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As anybody who has attended one of Carleton’s Senate meetings will know, the flame-throwers amongst the faculty are almost all in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (I am truly using the term ‘flame-thrower’ as a compliment here). My understanding is that these colleagues were educated in very liberal traditions. By contrast, engineers at Senate are utterly boring and conservative. They only speak when called upon to do so. This is not necessarily a horrible thing; it simply reflects our cultural upbringings. In a previous life, working at John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, I mostly worked with engineers, a huge percentage of whom were fundamentalist christians, indicating that there is politics in academia.

Government funding of universities is political. Right-leaning politicians generally do not like to fund much basic research, especially in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, but also frown upon funding much basic natural science research. Old-timers from the U.S. will recall Senator Jesse Helms’s attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Closer to home, recall the remarkable Death of Evidence rally that our University of Ottawa colleague Scott Findlay helped organize to highlight (lowlight?) conservative government censoring of science. But even government funding is nuanced, as can be seen by both right-leaning and left-leaning politicians generously funding the military-industrial complex, as well as university engineering programs that train these people. With the Harper government, much funding for basic research has also been diverted to industrial partnerships, fueling the corporatization of academia. Don’t you find it perverse that NSERC and SSHRC fall under purview of the Minister of Industry, even though people who traditionally have been awarded NSERC and SSHRC grants often do not have nor want to have anything to do with industry?

Nuance, politics, and governance in academia (8 March 2014) | Carleton University Senate

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