The University of Alberta’s own engineering department says the Edmonton academic institution has “betrayed” students over its decision to confer an honorary doctorate on radical environmentalist David Suzuki. Suzuki,who has said “climate change deniers” should be sent to jail, also opposes the Alberta oil sands project, which he compared to the institution of slavery in the U.S. The site contains vast oil supplies worth potentially billions to the province and Canada’s energy sector.
As the Calgary Herald reports, the dean of the department wrote in a Monday post on the university’s website that “…one of Alberta’s most favoured children, the University of Alberta, has betrayed you by choosing to confer this honorary degree,” writes Fraser Forbes, without specifically citing Suzuki by name.
“I am not surprised by the level of outrage being expressed across the entire breadth of our engineering community — surely such is to be expected when one’s fundamental values are so directly questioned!” Forbes continued.
Calgary lawyer Robert Iverach plans on buying advertising space to notify people of the university’s “stupid decision.” He says public outrage could result in millions of dollars of lost funding.
“This is a complete slap in the face to the entire energy industry in Alberta…to have a guy like Suzuki come into Alberta saying our oil should stay in the ground because of climate change and other things,” Iverach told the Herald.
The university plans to give Suzuki the honorary doctorate of science in a June 7 ceremony.
The university has already lost money over its decision. Calgary law firm Moodys Gartner has pulled $100,000 that it planned to donate to the university’s law school. Local businessman Dennis Erker, who has been a fundraising champion for the school for 40 years says recognizing Suzuki would be catastrophic for the university.
“It will probably be the most expensive degree ever granted by the university when you consider the amount of money the university gets from people from the energy sector or related to the energy sector in our province,” Erker told the Herald.
“We will probably lose 50 per cent of those contributions.”