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CEO DATELINE – Association of American Universities to keep Canadian members after outcry

Oct. 9, 2019
By Walt Williams

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A U.S.-based association representing research universities has decided to nix a proposed policy that would have ejected two long-time Canadian members after blowback from other members, the news site Insider Higher Ed reported Tuesday.

The Association of American Universities was initially set to adopt a new governance policy that would have restricted membership to U.S. universities. The change would have resulted in the ejection of McGill University and the University of Toronto, two Canadian universities that have been members of the organization since 1926, according to the news site.

In an Oct. 3 letter explaining their decision, AAU’s board of directors said the change was made so the group could “focus on the issues critical to U.S. research universities and to reflect the reality that AAU represents America’s leading research universities.” However, in their own letter to AAU members, the Canadian universities shot back by saying the decision was being made without any broad consultation and open discussion among the membership.

“There is no doubt that many may see this action as a parochial retreat from global engagement by America’s leading research universities. That is certainly how it struck us,” the universities said.

Some of the group's U.S. members also objected to the rule change, saying the message was being sent was tone-deaf given global nature of scientific research, according to Inside Higher Ed. As a result, the board voted Sunday to withdraw the policy.

AAU did not acknowledge the controversy nor the apparent change of heart on its website. A McGill spokesman confirmed to Inside Higher Ed that it will remain with the group “as we’ve been for the past 93 years.”