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British Columbia Former cabinet minister James Moore opposed as next chancellor of UNBC

Faculty members are speaking out against the University of Northern British Columbia’s decision to name former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore as its next chancellor.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Faculty members are speaking out against the University of Northern British Columbia's decision to name former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore as its next chancellor.

The president of the Prince George university's faculty association said the chancellor is supposed to be a symbol of the institution and reflect its values.

"UNBC is Canada's green university," Stephen Rader said. "There's a lot of emphasis here on environmental issues and sustainability, and things like that. There's a really strong emphasis on First Nations and relations with aboriginal people.

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"James Moore is not associated with those kinds of values," he said Tuesday.

The biochemistry professor said Mr. Moore was part of a government that laid off thousands of federal scientists and blocked government researchers from speaking freely to the media.

He said the appointment sparked a "lot of concern" among his colleagues, and it potentially speaks to a disconnect between the board of governors and the rest of the UNBC community.

"Perhaps they didn't consult broadly enough or think carefully enough about what this appointment means to people on campus."

Board of governors chairman Ryan Matheson said he's open to feedback and appreciates the passionate discussion, but the university will not reconsider the decision.

Mr. Matheson said he's spoken with Mr. Moore and is confident he will reflect the values of the university, including its environmental priorities.

"He really does want to give back to UNBC to its fullest extent and help the students, the faculty, the community and the alumni, move forward and make UNBC better."

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Mr. Matheson said the appointment is the result of a 12-month selection process that included extensive consultation and that some people on campus have reacted positively to the choice.

"We're confident that … we will look back in many years and this will be the best decision the university had made, although it's a difficult one and one that's sparking lots of conversation."

Mr. Moore said many former politicians have taken positions at universities, including former provincial New Democrat Andrew Petter and former federal Liberals Stephen Owen and Lloyd Axworthy.

"I was approached by UNBC and offered the opportunity to become the sixth chancellor of the school," Mr. Moore said in an e-mail.

"I have accepted the offer and honour, and I want to work with everyone in the community to build on the successes of UNBC."

Moore did not seek re-election in October due to family reasons, but the 39-year-old continued to attend campaign events with the Conservatives.

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He received his undergraduate degree from UNBC and is the first alumnus to be named chancellor, with a swearing-in ceremony expected next spring.

Two faculty members who sit on the university senate also raised strong concerns about Mr. Moore's appointment.

Paul Siakaluk, an associate professor of psychology, said the muzzling of federal scientists by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper conflicts with the university's principle of academic freedom.

"It's a way of stifling informed decision-making by the Canadian citizens and stakeholders, because crucial pieces of information are being purposely not revealed," he said.

Brian Menounos, the Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change, said the university senate held an "energetic" debate after Mr. Moore was suggested as a nominee.

Though he couldn't discuss details of the in-camera discussion, Dr. Menounos said many senators were concerned when the board announced Mr. Moore had been selected.

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"This is not a personal attack on Mr. Moore. I commend him on his willingness to serve in some capacity to help the university as an alum," he said.

"But really, I think my recommendation for him would be to do the honourable thing and withdraw his name at this stage."

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