If I was an engineering student at the U of R, I’d be pissed. Today, the CBC published a piece detailing “Project Discovery” – the heinous Newspeak name for a review of overspending in the university’s Faculty of Engineering. Turns out research accounts managed by the dean were overspent by over a million bucks, and the university wound up using money specifically donated to fund a research chair to paper over administrative misspending.

“Who’s accountable for this?” [U of R Faculty Association chair Gary] Tompkins asked, noting it was a highly unusual move for a university. “And how could it go on for that many years? That’s the disturbing thing about it.”

The obvious answers are “Whoever read this report” and “Because nobody in the unversity’s administration has to really answer to anybody,” respectively.

Like I said, engineering students oughta be annoyed about this. They pay the third-highest tuition out of all students at the university, and a disproportionate number of international students are working towards engineering degrees at several times the cost of what a Canadian resident pays. On average, a couple hundred thousand dollars of that money per annum wound up being spent on “legal fees ‘for patent and intellectual property work.'”

The faculty has strong ties to the Canadian resource industry, and touts its innovation and competitive program; it’s a shame that all of that has come at the cost of a research chair position.

ADDENDUM: How hard has the U of R’s outgoing VP of external relations, Barb Pollock, checked out of her position? Look at her barely even try to respond to the CBC:

CBC News asked a spokeswoman for the university to describe the nature of the overspending.

“Oh I don’t know. I don’t know. That was three years ago,” [Pollock] said. “I didn’t look into that. It would be research related.”

I was wondering why Pollock – who’s worked at the university for more than a decade and has overall been pretty good at the external relations gig – had tendered her resignation so suddenly. My guess now is that she saw the writing on the wall – over the next several months, with students, faculty, and the provincial media all tightening their scrutiny of the university’s spending, whoever has to deal with the press is in a deeply unenviable position.