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Since the announcement of University of British Columbia President Arvind Gupta’s resignation on 7 August 2015 and subsequent disclosure and leak of records on 25 January 2016 via Freedom of Information requests, one of the most pressing questions has been the role or seeming conspiracy of Deans. Upon public circulation of the records, on 9 February the Deans quickly circled the wagons in defence, ostensibly a sign of patronage.
The records still in question involve a series of meetings and exchanges between Gupta and the Deans beginning around 1 May and extending through June 2015, e.g.:
1 May 2015 (FoI Record 439)
Hi John [Montalbano, Chair of the BoG], Things seem to be going well with the Deans now (or at least I think so). Thanks again for coming over today and hope you weren’t too late in [redacted]. Talk soon. (Gupta)
What exactly happened wherein the President hesitates in resolving that “things seem to be going well with the Deans”? What was going on wherein problems escalated and the Deans apparently made an offensive to play a role in seeing through the President’s resignation or ousting him?
Perhaps the meetings and exchanges of the Committee of Deans would provide insight.
A Freedom of Information request was made on 8 February 2016 for disclosure of records of the Committee of Deans, which meets twice per month for 2 hours each meeting.
Lo and behold, it turns out that this decision-making and governing body does not keep any records and claims it has no obligation or intention to do so. Upon a series of requests over the last four months, Access and Privacy in UBC’s Office of the University Counsel shockingly confirmed:
There is no UBC record-keeping mandate for these committees [of Deans]. Therefore the records kept are at the discretion of the Provost offices. In terms of UBCV material – no minutes are taken at the Deans meetings, therefore no minutes exist to provide to you. UBCV 2016 agendas were included [or reconstructed] in the records released to you.
There were no 2015 records in the disclosure
So, this decision-making body– all the Deans and the Provost, etc.– meets twice per month for 2 hours each and keeps no records. The Committee of Deans met multiple times with President Gupta and prepared or kept no records. Nada. Nothing.
Guaranteed, there is something to hide. Too much, in fact.
Wary of corruption, cronyism, and patronage, on 22 October 2015, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC released a scathing report of the practice of withdrawing decision-making to shadow systems.
Similarly in 2004, the Federal Information Commissioner expressed concerns that civil servants, lawyers and managers in public institutions in Canada were managing “to find ingenious ways to wiggle and squirm to avoid the full operation of the law.” Reflecting what we see nowadays at UBC, the Commissioner observed that the
Access to Information Act was supposed to get government documents into the hands of Canadians. Instead, it has created a state in which there are often no documents to get… The attitude has truly become,”‘Why write it when you can speak it? Why speak it when you can nod? Why nod when you can wink?'”
Robert Kerrey–Like Drowning Cats
By Rich Gibson
San Diego State University
Robert Kerrey is now appointed to be the top at a new US-sponsored university in Vietnam.
Former Senator Robert Kerrey admitted that as leader of a Navy Seal unit he participated in the murder of civilians in Vietnam. The Seal unit was part of an assassination squad, operating under the guidance of Operation Phoenix which, in the course of the war, killed more than 30,000 Vietnamese, using what its leader, William Colby, called a “scatter-gun approach,” in later congressional hearings. Villagers on the scene say Kerrey’s Seals not only shot more than 100 women and children with automatic fire, but slit the throats of five people, all considered less than human: Gooks, Slants, Slopes, Cong, Charlie, VC.
Kerrey’s admissions came in The New York Times Magazine, a story initially quashed by the television networks. Clearly indictable under existing war crime statutes, Kerrey participated in a cover-up of his unit’s killings for nearly three decades while he used his claims to valour to promote his political career.
Following The New York Times revelations, though, two interesting things happened, both relating to how history is constructed, not only as a vision of the past, but as a call to action in the future. In that context, Kerrey’s thinking about his experience in Vietnam, written not too long after he returned, is instructive.
As the Times article developed, Kerrey and his friends first began to commiserate with one another about the tough times they had, the strain on their consciences, the difficulty they had in living with dirty secrets, how their reputations of valour may be imperfect. Besides, what were we to do when everyone was an enemy? This experience traces the path of many convicted fascist war criminals in Germany who, exposed long after WWII closed, said the same thing.
Second, the debate shifted to who we shall call heroic. The mainstream outlook is now at least two-fold: perhaps nobody, or maybe people like Kerrey since war is hell. Three kinds of heroes are missed altogether.
Certainly those working-class US youth who found themselves enmeshed in a web that led directly to the front lines of battle in Vietnam, those of them who refused to go on burn-all kill-all missions, those who shot their own officers and blew them up in their tents, creating a new word in the lexicon, fragging; those who returned to the US, joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and, denouncing the war, threw their Medals of Honor back at Congress; those young men and women, black and white, like Bill Marshall and Scott Camil, wounded and decorated heroes who rejected the war, are mostly unnoticed.
The working class anti-war movement is almost equally opaque, as if the resistance emanated from Harvard and Columbia, behind the cavalier lead of rich liberal children with bombs like Billy Ayers whose contempt for people sought to substitute explosives for a mass conscious movement. In fact the blue-collar student movements at Wayne State in Detroit, San Francisco State, Kent State, and related schools seriously took up the issues of people who had a lot to lose, whose draft deferments were not coming from counsel with connected pals in the medical school, and who could wield real power by exerting their natural influence in their birth-class. Often under the leadership of Black and Latin youth, those people then led the mass sit-down strikes in auto in Detroit, and the community uprisings throughout the US, while the terrorists hid in million-dollar homes, returning to academic prominence after legal wrist slaps a few years later–now rich liberals without bombs.
Further outside the imperial gaze, even today, is the heroism of the Vietnamese, not only those who Kerrey and many other US officers caught up in the genocidal invasion sought to exterminate, but those who defeated the empire, politically, militarily, and morally, causing imperial troops to run away in their helicopters, pushing their allies off the struts as they ran. Despite every effort to reconstruct that piece of history, whether through relentless Hollywood endeavors to recapture the good old days of World War II, or the repositioning of responsibility to suggest that all US troops in Southeast Asia were war criminals, and hence none of them were, nothing ever will be the same.
At the end of the wars on Vietnam, when the US fled at the end of April, 1975, the US military was in utter collapse, the economy a shambles, the presidency upended by Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, and the campuses in full uproar. Reversing all of that has been a 40 year project, with some success, especially the project to eradicate the memory of the facts of the war itself.
There are no Vietnamese victors on Vietnam Wall, yet millions of them died–and changed the world.
However, for purposes of clarity, it is worthwhile to look back on what Robert Kerrey wrote after he returned from Vietnam, more than twelve years ago, perhaps when his recollections were sharper, less opportunistically censored by the polish of electoral success. This is what Nebraska’s Robert Kerrey said in the opening paragraph of an article titled, “On Remembering the Vietnam War:”
“Around the farm, there is an activity that no one likes to do. Yet it is sometimes necessary. When a cat gives birth to kittens that aren’t needed, the kittens must be destroyed. And there is a moment when you are holding the kitten under the water when you know that if you bring that kitten back above the water it will live, and if you don’t bring it back above in that instant the kitten will be dead. This, for me, is a perfect metaphor for those dreadful moments in war when you do not quite do what you previously thought you would do.”*
Such is the choice, drowning cats or universal solidarity against despotism–and the perversion of academic life.
*The Vietnam Reader, edited by Walter Capps, Routledge, New York (1990)
Jennifer Chan :: Out of Asia: Topologies of #racism in Canada (#UBC David Lam Chair) #ubcnews #ubceduc #ubysseynews #bced
Out of Asia: Topologies of Racism in Canada
ABSTRACT: This case study recounts my harrowing experience through a great Canadian equity swindle—involving two internal university equity investigations, BC Human Rights Tribunal, and the BC Supreme Court—to bring to account a deeply flawed and allegedly discriminatory academic hiring process. I situate my human rights complaint in the larger socio-political context of Canada becoming “too Asian.” Download the article from Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.
For the background, chronology, and case records, see our coverage in the Workplace blog. Briefly:
BCHRT’s decision on 24 January 2012 to hear the Chan v UBC and others [Beth Haverkamp, David Farrar, Jon Shapiro, Rob Tierney] case (21 December 2010 HRT decision; 24 January 2012 HRT decision) was moved to the Supreme Court for a judicial review (see The Ubyssey’s [UBC student newspaper] feature article for the backstory to the case). The Supreme Court then ordered the BCHRT to review its initial decision (29 May 2013 BC Supreme Court judgment). The BCHRT turned and dismissed the case on 19 December 2013.
- December 2009 Complaint filed to University
- 21 December 2010 BC HRT decision
- 24 January 2012 BC HRT decision
- 29 May 2013 BC Supreme Court judgment
- 19 December 2013 BC HRT dismissal
- 1 March 2015 Dean announces Review of Chair (no Report was produced)
- 1 April 2016 Dean announces search for David Lam Chair (Associate Dean Haverkamp appointed Chair of Search Committee again). Announcement that Chair was “recalibrated.”*
*Note: Exactly what was “recalibrated” through the “Review” is unclear. Comparatively, when advertised in 2005 and 2009, the Name of the Chair was the “David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education.” The April 2016 Ad or CFA still indicates the same. So the Chair title was not recalibrated. In 2005 and 2009, the search sought scholars who contributed to multicultural education and now in 2016 the search seeks scholars who contributed to multicultural education and “social justice studies” so that was not recalibrated. One could readily argue that multicultural justice and social justice are interchangeable. In 2005 and 2009 multicultural education was not defined but in 2016 a definition of multicultural education is given: “commitment to anti-oppression, anti-racism, intersectionality, and decolonization.” But that does not appear to be a recalibration inasmuch as it just gives a definition.
The Faculty Association of UBC raised some key concerns this week over the University’s budget. Key concerns include UBC’s:
- overuse of discretionary revenue on capital expenditures: “diversion of operating surpluses to capital”
- “massive administrative bloat in its complement of management and professional staff”
- 2:1 staff-to-faculty ratio
- deprioritizing of academic funding
- polemic “from senior management that salary increases from the recent arbitration were ‘unanticipated'”
- refusal to provide a general wage increase above 0-2%
We need to be measured with any sympathy for Faculties or units running up deficits for admin bloat, non-union labour, etc. and turning around to ask for more.
UBC’s unit budgets are notoriously opaque at the Faculty, School, Department, Office, and Centre levels. Faculty, staff, and students are perennially left begging for details or forced to resort to Freedom of Information requests. For instance, on 11-12 January, UBC’s VP Finance hosted a Budget Retreat for the Deans to present their status and plans. The rest of us were not given access.
Table of Contents
- Retreat Agenda 1
- University Budget 5
- Law 12
- Applied Science 42
- Arts 105
- Dentistry 135
- Education 167
- Forestry 180
- Land & Food 193
- Medicine 208
- Pharmaceutical Sciences 228
- Sauder 257
- Science 274
- Graduate & Postdoc Studies 289
Clampdown on academic freedom at #UBC blamed on spam law #ubc100 #ubcnews #ubysseynews #bced #caut_acppu
Administrators in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia clamped down on academic freedom today by shutting down its shared listserv after 17+ years in what looks like a knee-jerk reaction.
In addition to blaming the clampdown on faculty members for sharing “their own perspective regarding one or more aspects of the work and trajectory of the Faculty,” the reasoning given was Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), effective 1 July 2014.
The Dean and Associate Dean explained:
In response to changes to the requirements for the organizational use of email at UBC following the implementation of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL http://universitycounsel.ubc.ca/files/2014/06/CASL-FAQs-2014-05.pdf) we have made some changes to how we are using Faculty-generated broadcast email lists. These changes only apply to those email lists created and moderated by the Faculty. The major implication of CASL resides in the definition of “consent” to email exchange. Following the implementation of CASL, we need to be attentive to email recipients’ implied or actual consent to receive emails.
While CASL specifically addresses the intent of a “commercial electronic message” (CEM) and spam, UBC administrators have decided to stretch this to all messages and email, warning that email to a colleague, and one might infer student, who has not given “consent” to be a recipient can be grounds for legal or punitive action.
CAUT will monitor the enforcement of the CASL, and will provide members with any relevant updates as these decisions may provide further clarity about what the law means for academic staff associations.
The implications here are scary but more frightening is UBC managers’ inability to distinguish between academic and commercial messages or distinguish between the legalism of spam and academic freedom.
Of course, turns out that parallel to all the overt puffy announcements about a new era of academic freedom at the University of British Columbia, covertly behind the scenes is a progressive decommissioning of channels and media of communication.
Symbolic of a covert erosion of academic freedom, after about 17 years of UBC’s Faculty of Education‘s shared listserv for Educ-Faculty, the forum was suddenly and sadly shut down. Out of the blue beginning last Friday (6 May) through today, a series of decisions culminated in this explicit clampdown on academic freedom. As this morning’s memo from the Dean and Associate Dean reads:
our changes respond to a significant number of complaints we have received about the utilization of EDUC-Faculty in particular, as a medium wherein individual faculty members broadcast their own perspective regarding one or more aspects of the work and trajectory of the Faculty of Education.
Ah yes, the “significant number of complaints” about the expression of academic freedom… Goodness forbid that “faculty members broadcast their own perspective regarding one or more aspects of the work and trajectory” of the University.
One might think that if indeed there was a problem with unmoderated communication, and there was not, the reasonable response would be to move to moderation of the listserv, not shut it down.
Oh yes, the memo concludes with the hypocritical “Tuum Est – It is yours.”
RIP academic freedom at UBC?
*A technical aside is the 2014-2015 decommissioning of Majordomo at UBC. Beginning 1992, majordomo provided a user-friendly platform for listserv communication channels or media. Clean and low-tech code, majordomo hosted a range of user commands that, among other simple things, allows one to generate a list of recipients or the audience of communication (yes, this config can be turned off but most leave it open). At UBC, majordomo lists were migrated to L-Soft, a clunky web-based interface. The vast majority of L-Soft configurations of lists at UBC limit users to two commands: subscribe and unsubscribe. RIP majordomo at UBC.
#UBC time to lay down the mace in graduation and governance #ubc100 #ubcnews #ubc #bced #highered #caut_acppu
As we count down to May graduation, can we please remove the mace from convocation and governance at the University of British Columbia? The mace had its day in the first 100 years of this esteemed University but that day has gone.
Times have changed, business as usual has been called into question and the Board of Governors is currently operating under the pall of a No Confidence vote cast by faculty members.
The days of the mace in Convocation and governance are of the past and that part of the past is no longer worth reenacting.
It has been an emotional year for UBC. As we launched the celebration of our Centennial at UBC 100, our President resigned under a cloak of secrecy. As we began to party, we launched an investigation to discover the lengths to which a Chair of the Board of Governors and administrators might go to suppress academic freedom. As no accountability was forthcoming, a No Confidence vote was cast. As the BoG continued with business as usual, staff and students expressed serious concerns to triangulate those of faculty members.
It’s difficult to know where this University now stands or what it stands for.
It is time to retire the mace, symbol of aggression, authority, and war. It’s time to march to graduation ceremonies in late May with open and empty hands as symbolic of peace and reconciliation of controversies and roles of the President’s Office.
UBC’s mace is a relic but a relic of what? The mace is symbolic speech but what is it saying about us now?
From ancient times, this club, this weapon of assault and offence, the mace was gradually adorned until the late twelfth century when it doubled as a symbol of civil office. Queen Elizabeth I granted her royal mace to Oxford in 1589. From military and civil power derives academic authority. The rest is history and it is not all good.
It is time to retire the macebearer, whose importance is inflated every year by the image’s presence on UBC’s graduation pages leading to Convocation. In pragmatic terms, if the mace falls into the hands of the wrong macebearer or manager at this point, someone’s liable to get clocked with it.
Is UBC’s mace still a respectable appendage to Convocation?
Remember, since that fateful November day in 1997, just five months into Martha Piper’s Presidency, when student activists put their bodies and minds on the line at the APEC protest, Tuum Est adorns both the can of mace sprayed in their eyes and the ceremonial mace that the President’s Office is eager to carry across campus every November and May.
Is it not time to retire the mace?