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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?
If there is anything learned at the University of British Columbia since the announcement of President Gupta’s resignation on 7 August 2015, it is that patronage is the institution’s greatest threat to reversing its spiraling downfall.
Of course we hear a lot these days about the gated communities in Vancouver and Kelowna where the 1% enjoy their luxuries without annoying distractions and questions from the 99%. Chip Wilson’s gated and walled $64m waterfront home makes the old Casa Mia on Marine Drive look like a quaint tiny house. And if trends have their way at UBC, Chip, valued at $2.2b, will soon run the Board of Governors (i.e., Lululemon U), following Stuart Belkin, valued at a comparatively mere $900m with a modest hobby farm in Southlands.
In the midst of its administrative and legitimacy crises, on 25 November Belkin was appointed Chair of UBC’s BoG. In 1938, Stuart’s father, Morris, led students on a protest against the BoG’s proposal to increase fees by $25. At his first meeting as Chair on 15 February 2016, Stuart presided over the approval of huge tuition increases across the University, no questions asked. Morris, the consummate contributor to student media, saved The Ubyssey by buying the printing house, which eventually became College Printers and core to Belkin’s packaging corporation. Stuart has an aversion to the media.
Following Morris’s death in 1987, the family donated to UBC $1m+ and by 1992 established itself as an art patron with a $1.5m endowment as ground was broken for the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery on campus (opened 17 June 1995). Stuart commands UBC’s BoG in the midst of sieges on privilege and patronage.
Philanthropic patronage is common at UBC but it’s the managerial form that is perhaps much more entrenched and dangerous at this point.
In Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers, Jackall explains that patronage reduces to “alliances that give one ‘clout’”
by the systematic collection of information damaging to others and particularly about deals struck and favors won in order to argue more effectively the propriety and legitimacy of one’s own claims; and, on the part of those in power, by pervasive secrecy, called confidentiality, that attempts to cordon off the knowledge of deals already made lest the demands on the system escalate unduly. (pp. 197-198)
Drawn from frontier tactics of circling the wagons, the practice of protecting managers at all cost for favours and perks, or patronage, has generated a crisis at UBC. Indicative of this crisis of patronage was the deans’ endorsement of the BoG and Central senior managers on 9 February 2016.
Rarely at UBC is administrative patronage, characterized by this process of encircling and turning inward, exposed in such a raw, visible form, as if under siege by faculty, staff, and students.
The deans, along with vice, assistant, and associate appointees, owe their capital, in large, to a system of patronage that keeps gates and walls to protect privilege. Gated management, suppressing and distrusting shared governance, relies extensively on patronage.
Acting as if through Gupta’s resignation ‘to the victors go the spoils’, the deans are gambling that circling the wagons around the BoG and Central, however much it exposes patronage, delivers payoffs come reappointment time and invariable sieges on gates and gatekeepers within their own Faculties.
Patronage delivers payoffs at UBC, as Central looks the other way when accountability is due. For example, Central has been unwilling to find either fact or fault with administrators perennially running up deficits, suppressing academic freedom, mismanaging academic portfolios, playing favouritism, breaching privacy, biasing student votes, bloating admin ranks and offices, etc.
The fact that no one—not a single administrator– has been held accountable, canned, denied reappointment, or moved back to faculty ranks, etc. in the midst of the University’s most serious administrative crisis in fifty years is increasingly suspicious.
Yet this nagging suspicion of the BoG and Central, “perceptions of pervasive mediocrity” (Jackall, p. 197), and faculty members’ current No Confidence vote call the entire system of gated management and patronage at UBC into question.
The University of British Columbia’s problems with board secrecy, corporate mentalities, and presidential searches conducted under a shroud are not isolated occurrences, as you’ll see from the following account of what’s happening at Washington State University.
April 5, 2016
Moscow-Pullman Daily News
By Terence L. Day
There would appear to be no cause to doubt Kirk Schulz’s qualifications to become the 11th president of Washington State University, but there is every reason to question the process by which he was appointed.
Let attorneys argue whether regents violated the state’s open meeting law. We don’t need lawyers to tell us what should be obvious to all: WSU regents disrespected the faculty and the public by conducting a secret search and faculty and citizens who support the university are rightly offended.
If what the regents did doesn’t violate Washington’s open meeting law, the law should be fixed.
In the good old days presidential finalists would be brought to campus and “run through the mill.” Finalists were expected to come to campus, conduct a public seminar, meet faculty and administrators and perhaps university constituents.
Unfortunately, today is a different time.
Sadly, secrecy in searches for new university presidents is becoming standard operating procedure throughout the nation. Secrecy is rationalized on the assertion that the best candidates for the job will refuse to participate in an open process, and that may well be true in some instances.
Private universities are entitled to conduct secret searches if they believe that best suits their ends; but public universities are public. What don’t WSU regents understand about the word “public”?
The very concept of public business requires openness, and speaking in code is an offense to reason.
Certainly all public business cannot be conducted in a fish bowl and appropriately isn’t, but selection of a public university president isn’t one of those things.
Regent Mike Worthy’s lame excuse that WSU’s attorney approved the secrecy with which Schulz was chosen is reminiscent of Mark Twain’s advice that youth should get up early with the lark, “… and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time.”
I asked WSU officials how long they have been conducting secret presidential searches. They haven’t been forthcoming, but I remember a day when they were very public.
WSU regents aren’t alone in using secret searches. My sources advise that many top-notch potential university presidents refuse to be candidates if their candidacy isn’t kept secret.
This dynamic is corrupting the search process from beginning to end. It encourages universities to turn the process over to “head hunters,” who work more for candidates than for the hiring university and claim a significant percentage of the successful candidate’s first year’s salary.
Regents are politically appointed and WSU’s regents, at least, are poorly equipped to understand the dynamic and culture of collegiality in higher education. Judging from their biographical sketches posted on the regents’ Web page, five and a half of nine members are in the business world, one is a politician and public administrator, one is an attorney, one a farmer and one is a WSU undergraduate student. I give Regent Lura Powell half credit for her experience as an administrator in the public technology sector and half credit for her experience as a manager in the private technology sector.
None of these backgrounds offer much understanding, sympathy or fealty to openly conducting the public’s business. Secrecy is the leadership style of the business world, not of academia.
Fortunately, faculty and students from sea to sea and from the heartland to the mountains are beginning to protest hiding searches from faculty and the public. It’s time the WSU community joined the protest.
Terence L. Day has been a Pullman resident for 43 years and retired in 2004 from the WSU faculty after 32 years. He has been a professional journalist for 54 years. firstname.lastname@example.org