University of Saskatchewan
Room 212 – 107 Administration Place
Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A2
Ms. Susan Milburn (Vice-Chair)
University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors
c/o Office of the University Secretary
Re: Conflict of Interest involving Ms. Nancy Hopkins
Chair of the Board of Governors (2010);
Appointed to Board 2005
Dear Ms. Calver and Ms. Milburn:
I am writing to you in my capacity as a University of Saskatchewan Senate Member at Large. I was elected to my position on the Senate and represent the views of my constituency drawn from the University of Saskatchewan alumni.
It has recently come to my attention that Ms. Nancy Hopkins, the current Chair of the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors, is a Board member of Cameco Corporation, the uranium mining giant headquartered in Saskatoon. This information is not posted in the biography of Ms. Hopkins found in the University of Saskatchewan Board of Governors website. As a result of Ms. Hopkins’ membership on the Cameco Board, she is in an apparent conflict of interest with her position as a member and Chair of the Board of Governors.
Ms. Hopkins has been a Board member of Cameco since 1992 and according to the Cameco Board of Directors web pages, as of 2009, Ms. Hopkins has a total of $1,843,273.00 equity at risk including “Cameco shares, DSUs and options”. In 2008 her total Cameco equity at risk was $1,001,871.00.
Moreover, Ms. Hopkins earned $175,873.00 in compensation as a Cameco director for the year 2009. This amount included $74,853.00 in stock awards. In 2008 Ms. Hopkins earned $186,500.00 by virtue of her position as a director with Cameco, including $72,000.00 in stock awards. This information is posted at Forbes.com (see http://people.forbes.com/profile/nancy-e-hopkins/14935).
University of Saskatchewan Conflict of Interest Policy
The University of Saskatchewan conflict of interest policy for Operations and General Administration was approved on February 8, 2002 and was amended on December 12, 2008. The conflict of interest policy is the responsibility of the Office of the University Secretary and was authorized by the Board of Governors.
The conflict of interest policy applies to “everyone who is a member of the University of Saskatchewan” including any “person while acting on behalf of or at the request of the University including, but not limited to members of a University committee (including the Senate and Board of Governors), persons giving advice or providing services to the University at the request of the University, and anyone involved in a decision-making process.” Thus, the conflict of interest policy applies to all members of the Board of Governors.
The Board of Governors Bylaws further outline under part IV, Responsibilities of a Board Member, item 10, that each Board member is required to “understand the ethical responsibilities incumbent upon a member of the Board, and to declare a conflict of interest whenever such conflict arises.”
Power and Authority of the Board of Governors
As you are aware the Board of Governors is the principal decision-making and governing body of the University of Saskatchewan. Under The University of Saskatchewan Act, 1995, the Board of Governors is responsible for “overseeing and directing all matters respecting the management, administration and control of the university’s property, revenues and financial affairs, other than those matters that are specifically vested in the minister pursuant to this or any other Act.” (s.48)
Under the Act (section 49) the Board of Governors is empowered to:
(1) “construct any buildings and structures on the university’s property that, in its opinion, are necessary and proper”, subject to prior ministerial approval, and to maintain such university buildings and structures;
(2) appoint the president, vice-presidents, secretaries, faculty members, and any other officers and employees that are required to be appointed by the Act or considered necessary for the purposes of the University;
(3) provide for the establishment or disestablishment of any college, department, chair, endowed chair or institute after consultation with the council; and,
(4) fix student fees, among other duties.
As a result, the decision making power of the Board of Governors is broad and deep.
Conflict of Interest: Both in Appearance and Reality
Any time that the University of Saskatchewan enlarges the role of the nuclear sciences on campus, through the appointment of faculty chairs, or establishing a new $30 million nuclear research centre, and allocates scarce educational resources to the same, the share prices of Cameco Corporation correspondingly increase. As a result, Ms. Hopkins’ pecuniary interests as a Board member of Cameco gives rise to a conflict of interest in her role as principal decision-maker at the University, most particularly when decisions are taken that directly or indirectly benefit the nuclear industry or the nuclear sciences and allocate scarce resources to such endeavours at the expense of other programs and disciplines at the University of Saskatchewan.
The conflict of interest policy states: “A conflict of interest occurs when there is a divergence between a University member’s private interests and professional work outside of the University and their obligations to the University such that an independent observer might reasonably question whether the University members’ professional actions or decisions are determined by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise.”
“Conflict of interest is a breach of an obligation to the University that has the effect of advancing one’s own interest or the interests of others in a way detrimental to the interests of, or potentially harmful to, the integrity of the University. Conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest must be avoided.” (emphasis added).
Currently language programs are being defunded resulting in the loss of courses which language students require in order to convocate. See attached brochure: “Speak Up! Save Languages at the U of S!”
Similarly, the department of Sociology is unable to offer senior level courses that students require to complete their degrees. Where is the funding going? Are these funding decisions that result in gutting the Arts and Humanities faculties and programs intended to make the University of Saskatchewan an Ivy League type institution, a renowned international centre of learning excellence, as indicated in the University’s strategic plan?
Is the decision to allocate scarce University resources to specialized science programs, in this case nuclear science, rather than to University courses and programs that provide the foundation for a University education (i.e., the Arts and Humanities), in the best interests of the University as a whole or in the best interests of the mining sector in the province or the nuclear industry in Canada?
Whether or not the intent is to increase the share/stock value of the uranium mining giant, Cameco, the decisions by the Board of Governors that support or promote the nuclear sciences on campus result in an increase in the share/stock value of Cameco. Even if share prices are not immediately impacted, such decisions serve to promote nuclear industry strategic interests. Thus, the conflict of interest is both apparent and real.
As we have seen, the disastrous melt down of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan, which is still on-going, has resulted in an approximately 20% drop in the stock value of Cameco (see Reuters Breaking News; Update 1 – Cameco shares tumble on Japanese nuclear crisis, 14 March 2011, at uk.reuters.com.) A 20% drop in the stock value amounts to a $360,000 decrease in the 2009 value of Ms. Hopkins total “equity at risk” of $1.8 million. More recent reports place the stock value drop at 37% for Cameco.
Similarly, any glimmers of hope for the resurrection of the dying nuclear industry, through, for example, the establishment of a nuclear research centre at the University of Saskatchewan (funded by public taxpayer monies) and the development of new small reactor designs for deployment in the tarsands and other remote industrial uses, will correspondingly result in an increase in the value of Cameco stock. Again the conflict of interest is apparent and real.
Previous Decisions and Conflict of Interest
Has Ms. Hopkins recused herself from making the following decisions over the last six years? :
(1) Appointing nuclear physicist, Dr. Richard Florizone, to the position of Vice-President of Finance and Resources;
(2) Naming the area in front of the administration building the Cameco Plaza;
(3) Naming the pedestrian link at the Royal University Hospital the Cameco Skywalk in February 2010;
(4) Appointing Dr. Howard Wheater as the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Water Security, a researcher with extensive background in examining issues relating to geological disposal of nuclear waste. See, e.g., DIAMOND’09 Conference, Decommissioning, Immobilisation and Management of Nuclear Waste for Disposal, 9-10 September 2009, York, UK, Initial results in the development of a near-surface component for use in a performance assessment model for the geological disposal of nuclear waste by J. Jardine, S. Mathias, A. Butler, H. Wheater.
(5) Appointing the Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy, Dr. Jerzy Szpunar in July 2010. According to one appointment announcement, “Szpunar’s research into advanced materials includes novel materials that better resist radiation damage and handle the high temperatures, corrosion and stress found in nuclear power reactors.”
(6) Appointing the Dean of Engineering Janusz Kozinski, P.Eng in 2007. One of Dr. Kozinski’s principal areas of research includes the next generation of nuclear reactors.
I would like to request a copy of all Board of Governors agenda and minutes between 2005 and 2011 to see if Ms. Hopkins recused herself from any decision making that involved the nuclear sciences, and/or any direct or indirect benefit to the nuclear and/or uranium mining industry in Canada.
It is also problematic that the Board of Governors meetings are held in camera, rather than in public. As a result there is no proper scrutiny of the decision-making occurring in the Board of Governors.
New President for the University of Saskatchewan
As indicated above, the Board of Governors is tasked with appointing a new President. As Chair of the Board of Governors, Ms. Hopkins is also the Chair of the Search Committee for the President.
Possible candidates for the next President may include such high-profile individuals as Dr. Richard Florizone (nuclear scientist and V-P Finance and Resources), Dr. Brett Fairbairn (Provost and V-P Academic), and Dr. Grant Isaac (former Dean of the Edwards School of Business; currently a vice-president of Cameco).
Is Ms. Hopkins in a sufficiently conflict-free position to be scrutinizing and selecting the next President of the University given her ties to the nuclear industry in Canada?
The Board of Governors has responsibility in all aspects of University administration and management including the allocation of scarce resources for hiring faculty, establishing or disestablishing programs and faculties, and making capital expenditures for any buildings or equipment. The Board of Governors can affect every single aspect of the University’s existence. By virtue of the presence of a Cameco Board member on the Board of Governors, the nuclear industry has undue influence over every aspect and key decision affecting the University of Saskatchewan.
The University is a public institution with values and ideals that do not correspond to corporate interests. The corporate community has its own sphere, it does not properly belong in the sphere of running/heading a publically funded educational institution.
Appropriate Course of Action
What is the appropriate course of conduct in this matter?
The conflict of interest policy states: “When a conflict of interest exists, the University member in question may be required to relinquish the responsibilities causing the conflict of interest.”
In this case, it is respectfully submitted, a resignation by Ms. Hopkins from the Board of Cameco or the Board of Governors is required.