Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator, Thursday April 12, 2012
Mac should set the standard on openness
Universities play an important role in the fabric of democratic societies.
They are guardians of academic freedom, and carry the responsibility of instilling into their students important ideas and enduring values of our society.
A couple of those ideas are the openness and accountability of public institutions in a democracy and the right of the public to know how its money is being spent.
In that context, McMaster University’s determined struggle to keep secret the details of the financial affairs of former president Peter George is particularly disappointing. The approach to accountability, transparency and disclosure displayed over a course of years leaves the university with a black eye of its own making.
This isn’t just about McMaster. In an era of increasing public demand for open data, the lack of openness displayed is far too common among leading public institutions spending public money and acting on our behalf. We have seen it with the province’s Ornge scandal, with the city’s debate about open police budgets, with executive salaries at Ontario Hydro, and more.
As detailed in Wednesday’s Spectator, this newspaper engaged in a six-year struggle with the university over the release of documents. Every step of the way, the university has fought the release, sought to prevent the former president’s contract and his expenses from being disclosed.
Universities were made subject to freedom of information laws in June of 2006. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)