“Alternative Facts” live on at Carleton

Apparently, the phenomenon of “alternative facts” is not restricted to the Trump Administration.

In the Neuroscience Update of November 30, president Runte went on record stating, “Over the summer the vice-president (Research and International) and his staff met with researchers in Neuroscience and made a list of their needs”. This information was flatly refuted by the Neuroscience department chair, John Stead, in communications to the administration. No such meetings took place, yet a correction was never issued. Moreover, the statement implies that the department was aware of the impending move over the summer, but the first suggestion of a “possibility” of a move were not conveyed until mid-September, and these did not come from the VP Research and International.

The same November 30th update indicated that “Space has been secured today. The University of Ottawa has graciously agreed to make labs and other space available to us.” In truth, only animal care space had been secured at that time. It is now February 14th and, as of this writing, we still don’t have a signed contract with ANY institution in Ottawa for lab space (this includes the Civic, The Royal, and U of O). And yet we are supposed to move out by March 1?  If I was moving from my apartment, I’d have a new place secured more than 2 weeks in advance, never mind an entire research department! Is it any wonder that students are anxious, upset and have lost confidence in the administration?

The November 30th update also claimed, “This space is superior in quality to the present location. It meets all requirements and standards.” This is a classic example of a half-truth. Certainly the LABS are superior, if we actually had a signed agreement, but the animal care is not. Yes it meets standards for housing the animals, but it does NOT meet ALL requirements, because researchers were never consulted prior to making the arrangements. The agreement obtained far fewer animal rooms that we currently have, resulting in the inability to perform important studies in mental health and obesity research and electrophysiology. Thus, some researchers have sought out lab and animal space independently, at other institutions, and are now waiting on Carleton administration to sign agreements with these facilities.

Lack of consultation and poor planning has been at the crux of this whole situation, and yet no one from Carleton’s administration has acknowledged this critical issue, nor the deleterious effect it has had on students and faculty.  Instead of acknowledging that mistakes were made and apologizing for the lack of early consultation, president Runte tried to justify the lack of early engagement with Neuroscience by claiming the administration was bound by confidentiality agreements around the grant proposal.

In the December 2016 meeting of the Senate, president Runte stated that the Neuroscience department could not be involved in planning earlier than the November 11th notification due to confidentiality agreements around the Strategic Investment Fund application.  If such confidentiality existed, then why is it that other educational institutions could publicly state that they had submitted funding proposals to the federal government’s Post-Secondary Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), or were anticipating funding from the SIF for building construction projects as early as MAY of last year?  —  Laurentian (June 1,2016), Guelph (June 2, 2016), Seneca College (May 17, 2016)  Saint Mary’s (May 4, 2016).

It is clear there were no government restrictions on publicly divulging that a SIF proposal was submitted, thus the Neuroscience department could have been involved in planning for contingencies back in May, when the Carleton ARISE SIF proposal was being developed or at least in June, after it had been submitted. If this process had been managed properly and effectively, we wouldn’t be sitting here, 9 months down the road, 2 weeks from an eviction date, with a disgruntled department that has filed a union grievance, students who have lost all confidence in Carleton administration, and no signed agreements for alternative lab space.