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Kwantlen Polytechnic University is moving forward in a partnership with Kinder Morgan, despite a number of students who have vowed to refuse the scholarships funded by the deal. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Kinder Morgan by Salvador Ferreras, Academic Vice-President and Provost of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, on June 23.
If Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project is approved, the company will donate $300,000 to Kwantlen. The money would be donated over a course of 20 years and would be put towards awards and funding for students in the trades and environmental protection program at Kwantlen.
Ferreras says the donation agreement would offer "advantages and opportunities to students who may not have access to a lot of scholarships."
"Anything that helps with students is something that we would definitely want to be supporting."
The MOU signed between Kwantlen and Kinder Morgan came as a surprise to many students and community members.
Allison Gonzalez, the Kwantlen Student Association president, says she was shocked.
"The KSA normally has a high level of communication with Kwantlen but we didn't find out about the MOU until a couple of hours prior to KPU’s media release -- we were quite surprised."
"There was no consultation, there was no community outreach. It really wasn't fair," says Gonzalez.
The Kwantlen First Nations -- whose land Kwantlen Polytechnic University resides on and Indigenous namesake the university carries -- are not pleased with the partnership.
In a letter of support to the KSA, PIPE UP Network, KPIRG, and the community at KPU, Brandon Gabriel Kwelexwecten, spokesperson of Kwantlen First Nations, stated, "the outcomes [of the MOU] have far more risks then possible rewards."
Students have also expressed their disapproval.
Some students have announced they will refuse scholarships funded by Kinder Morgan. Others have put together a petition in protest of the MOU, which has begun to circulate around campus.
In a press release, Alex McGowan, Vice President External of the Kwantlen Student Association, stated, "KPU's acceptance of this money amounts to a tacit endorsement of the pipeline project. Projects like this serve to accelerate climate change and cannot be allowed to move forward."
Richard Hosein is the Administrative and Resource Coordinator at the Kwantlen Public Interest Reasearch Group, member of Kwantlen's board of governors, and a student at Kwantlen.
Speaking as a student, Hosein says, "I personally wouldn't accept a scholarship because of my own principals with the implications of having a pipeline in our community."
"There's the risk of tank spills, contamination of resources of communities, and other social implications," Hosein adds.
In response to students who vow to refuse scholarships funded by Kinder Morgan, Ferreras says, "Those who are refusing to accept scholarships are not the ones eligible for the scholarships in the first place. I'm having a little trouble understanding that perspective."
Sabrina Prasad, a student at Kwantlen, argues that the MOU contradicts Kwantlen's mission and mandate.
"It goes against everything that we stand for. It's in our mandate to be environmentally sustainable. And we are investing in a pipeline company that harms the environment entirely."
Part of Kwantlen's mission and mandate states, "Our University culture is based on critical inquiry, collegial debate, knowledge generation, freedom of expression, diversity, and environmental stewardship and sustainability."
Ferreras, however, maintains that ultimately, the decision to move forward in a partnership with Kinder Morgan was for the benefit of students.
"We know the value of a small incentive or a grant of any sort. A small grant is the difference between completion or not. This is about student support."
"We have a situation with the pipeline that may or may not be approved. If it is not approved -- we don't have an issue. If it is approved –- then everybody is going to have to put up with it because the federal government has approved it therefore everybody has to live with it."
"If they do grant the permission to build a pipeline then we don't have a choice -– so, why wouldn't we find an opportunity for our students to benefit from what we all have to live with?"
A public forum will be held this coming Monday on Kwantlen's Surrey campus.
Lenée Son is a freelance multimedia journalist living in Metro Vancouver and the rabble.ca Blogs intern.
Image: Lenée Son
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