Some great reporting by Bruce Cheadle on the $15 million dollar donation that Carleton University recently accepted for its school of political management–the single largest donation in school history. The donation comes with some serious strings attached:

Carleton quietly released the donor agreement on the Friday afternoon before Canada Day after stonewalling The Canadian Press for almost a year to keep it under wraps.

The contract reveals the Riddell Foundation effectively appointed three of five people on a steering committee. That committee was given sweeping power over the graduate program’s budget, academic hiring, executive director and curriculum.

This is some scary, back-room dealing, stuff. Universities are starving for cash right now, but is giving up this much freedom worth it? This eats away at the ideals and principles on which universities are based. Of course, in practice, universities still suffer the same lapses as other human enterprises, but these are principles and ideals that worth striving for. Carleton has horse-traded long term academic freedom for a short term cash infusion.

If what is happening in the US is any indication, we will start to see lots more of this here in Canada:

The Washington-based Centre for American Progress published a study in October, 2010 that exposed numerous problematic deals involving American universities and major energy companies.

The study, titled “Big Oil Goes to College,” examined 10 agreements worth almost $1-billion and concluded that almost all of them undermined the schools’ independence and integrity.

In addition, news reports exposed that the billionaire Koch brothers have been giving universities funds for entrepreneurial studies provided their staunchly Republican foundation could pick the faculty and set curriculum. And since 2005, U.S. banking giant BB&T has spent millions to get colleges and universities to develop programs on Ayn Rand’s books and right-wing economic philosophy.