About 100 University of Toronto students and a handful of professors staged a noisy demonstration Thursday to protest a donation from philanthropist Peter Munk they fear could lead to corporate meddling in campus research.They were joined briefly by American intellectual Noam Chomsky who had been speaking at Hart House on the growing privatization of universities. Chomsky addressed the crowd outside stately Simcoe Hall where the Governing Council was conducting business. He repeated concerns over the growing corporate influence on universities, and called for free tuition as a way to open the door for students of all economic backgrounds.
The protesters were opposing Munk’s $35 million gift last year for a new school of global affairs, which they claimed is tainted by allegations that Munk’s international gold mining operations are guilty of pollution and human rights violations.
They managed to work their way to outside the council chambers where they pounded on drums and chanted “Munk’s a skunk” in an attempt to disrupt the meeting.
“We don’t want Munk’s money affiliated with the university and we fear it could push a right-wing agenda and shut down academic freedom,” warned first-year student Juan Carlos Jimenez of the Anti-Corporatization Working Group, a subgroup of the U of T General Assembly coalition. “His mines in South America and Tanzania have been accused of human rights abuses and environmental violations — will it really fund research that would investigate these charges?” said Jimenez.
The donation by Munk, chairman of Barrick Gold, is to create the Munk School of Global Affairs, a professional school born out of the Munk Centre for International Studies, a think tank that does not grant degrees. Munk’s gift came with a $25-million boost from the provincial government. One of the first degrees will be a two-year Master of Global Affairs, to be housed in a heritage building being renovated at Bloor St. and Devonshire Place.