the University of New Brunswick
April 6, 2007
Dear Dr. McLaughlin
On March 28, 2007, UNB faculty and staff were invited to the Advanced Learning Technologies Symposium to hear about “potential areas for UNB/Military collaboration” with a special emphasis on encouraging closer ties between CFB Gagetown and university
departments and faculties. Notably, students were not invited to this briefing and local citizens who tried to register were informed they were not eligible to attend. What happened during the briefing and why were doors closed to all but faculty and staff? Are students and the wider community not affected by the nature of academic work undertaken at UNB?
Department of National Defense (DND) funding, like all funding, comes with strings attached. The majority of academics who receive DND funding are supportive of the Canadian military’s current operations while several Peace Studies programs suffer
under funding. Peter Langille, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, in a briefing to the federal government Standing Committee on National Defense and Veterans Affairs, described those who receive DND funding as “embedded academics.” UNB already receives DND funding for the Gregg Centre. With greater prospect of “UNB/Military collaboration”, can we honestly expect to have objective academic work concerning military issues conducted at UNB? Given the closed nature of the briefing on March
28th, the student population and general public are being left in the dark as to what this collaboration may look like and are not being given an opportunity to voice their views on such a controversial collaboration.
It is perfectly appropriate for military issues to be the subject of academic enquiry. However, when the major partner in this research is the subject, in this case the military, there is little room for objectivity. Robert Baldwin, one of the founders of
the Canadian democratic ideal, envisioned universities as institutions where academics could freely explore truth without interference from various special interest groups. He saw this freedom as the cornerstone of our democracy. Collaborating with the
military removes this freedom.
Furthermore, given the current nature of the Canadian military, we denounce any ties between the Canadian military and the university. Canada’s military is no longer a peacekeeping force. Missions in Haiti and Afghanistan, where evidence exists of the
Canadian military bringing hardship to local populations show clearly the new face of Canada’s Armed Forces. The Counter-Insurgency Manual, currently in development by DND, shows clearly that DND is seeking new tactics such as deception and fear mongering in protecting its image as well as combating its enemies. By working with the military, UNB would be supporting an institution, which endeavors to cover up the truth to achieve its ends. UNB must continue in the academic tradition of Robert Baldwin by ensuring that academic work not be tainted, and rendered unsound, by “collaboration” with the military-industrial complex.
We, students, faculty and members of the wider community, request that UNB take several measures to ensure the academic integrity of the university. Firstly, any discussions regarding collaboration with the military must be open to the wider UNB community as this collaboration has profound implications for the university. Secondly, the university, as a public institution, must take a more active role in demanding more government spending for education.
Dr. McLaughlin, we look forward to your prompt attention to these issues of serious concern.
Matthew Abbott (UNB Student), Tracy Glynn, Gloria Paul, Jordan House (UNB student), members of the Fredericton Peace Coalition
Posted: February 3rd, 2008 under Militarized Campuses.