Friday, May 30, 2008

Nursing school sold, Ryerson continues to commodify

This week, Ryerson University announced that it has sold the naming rights of its School of Nursing. The School is Canada’s largest in the field of nursing and is now, officially, the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing.

Three years ago, Ryerson’s Senate (then Academic Council) and Board of Governors wrestled over how to re-write the University’s Academic Naming Policy. In the end, the policy stipulated that there had to be a vote within the academic unit to approve or deny the proposed name change. Ryerson’s article makes no reference to the percentage of faculty who voted in favour of the name change.

The school will be named after the mother of long-time Board of Governors representative Jack Cockwell, at a cost of $5 million.

Cockwell is a director of the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute, a think-tank and policy research group. It has produced research that promotes marketizing the public school system to allow families “greater choice” for elementary and secondary education through providing tax credits for private schools. It has also used personnel from the American Educational Policy Institute, an organisation that argues for higher tuition fees, to research strategies to properly fund graduate education, that include (unsurprisingly) higher tuition fees.

If market theory were to truly be applied to the post-secondary education system, it would not be the donors who decide on naming of Academic units. Nor would it be a faculty vote, as per Ryerson’s policy. It would be a decision of the 1405.7 students in the School of Nursing who pay well-over $9,931,000 a year in tuition fees. In fact, assuming it takes four years to graduate, these students’ contribution is seven times that of Cockwell’s one-time payout. Nevertheless, students graduating Fall 2008 will have the name of a South African nurse on their degree, only because her son makes a lot of money, and donated a small (likely tax deductible) portion of it.

The absurdity of market forces dictating how our public institutions run is most apparent when colleges and universities sell pieces of their public image, such as their programs’ names. Thanks to people like Cockwell, high tuition fees and ancillary fees are privatizing higher education. If, however, people like Cockwell really wanted to apply free market principles, then they would allow students to decide on the program name that will appear on their degree. They would also consent to more student representation on the Board of Governors and Senate and less criminalizing of student dissent as they pay such a large portion of the university's operating costs. Strangely, the more students are forced to pay, the more rights they loose. This goes to show that those calling for a market-based approach to higher education, like Cockwell, really don’t know Jack about the system.

1 comment:

Jenifer said...

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