U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

U of O in top 25::: Spending student tuition money on corporate vanity scheme

Here is another U of O press release celebrating one of the school's notable achievements:

"University of Ottawa still among region's top 25 employers"

This surprised us at UofOWatch. It just seemed incongruous that a university that treats its employees well would have the lowest student survey results in the nation? [See previous post HERE.]

So we decided to investigate.

Who gives this prize? How are the winners selected? How does the for-profit corporation that runs the prize make its money? Why is President Allan Rock buying into the project?

As part of our investigation, we wrote both to the corporation (Mediacorp Canada Inc.) that runs the competition and to the University of Ottawa. We got some interesting answers. The email exchanges are posted HERE-Mediacorp and HERE-UofO.

In the case of Mediacorp we wrote to the Publisher, Anthony Meehan, and to all the editors (generic emails). In the case of the University of Ottawa, we wrote to the Director of Communications Services, Andre Dumulon, with all her staff in cc.

As you can see from the posted exchanges, the answers are quite instructive, but not as much as our own (ongoing) independent research into the matter...

Highlights are as follows:
  • Both U of O and Mediacorp refused to answer how many contestants there were in the competition.
  • Both U of O and Mediacorp refused to name or make public the names of the judges that selected the winners, or even to state how many individuals were involved.
  • Both U of O and Mediacorp refused to clarify who pays for the 12-page colour promotional insert that is published in the Ottawa Citizen celebrating the winners.
  • The U of O press release disingenuously states "The rigorous selection process is overseen by an advisory board that evaluates the organizations according to specific criteria" whereas Meehan affirmed that the Mediacorp advisory board is not involved in any way with the competition but only helps to develop the evaluation criteria for the competition (see email).
  • The "rigorous selection process" is accomplished by an "editorial committee" (of an unknown number of nameless "editors") chaired by Mediacorp Managing Editor Richard Yerema (see email).
  • The U of O refused to answer whether it was required to pay an "application fee" to enter the competition.
UofOWatch has uncovered THIS LETTER which shows that all applicants were required to pay a non-refundable "application fee" of "$495 plus GST".

Let's see now... For the 2011 national competition (which also counts for all the regional awards) Mediacorp "reviewed the recruitment histories of more than 75,000 employers across Canada and invited 12,500 of these to apply."

There is no need to be invited to apply (there are on-line invitations to all employers) but let us say that half of those honoured with invitations applied. That represents corporate proceeds for Mediacorp of over $3 million, just to rank some applications. Even 1% of the 75,000 employers give a Mediacorp revenue of almost $400 thousand. And who pays for the Citizen insert...?

[It can't be harder than grading two hundred physics final exam papers if you don't have to show the losers any results, can narrow it down to the top few hundred contestants and can't be forced to show the scores or name your helpers...]

In its LETTER, Mediacorp explains that such corporate prize schemes either have to sell "consulting services to employers" (which Mediacorp does not do) or charge an "application fee".

UofOWatch is of the opinion that this thing is a corporate scam driven by desperate employers that need positive media attention.

It is shameful, in our opinion, that the University of Ottawa is using public and student tuition money to buy into this corporate vanity scheme rather than actually improve the university for its students.

U of O President Allan Rock is quoted at length in the U of O press release developing the idea that the award "is a testimony to the quality of those who work here more than anything else ... our human resources are our most precious resource ... support staff and professors ..." etc.

It's an award to employers for how they treat their employees (sick leave, parental leave, vacations, dental insurance, etc.) and Mr. Rock says that this is a testimony to the employees. That at least seems honest: The University has generally not agreed to benefits and improved conditions which instead were fought for by the employees.

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