Wednesday, June 19, 2013

University of Calgary Qatar: Selling Their Soul

Why oh why has the University of Calgary get up a campus in Qatar (UCQ)? Here is a country where unions are illegal, where LGBT's have NO rights and infact can be jailed or even given lashes, where the vast majority of people working there are doing so with no rights as well, and are virtual slaves.

I've been trying to think about how to best write about this subject. It has been bothering me for a while. My association with that school has really left me with a sour taste in my mouth about the decision by a Canadian University to open a campus in such a conservative, religious country that abuses human rights regularly, and is a hell hole for migrant workers who have no rights and are often treated as virtual slaves, including those who built the very building the school is housed in. Much of the staff that has been provided by the Qatar Foundation which is the one that really controls the school, is poorly paid and not treated very well, working long hours, and living in questionable conditions. The villa's that we were given to live in, as well, were staffed by virtual slaves, paid next to nothing, working long hours. To me, this is not acceptable behaviour on the part of a Canadian university and I am disappointed that the University of Calgary has gotten involved in this situation. It completely tarnishes any positive image I may have had of the U of C to begin with. How on earth can a company set up shop in an environment like this?

Those directly employed by the University of Calgary-Qatar, like professors and instructors, do get a decent wage, but also do give up many rights, including the freedom to come and go from the country without government permission, again something that I see as an abuse of human rights.

It embarrasses me that I was a part of this for three years, indirectly and directly. I am glad to say that I am not longer there, and am disappointed that the University of Calgary is. If I had known how it would have been before we went to Qatar, I don't think we would have gone there. To live in a country with few rights, government monitoring of activity and statements, the risk of deportation for the slightest infraction always looming, the fact that being gay is outlawed, that the vast majority of people working in the country are basically there as slaves, working brutally long hours in horrendous conditions for little pay, living in sub human conditions. By living there I helped support this. With UCQ, University of Calgary-Qatar, they are helping to support this as well. And why? To what advantage? Are they making a lot of money off this deal, so much that they have essentially sold their souls to the devil?

I feel as though this short post doesn't do the situation justice. I feel that I have just skimmed the surface when it comes to the UCQ problem. I am horrified by what I saw in Qatar, and saddened that a Canadian university is part of this. It feels like there is so much still to say on this, and I probably will write more. But for now, I will leave it here, knowing that at least I have made a start in explaining my disgust and disappointed. There are things happening in Qatar that I believe people need to know about. From a Canadian perspective, this is an important one.


  1. Why are you leaving this comment anonumously? Interesting. I don't think you actually read my post. My negative feelings have less to do with the school, which isn't bad, and more to do with Qatar, which I did leave feeling bitter about. I am disappointed that a Canadian University has set up shop in a country where people can be jailed for being gay, where people are treated like slaves, etc. And yes, I had it great. That is the problem. As a white guy, I got treated well. So, living in a country where I get treated well because I am white, while seeing so many people suffering for NOT being white was incredibly difficult to deal with. I am not anti-UCQ per say. I am anti University of Calgary being in Qatar. Now, if I am wrong about UCQ being associated with QF, then I apologize. However, I am of the understanding that UCQ does not hire or has any responsibility for, employees such as security guards or cleaners....who do live in questionable housing and are not paid well. So, who IS employing them? Please let me know.

  2. BUT, I should point out that, even though I am a white guy who had it well, I STILL had zero rights. Living in a nice Villa does NOT make up for having to give up rights.

  3. The state of Qatar employs them via the state board overseeing the UofC. I am not sure of their exact name - at CNAQ it is the Joint Oversight Board which includes senior members of CNA, members of Qatari government and at least one member of the ruling family.

  4. I think anonymous needs to get their facts correctly. UCQ is under the same president that runs QF. The fact that her highness Shaika Moza showed up to their mini graduation this year is BECAUSE the association is stronger. This

    With regards to the offensive bashing of the author for being a stay at home dad, shame on you. First of all, who says that is not noble in itself? Second of all, countless trailing ex-pat male spouses are stuck in a situation where they are uninformed or misinformed on the rights to work in Qatar, and after the upheaval of moving families feel somewhat stuck. They are unable to work.

    What the author talks about here is obvious to any ex-pat that lived in Qatar for any corporation with 2 eyes open. The majority of the population is from Southeast Asia with slave wages and horrible conditions. It's a heart wrenching situation.

    The atmosphere that I heard from countless people in my associations with the Canadians I dealt with in Qatar is it is not a nice atmosphere at UCQ. The hardest working people tend to leave or stay very quiet and out of trouble. And there is a great deal of trouble. It is no secret to the ex-pat community that UCQ and CNAQ have multiple lawsuits against it by their own employees. There have been investigations at both UCQ and at CNAQ. Things are far from running well. Corruption is rampant.

    Mr. Manic Expressive, when people must insult to get their point across, it is a clear indication they have no strength in what they are saying. Someone that is out of the situation and that has befriended numerous conscientious Canadian employees in Qatar has a more clear picture. I'm glad you left. I'm glad you have a chance to express yourself, and probably work more legitimately than you could working in that institution.

    From what I see on the outside, UCQ is in self destruct mode and trying their best to portray an image of stability. Unfortunately they are not. They are not painting the image of Canada that the international usually thinks of.

  5. Thanks to everyone who has commented. It's nice to see an open conversation about this: The kind that would most likely not be possible in Qatar...:)Unfortunately, we have talked about many sad realities related to life in Qatar. This is the issue that I have, that University of Calgary has decided that this non-democratic country that routinely abuses human rights is somehow a good place to set up shop.

    It seems that the first commenter has taken this article as a personal slam. I don't understand how this can be. I feel that my criticism is quite reasonable, and is against something larger than just one person. Unless the school itself has developed into a living entity that can type, I don't see why one individual would be so upset over this. It's not as if UCQ is the only school being publicly criticized for being in Qatar, or in the Gulf region. And it's not as if I am spilling any great secrets here. So, I do find it odd that someone has felt so personally scorned by this.

  6. To all above. I apologize, but I have decided to remove the original comment posted that we have been responding too. I felt that it went too far. It hurt me, and it bothered me. It is one thing to attack me, personally, but others around me? No. I wrote what I wrote and take full responsibility for it. It is me. No one else should be mentioned. Unfortunately, the poster felt that it was okay to attack me and others PERSONALLY, when I didn't attack anyone personally in my post. In fact, the point of my post was completely missed.

    Generally, I don't like to remove comments. I do believe in freedom of speech. I do believe that others have the right to voice their views. At the same time, HEY, this is my blog. And I was deeply hurt by the personal attack that came my way and towards others. So, I deleted it.

    I will not take back my statements made in this blog post. I will say that our time at UCQ was good in the sense that we met a lot of wonderful people! I don't feel like I left with any enemies (well, ONE enemy, but what are you going to do). Despite the main issue, the fact that the University of Calgary has decided to get involved in a country like Qatar, I don't feel a lot of ill will against UCQ or U of C OTHER than this. I don't feel like we were wronged by the school. I don't feel that the school mistreated us unnecessarily (although it is fair to say that they did treat some others unfairly). MY issue is the fact that, after being in Qatar, after experiencing it, that the university decided to go there in the first place. I think it's an important issue to discuss.

    Did I personally benefit from being there? Yes. Of course. No doubt. I can't argue that we didn't. On paper, the country looks great to go to. It's easy to be attracted to what schools there have to offer. The hard part is realizing what you actually give up in return, both personally, and what you have to see on a daily basis and just shut up and carry on as if nothing is happening.

    Statements were made about a life decision that we made that had an impact on our time in Doha that seem to have made the poster mad. Well, life is just It doesn't stop for one thing. Life happens, things change, life events occur. Employees have lives. But, by bringing up this issue in the comment, whoever left it went WAY too far and should NOT have done that, which was the main reason I chose to remove the comment. That and a couple other statements about someone other than me that should NOT have been mentioned.

    Anyway, with that said, life will continue. I will put the hurt that I feel over the comment in the back of my mind. I think I know who posted it and would expect nothing less from the person. It's unfortunate. This has only helped to make me feel anger towards the school, if this was someone representing it...which I see it as being someone who is. That doesn't endure me to it. I have an even more sour taste in my mouth.

  7. And if you feel that I don't understand, instead of personal attacks, you can always inform me. That would be welcomed. I'm sure there is no shortage of things I don't understand. After all, in the long run there are more things in this world that I don't understand than what I understand.

  8. Anon #1, your tone of intimidation and attempt to shut down any critical discussion of legitimate concerns with immediate personal attacks and a belief that everyone should just shut up and be grateful is very typical of Qatar. I'm sure you're very happy there.

  9. Yes I concur with this Anonymous above. The first reply to this article sounded very threatening and condescending, exactly what I heard about the administration at Calgary university. You seem to only prove his secondary point, though his real focus and point was more on human rights issues. What a shame.

  10. I apologize folks, but I once again decided remove Anonymous #1's post. I felt that it strayed into unacceptable territory. Yet again, the person chose personal attacks and the release of information that I feel uncomfortable about.

    I WILL however say that one important has been made by the person who writes these things, and it has to do with my role as an individual in the overall problem of human rights that I have tried to approach in my post. It's a fair criticism and a fair point. Unfortunately, the person can't manage to handle themselves in a matter that allowed that quite simple and straightforward point to come out. But it is a fair point and one that deserves it's own blog post. As far as much of the other shouldn't have been used.

  11. I shouldn't find this amusing, but I do. And forgive me, I do not find the situation for lack of unions and what you mention about LGBT and migrant workers funny at all.

    For one, I am very curious to read those letters that you are all referring to. Causing damage to a university with some letters is quite impressive! These must truly be amazing letters. Did you get some help from Snowdon or Assange??

    Second of all, in defending the university and saying everything was fine, they indicated that someone received amazing maternity benefits and purposely got pregnant to get them, is uh... wow. May I know what the AMAZING benefits package is? Is it so fantastic than other Canadians? Because in Canada, most employees get a full year of full pay when unionized. That statement alone showed how undervalued employees are. And then further on to referring to people that fancy themselves important. Now this looks like a place where I want to work for sure!

    It seems, no one is really important. That could be a great company slogan:" Come work for us, where you are guaranteed not to matter or be important. Oh, and don't even think of taking advantage of us by getting pregnant... because that would make your growing family important and valued and we're not really into that."

    maybe a little p.s. "If you're a stay at home dad, you're like less than important, so please note we really extra don't care about you and may even put you down if the opportunity arises. Have a great day :)"

  12. Ooh, this is getting fun.

    I love to see former UCQ faculty members - the ones who couldn't make it at a REAL institution, so they went to UCQ - get riled up!

    You and your minions have once again focused in on what you want to see in my message, even when it is not there. To be clear: nothing in my message denounced stay-at-home dads, or taking maternity leave, for that matter, nor did I write that UCQ provided AMAZING benefits or was a good employer.

    The core point of my posts has been to highlight:

    1. You and your family made the conscious and deliberate choice to stay in Qatar for three years, during which time you availed of the lifestyle and benefits provided to you by UCQ as an employer. You had the choice to leave at any time, yet you didn't.

    2. During that time, you remained complacent. You chose to become vocal about your disdain for what you perceive as UCQ's unethical practices one year after your family left the country. You have chosen to do so through an anonymous blog, in a provocative manner, using statements such as "selling its soul" and expressing your disgust that a reputatable Cdn institution would operate in Qatar.

    I also find it most telling and interesting, and sad, actually, that you continually delete my posts, when they clearly contain nothing personal (post 2, for example). My apologies, but this is the hallmark of a poor blogger: you are unable to be impartial, unbiased and open to debating the information that you have published onto the blogsphere. It leads me to believe that you refuse to acknowledge the possibility that your perspective is not unilaterally correct. You're denying MY right to an opinion because it is not in line with yours, and you are using the delete button to marginalize my perpective and wield your own power. See any parallels there?

  13. Anonymous #1: Yes, I'm using the delete button, because it is my blog. I do have control over this, whether you like it or not, and I will delete response that I feel go over the line.

    Why are you not able to make your points without personally attacking? I acknowledged the core idea that you made and have that penciled in for a future blog post. What more do you want? You appear just to want to attack. Somehow, you have taken my criticism of a university as stabbing you through the heart. It isn't meant as a PERSONAL slam at anyone. Yet, you have taken it as such for some reason, and responded with information that shouldn't be brought up and are spitting fire. I don't get it. Why do you care so much about this? What is it to you? What is the advantage you gain by this? Why are you not able to read this and go, "Oh man, I think he is way off and I disagree completely!" and refrain from personal attacks??

    I get it. You disagree with me. Fine. You don't like me. Fine. Whatever. But, please, STOP with the personal attacks and bringing personal information, like the exact number of days that I was there, etc. Come on, that is information that should be held privately by the school. You keep wanting to bring personal information in here that has no place...and in fact, in talking with a few other people, is illegal.

    I don't know who you are, but you are doing a pretty bad job of representing the school. I have not talked about management, or any other thing that has gone on. I merely am stating that the school probably shouldn't even be there in the first place. But they are. Mind you, there are far bigger institutions there that I feel shouldn't be. So, in that sense, UCQ isn't as big of a deal in these terms as say, Cornell or Texas A and M, both of which have received tremendous criticism, and it has been openly debated. I don't understand why the same debate has not been happening in Canada regarding Canadian institutions. Why? I mean, even when I tell people that U of C has a campus in Doha, people are suprised...after firts asking where Qatar is.

    The truth is, however, that generally this blog gets, maybe, 10 hits. This isn't shaking the world to the core. While writing I do for other publications will get considerably greater attention. So, I know this isn't going to trigger a great debate. So, the fact that such anger over what amounts to a drop of the bucket raises some interesting questions about how a wider, more public debate would go?

    However, at the same time, I think what I am seeing in these comments is some greater underlying issues. These are issues I knew existed, HOWEVER, I also did not bring them up in my initial post. There is obvious anger and dissatisfaction that too often gets brushed off with a statement like, "You had it good here, now shut up and quit whining." Well, that's unacceptable.

  14. Maybe, to get things back on track, I will post the article that inspired this blog post in the first place. Sorry, in the comments it doesn't seem to want to show up as a hyperlink:

  15. Also, this article, which is interesting as well...

  16. Annnnndddddd....another:

  17. It is also interesting how University of Calgary is home to the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center that aims to "To promote respect for civil liberties and human rights in Alberta through research and education to contribute to a more just and inclusive community." and then, turns around and sets up shop in Qatar of all places.

  18. This blog is really interesting !

    1. Heh heh. Well, I definitely have one person who doesn't think so.

  19. Wow. This raises serious questions. What if a teacher at UCQ got pregnant out of wedlock. Would the teacher end up going to jail? If faced with that problem, can UCQ do anything? Or is this only an issue if you are not white or Qatari?

  20. The teacher would go to jail, regardless of nationality (white, Qatari or otherwise) as she would have broken Qatari law by engaging in intercourse outside of wedlock. UCQ wouldn't be in a position to do anything, nor should they. There will definitely be something in the employment contract that states that employees have to adhere to Qatari law and which absolves the University of responsibility if the employee breaches that.

    You could liken it to a Canadian who goes to Thailand and breaks the law - their employer wouldn't likely intervene. The embassy would probably even stay clear.

  21. So, once again, we have a clear case of Qatar infringing on personal and human rights. I mean, things happen. Life happens. The fact that a university is left powerless in the face of the host country abusing human rights raises a serious question of why this school would be in the country in the first place.

  22. The university (ies) protect who they want to protect Very little to do with law.

    Like that Norwegian lady that was raped by her colleague, they didn't seem to help her though his charges were less serious even though by Qatari law any form of rape is very serious. But they hate dealing with it and choose to close their eyes. Don't know why it seems the woman got the brunt of that punishment.

    So this is where I disagree. Qatar has umfair labour laws. Agreed. But with regards to employee rights the ex pat businesses often know how to manage what they want, the CHOICES they make are their own. Their hands are far from clean.

    CNAQ has had many live together out of wedlock. Some they lie for to protevt, some they help with the deportation So...,,

  23. "So, once again, we have a clear case of Qatar infringing on personal and human rights. I mean, things happen. Life happens."

    The country isn't infringing on personal or human rights at all. It sets out clear laws, in this case, against extramarital relations, and expects that citizens, residents and visitors adhere to these laws. Note that I am not speaking about a case where a woman is raped, but to your earlier question about what would happen if a female UCQ worker became pregnant out of wedlock. Look at it another way: Thailand, for example, has laws against the sale and distribution of illicit drugs - is the country infringing on people's personal rights to sell drugs? Canada has laws against driving with a BAC over X%. Is the country infringing on one's personal/human rights if someone is punished for breaking this law? Just because you don't agree with the nature of the law doesn't mean that it is a human rights violation.

    "The fact that a university is left powerless in the face of the host country abusing human rights raises a serious question of why this school would be in the country in the first place". If you're still talking about the pregnancy out of wedlock, then it is not necessarily a university being left powerless, but rather, them choosing to remain outside of legal matters that are neither within their control nor a matter of responsibility for them. If you are working in Singapore and you're arrested on public littering charges, and are fined or punished according to the law, does your employer have a duty of responsibility to come to your rescue? The answer would most likely be "no", as you broke the country's laws in the course of conducting your own personal affairs. I am not certain why you feel that an employer, in any country, would have a duty to contest the laws of a country?

    . The fact that a university is left powerless in the face of the host country abusing human rights raises a serious question of why this school would be in the country in the first place".

  24. Although I don't have time at the moment to respond to your comment, FINALLY you appear to be willing to engage in an intelligent conversation about this and provide points that we can actually work with. It's unfortunate that we ha to go through so much garbage before we got to this point.

  25. Also....take a look over this and count how many of these violations occur in Qatar. Granted, even countries like Canada and the US are infringing on some of these. However, it is fair to say that Qatar (Rated NOT FREE by Freedom House) is in gross violation of far more of these freedoms, with very little to no intent on rectifying the situation:

  26. But, essentially, what I am reading with your comment is that the University really doesn't care about human rights. This despite the fact that the main campus in Canada has made moves to promote human rights in Canada. Therefore, you are basically proving my point that the University of Calgary is behaving unethically when on the one hand it's pro-human rights in Canada, but then goes to a country that abuses a scary number of human rights that are on the list above, it absolves all responsibility and refuses to speak up or work towards changes in the country. It abandons all the principles it adheres to and promotes here....while setting up shop in a country that does abuse human rights, and saying, "Hey, our hands our clean. We take no responsibility. Not our problem. In fact, let's see how these rules can benefit us!" The question is, if Canadians on a wider scale knew about this, what would the response be? I don't think many people realize that UCQ is even in a country like this. But, as we have open discussions about boycotting the Sochi Olympics over Russia's anti-gay propoganda laws, which are still mild compared to anti-gay laws in Qatar, we aren't having open discussions about a Canadian post-secondary institution being involved in country that you can look at that UN human rights list and see how many of those rights are abused.

  27. And, furthermore, it's interesting that the University of Calgary was involved in this event, aimed at opening discussion about and promoting human rights, ending just a few days ago!:

  28. Interesting as well that the U of C honoured Jack Layton with a Social Justice Award last year:

  29. Even more good (and I mean that sarcastically) news from Qatar in terms of human rights.

  30. And it just keeps getting worse and worse. As if human rights in Qatar weren't bad enough, it keeps going downhill, instead of improving.