FIRMS’ DONATIONS TO RYE RAISE CONFLICT OF INTEREST CONCERNS

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By John Shmuel

Ryerson faces a possible conflict of interest after two companies holding major contracts with the school donated more than $20,000 each to the university’s fundraising campaign.

Intercon Security and Aramark Canada made donations to Ryerson while under contract with the school. Intercon donated $25,000 in 2004, while Aramark gave $21,000 in 2002.

Written pledge agreements showing details of the donation could not be obtained by press time.

Bob Baker, executive director of development university advancement, defended the university, saying he doesn’t think it’s a conflict of interest because donations and contracts are handled by two separate departments.

“The contracts that administration and finance sign have nothing to do with donations, nor is there an expectation of a donation, nor is a donation to university advancement an agreement that we will do business with (the donor),” he said.

Baker confirmed that Aramark and Ryerson are discussing another donation that Aramark plans to make to the university in the near future.

Leonard Brooks, a business and professional ethics professor at the University of Toronto, said that the case represents a conflict of interest, but that it is not necessarily unethical.

“It all depends on the situation and conditions,” he said. “If it was made to further the company’s interest then yes, you have a problem.”

Aramark vice-president and general manager Michael Oschefski, a Ryerson alumnus, defended the company.

“This has nothing to do with our contract at Ryerson, it has no bearing with our contract at Ryerson,” he said.

Aramark, a food services company, has held a contract with Ryerson since 1993 to provide food and vending services. It currently holds all rights to food distribution on campus.

Intercon Security provides the security guards that patrol the Ryerson campus. It has held a contract with the university for the past 10 years.

When reached for comment, Intercon declined to give any details of its contract with Ryerson, or details about the donation.

“We don’t disclose details about a client,” said Gabriella Quiel, a client services representative with Intercon.

Ryerson has no official policy that forbids accepting donations from companies it is actively involved with. Toronto’s two other universities, York and U of T, don’t have one either.

“Our guidelines do not categorically exclude donations from companies we do business with as long as donative intent can be proven,” said Semere Abiyo, Associate Director of Restricted Funds Accounting at U of T.

Sheldon Levy said the university would never dream of accepting donations that would compromise Ryerson’s academic integrity. “It’s not even a remote question,” he said.

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