Colleges and Universities as Responsible Institutional Citizens

In order for cities to improve, colleges and universities need to be better institutional citizens.

Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Hamilton, Ontario recently made a take-it-or-leave-it proposal to the Corporation of the City of Brantford, Ontario to hand out $9,000,000.00 to Mohawk College to fund the relocation of its campus from Elgin Street to downtown Brantford.  Included in Mohawk College’s demands were 400 spaces in the municipal parking garage in the downtown.  Mohawk College would contribute $1,000,000.00 to this project.

Is it fair to ask the City of Brantford to cover 90% of the cost of this move?   Is it appropriate to be demanding taxpayers’ dollars when the city and the country are still recovering from a brutal recession?  Given that the education sector is now overrepresented in downtown Brantford, does this move make sense from a city management perspective?

A more responsible plan would be for Mr. Rob MacIsaac, President and the Broad of Govenors of Mohawk College to appreciate the advantages of the Elgin Street Campus and build on what is there.

1) There is space for upgrades and expansion, as the Fennell Campus, Hamilton is undergoing

2) There is space for outdoor activities

3) There is space for parking

4) The campus’ proximity to Wayne Gretzky Parkway makes it easily accessible from Highway 403

5) The NEW Children’s Safety Village compliments Mohawk Collges’s law enforcement curriculum

6) Mohawk College’s industrial training curriculum makes the location a perfect fit with the light industrial employers who share the neighbourhood

Mr. David Neumann, Councillor Ward 5 said it best in the Brant News: “It is absolutely wrong for Mohawk College today to argue that unless it is granted multi-millions of dollars to establish in downtown Brantford that the Elgin Street campus must be shut down as unviable because it is on the edge of our city,” Neumann said. “It is well known most community colleges in Ontario operate quite successfully in suburban areas.”

This scenario teaches us that colleges and universities need to understand and respect the limits of municipal budgets.  They need to ensure that they make the best use of existing facilities and equipment, especially during difficult economic times.  If major projects are deemed necessary, the college, or university needs to contribute a significant portion of the cost.  Finally, colleges and universities must respect the prerogative of a municipal government to determine where college and university facilities should be located.  The result will be better-managed cities.

Minister John Milloy of The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities should meet with colleges and universities and use this scenario as a catalyst for improving relations between colleges and universities, and cities.

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