Dear President Petter,

This article was published March 22, 2011 in The Peak

I must say, you are one stylin’ president. It helps that you’re media and camera-friendly – everyone seems to know that you drive hybrids and that you can outrun most of your students.

You’re an outspoken feminist and environmentalist, and you’ve literally rocked the school in terms of instilling progress in those areas. I am grateful to you for personally sponsoring feminist media conferences on International Women’s Day. Forcing Chartwells to compost was nothing short of ballsy. Thanks to you, our school admin is finally promising to partner with the good folks at Fair Trade SFU.

You obviously know how to stand up for what’s right, so why is it so easy for you to condone a murdering company’s offer to give us $10 million?

I saw you give a presentation at Sam Sullivan’s public forum and I get twitter updates about your SFU hallway talks. Every time I think of going to speak with you. But I remember seeing you walk past 200 Goldcorp protestors without attempting to hear their concerns (apparently the protesting babies, saxophonists, and wheelchair grandmas came across as too violent). I remember when SFU Students Against Goldcorp and Gentrification was permitted to present – not even to the Board of Governors, but to the BoG’s external relations committee, who basically let it out the other ear and then proceeded to do nothing.

When my friend, Kevin Harding, asked you on your Toronto visit to help think of alternative solutions, you responded by asking if SFU should just stop accepting corporate donations. You went so far as to say that it wasn’t possible to separate ‘good’ corporations from the ‘bad’.

In other words, moral questions are hard and it’s easier just to shut up and take the cash. Clearly, the school’s acceptance of the donation is preventing you from publicly denouncing Goldcorp’s crimes. This should be our most pressing duty and our most compelling obligation – even if we are grateful for the money. Never should the rich silence or dilute the concerns of the poor. I understand that SFU is in need of cash, but that is no reason for you to also personally sell out.

So I already know what your response is going to be, and I don’t want to hear it from a President who would otherwise be my environmentalism/feminist hero. I know the Party Line that you’ll give, which is to suspend our concern about poisoned waters and diseased babies when there is a cash grab to be had.

Why are you sending the message that it’s okay to cozy up to murderers when they have a lot of money? SFU has learnt from Egypt and Wisconsin, and we know that this isn’t what solidarity with the world’s poor and suffering looks like. Sam Reynolds wrote in The Peak last week about the London School of Economics’s acceptance of $2.3 million from the Gadhafi family. What if that had been SFU? Would we have welcomed Gadhafi’s money? If not, then why would we take it from Goldcorp?

Suddenly, I feel apathetic and and tired, like it’d be easier to just give up. Is that your plan? To ignore us until we feel too demoralized to continue? And then to launch a city-wide consultation process so you can pretend that SFU democracy exists because you’re supposedly open to differing opinions? Do you really want our input or is this your personal PR project?

I don’t want to be cynical about this. But you’ve shown time and time again that you do not care to listen, so why should I bother? I won’t have a part in your envision unless I already agree with your beliefs.

I’m not so concerned anymore with rejecting the $10 million (I’m really good at lowering my standards for an indifferent administration). All I ask is that you promise not to make deals again with murdering corporations, and that you publicize how the $5 million Goldcorp Community Endowment is being spent to improve Downtown Eastside conditions. I don’t even dare ask for change, just transparency.

Because SFU students are thinking of the world, and our beliefs are not for sale. Is that more than I can say for you?

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