Tobacco grant comes under fire

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U of T committee reviewing donations after tobacco grant comes under fire

Monday, February 24, 2003

TORONTO -- The University of Toronto's St. Michael's College, under fire for accepting tobacco-company funding for an ethics program, has set up a committee to review all donations for possible ethical or moral conflicts of interest, the college's president said Monday.

Dr. Richard Alway said the committee was formed late last year after a group representing non-smokers and academics wrote him a letter urging the college to return the $150,000 grant from Imperial Tobacco because it's "tainted'' money.

"Clearly in this area there are strongly held diverse opinions,'' Alway said about accusations by the group that accepting tobacco-company funding _ especially for an ethics course _ compromises the credibility of the college.

Alway was interviewed after the Non-Smokers' Rights Association and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada launched a scathing ad campaign Monday condemning the college's acceptance of the grant in 2001. The money went to fund the college's continuing education ethics program, which offers a certificate in corporate social responsibility.

A four-page ad _ inserted in copies of the university's student newspaper, The Varsity _ urges all universities to break any ties with tobacco companies. It focuses on the St. Michael's grant, and compares a tobacco company donating money to an ethics program to neo-Nazis sponsoring a forum on race relations, or Ku Klux Klan members funding an African studies workshop.

Imperial has said there are no strings attached to the grant. And the college has said the money hasn't influenced any aspects of the program.

Still, Alway said, he recommended late last year to the college's governing board that a committee be set up to review any donations "to see if more restrictive conditions should apply.''

He said the committee was set up under Prof. Joseph Boyle, interim chair of the university's philosophy department, and includes Sister Anne Anderson, dean of theology, and Bill Broadhurst, a St. Michael's alumnus and former chancellor of the archdiocese of Toronto.

Alway said anyone can make a submission to the committee. He said it's uncertain when the committee will compete its review of the ethics program grant and other donations given to the college.

When asked if the committee might recommend giving the money back to Montreal-based Imperial Tobacco, Alway said: "In terms of what they are going to dicuss, it is open-ended. They could decide whatever they want.''

Garfield Mahood, a spokesman for the Non-Smokers' Right Association, said he didn't realize such an ethics-screening process was set up.

At a news conference Monday, the association and physicians' group called for such a process, and stressed that universities shouldn't be linked with companies that make tobacco products which kill hundreds of Canadians annually.

"I don't believe for one minute that that committee would seriously do anything to deal with this given what's been happening the last two years,'' Mahood said in an interview.

"Nobody bothered to answer our letter and tell us this committee had been formed. What makes me think this committee would do anything serious to address this problem?''

Mahood said his group and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada plan to proceed with radio ads in mid-March criticizing St. Michael's acceptance of the donation.

Mimi Marrocco, director of St. Michael's continuing education division, said the ethics program will go into its second year this June.

Those who participate in the 11-day program learn the skills to integrate social responsibility into corporate planning, says a course outline.

So far, said Marrocco, she hasn't heard of any students refusing to take the program because it received the $150,000 from Imperial.

© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press

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