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Issues, events, & breaking news from ICES & Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
Actualizado: fai 16 horas 57 min
Since University of B. C. President Arvind Gupta resigned unexpectedly last August, the institution’s managers and governors agreed to remain silent and move records and answers to non-disclosure agreements and privacy protection.
After five months of Freedom of Information requests, UBC released a partial disclosure of records related to Gupta’s resignation. One answer is implicit and explicit in the disclosure: if you want to know why UBC managers resist change, follow the money.
On the record, a rift formed between Gupta, the Dragon’s Den leader, and emotionally vulnerable middle managers. “You are deemed too quick to engage in debate in a confrontational or dismissive manner,” Gupta was scolded, “which is demoralising to a group of executives in fear of their employment security.” Gupta was not Presidential.
Off the record, there’s another storyline, perhaps more realistic.
One of the largest employers in British Columbia – $2.1 billion operating budget – the university and its Properties Trust have for years been given free passes in the court of accountability. This conceit percolates down through the ranks of middle management.
Gupta was hired in the fallout of serious financial fraud cases within the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry. Controversies, such as the Sauder School of Business students’ rape chant in September 2013 had chipped away confidence in the ranks of management.
Senior campus administrators had seemingly looked the other way as internal investigations into management pointed to no one and nothing for accountability. The free pass for managers was status quo when Gupta was hired at UBC.
At this point, it began to look like a policy of administrator accountability had suddenly arrived on Point Grey. Administrative bloat and perks were finally called into question. The pushback was fierce as middle managers, deans, and their numerous assistants and associates, grew anxious and more insecure.
Stamping out fires, Gupta wrote on May 1 to the Chair of the Board of Governors: “Things seem to be going well with the Deans now (or at least I think so).” The doubt signalled that behind-the-scenes middle managers were conspiring under turf war conditions.
Accountability was pushed back up to the President: “we are still not certain that you fully appreciate the scope of your accountability,” Gupta was told in mid-May. “You must refrain from thinking controversial thoughts out loud.”
Gupta redirected priority to allocating finances to classrooms and hiring of faculty members, and away from bloated administrative ranks. For instance, the ranks of assistant and associate deans swelled from 47 in 2000 to 72 in 2015. Senior administrators and deans had long protected their prerogative of appointing at these managerial ranks and resisted even the slightest consideration of regulation through a proper hiring policy.
It didn’t matter to a balance of managers that Gupta was successful in attracting $66.5m in Federal research funding in late July. At the same time, he was called into meetings to answer to pushback. The Board formed an ad hoc committee to erode confidence. On August 7, he resigned.
Not one to rock a boat at a birthday party, Interim President Martha Piper stepped in to celebrate UBC’s 100th and restore business as usual and the free pass for management. Champagne corks were popping in September.
In December, Piper rushed the Board to once again approve student tuition increases across the campus. At the year’s major budget meeting in mid-January, with all the deans providing their faculty’s financial status and plans, the sole message to members of UBC was that the president said the ‘presentations were excellent.’ With deficits run up in the faculties, budgets are in a mess, but the PowerPoint slides are beautiful.
Of course arrogance, cronyism, and hubris have their limits, even at UBC. Since Gupta’s resignation, the university has bounced from one crisis to the next. The university is slipping again into a crisis of financial management. Why are managers resisting? Follow the money.
Stephen Petrina, Sandra Mathison, and E. Wayne Ross are Professors in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia and co-directors of the Institute for Critical Education Studies.
With UBC’s crisis of administration and legitimacy growing worse, the Faculty Association has re-issued its call for an external review of the Board of Governors and its operations. Clearly, there are failures of governance and shadow systems of decision-making from the ranks of middle management to the top of the Board. The FAUBC announced today:
As the collective voice of faculty, charged with representing faculty interests and perspectives relevant to unfolding events at UBC, the Faculty Association, through its Executive, feels compelled at this time to raise a number of serious concerns. It has become clear that the University of British Columbia is in the midst of a governance crisis.
The events of the past year or so, as information about them slowly leaks out, demonstrate a failure of governance that threatens the integrity and credibility of the University. This is a singular moment in the 100-year history of UBC, the solution to which requires strong actions on the part of the Board of Governors.
We have called publicly for an external review of the Board and its operations. At this point, we re-issue this call. Such a review is essential to restore public trust in the Board. To accomplish this, the leadership for such a review must have the support of the University community – of faculty, students, staff, and alumni….
Some current members of the Board, including the Chancellor of UBC, have been shown in recent, now public, documents to have been involved in activities around the resignation of Dr. Gupta that appear to contravene standard and expected Board practices. Improper conduct of Board business is a serious matter. The former Chair of the Board, John Montalbano, has resigned. What onus of response falls on these other Board members, given these revelations?
The UBC Alma Mater Society also publicly called for a review. The AMS urges the Board to enact the following changes:
- That the incoming Chair of the Board of Governors instigate an external review process into governance practices;
- That the Board of Governors delay approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such time as the suggested external review is complete and incorporated.
Thanks you FAUBC and AMS!
Give us break UBC: Board of Governors, Senate, and other admin committee work is not rocket science. However, given the release of records and findings of shadow systems and backroom deals, it’s time for the basics: adopt the Nolan Principles of Standards in Public Life.
In brief, for universities, the Nolan Principles are:
- Selflessness: University and public interest opposed to self-interest.
- Integrity: Decision-making integrity opposed to coercive power.
- Objectivity: Merit, affirmative action, and diversity complemented.
- Accountability: Decisions and actions accountable to peers, public, and open to scrutiny.
- Openness: Decisions and actions open and transparent opposed to restriction and secrecy.
- Honesty: Self-interest openly declared when in conflict with best interests of the University or public interest.
- Leadership: Principles supported by example of leadership (i.e., leaders model the principles).
UBC faculty, staff, students, and citizens turned out in mass to protest the Board of Governors’ unaccountability and damaging lack of transparency. The message being enough is enough. We’re fed up with the the backroom politics that are pervasive enough to move a new President out of office with no review, rhyme nor reason.
After a rally in front of the Alumni building, the protest proceeded upstairs to the door of the Board meeting. The disruption was direct and effective, with a subset marching into the meeting. Chants of ‘hey hey, ho ho, the BoG has got to go’ roaring outside the door and the Board’s discomfort inside. Shockingly, the Board allotted time for a colleague to speak out at the mic!
Amazing demonstration of the grass roots on campus everyone! Next time we may move to occupy.
The management and legitimacy crisis at the University of British Columbia is growing worse. Putting out fires from crisis to crisis, the University’s public relations has been a disaster from day one.
Following the release of Freedom of Information records, replete with embedded files– smoking guns– UBC has had little to no comment. The first comment was “UBC will not be commenting.” No comment… from the VP External Relations and University Counsel.
The second comment elaborated on a technicality: “it is necessary to take the additional step of “sanitizing” the [FoI] PDF file to remove the hidden copies of the unredacted attachments.”
“UBC deeply regrets the error that led to this privacy breach,” University Counsel continued.
That’s it? That’s the extent of the apology? A technical regret for a failure to sanitize?
Advice to the VP External Relations and University Counsel: 1) Apologize to Dr. Gupta. 2) Publicly apologize to the faculty, staff, and students of UBC.
That would be a start…
As the economy tanks with questions of whether governments, banks, manufacturers, and universities are “too big to fail,” the concept of “shadow systems” takes definition.
it was riddled with contradictions: ubiquitous negotiations on all levels, informality, and a huge shadow system. (Kisser & Kalb, 2010, p. 173)
Sound familiar? Zola suggests in the exhilaration, like gambling, of governing through a “shadow system– a place where free from outside scrutiny and evaluation a miniature version of the game of life can be played”– “the demands of the outside world seem distant” (1974, p. 61).
That’s the point– shadow systems provide a sense of control… but within the systems “too big to fail” when you get caught, what happens? When that outside world sees what’s going on, what happens?
In an extensive analysis and critique of management and governance models at UBC, the Faculty Association Executive expresses our
concern about how much UBC business is conducted in such a manner (i.e., “secret, in camera processes” or shadow systems) and hence not captured by FOI requests….
We are deeply concerned by the evidence that a culture exists in UBC whereby the Chair of the Board is personally involved with managing university personnel and their concerns, and whereby back-channels exist between the Board and the University which bypass formal governance structures.
Shadow systems wherein business is conducted that cannot be “captured by FoI requests” have become business as usual, at UBC and the provincial government. In April, we found that “the British Columbia government is routinely blocking access to documents that should be made public by claiming that the records don’t exist.”
Wary of corruption and cronyism, on 22 October, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC released a scathing report of the practice of withdrawing decision-making to shadow systems. In Access Denied, Denham begins:
Democracy depends on accountable government. Citizens have the right to know how their government works and how decisions are made.
This holds for UBC, by the University Act a corporation bound to accountability to its members: faculty, staff, students.
UBC Management, from top to middle (Deans, ADS & Directors) has lost a sense of how to govern faculty, staff, and students. It has also lost a sense of judgment of what is important and what is not.
UBC’s shadow systems have now come back to haunt a university “too big to fail.”
Protest at UBC
Protest the BoG Meeting
Why: Demand UBC management and Board accountability
Protest the BoG Meeting
Why: Demand UBC management and Board accountability
When: Tuesday, February 2 at 12:30 – 2:00
Where: Robert H. Lee Alumni Bldg, Centre, 6163 University Boulevard, UBC
How: Faculty, staff and students will gather w/ guests & speakers, etc.
UBC faculty, staff and students will protest the upcoming UBC Board of Governors Meeting, and will publicly demand that
- the Board of Governors stops holding secret, undocumented meetings
- the Board honours its duty to operate in a transparent and accountable fashion
- an external review of its past practices takes place immediately
For more background on the issues leading to this protest, see this letter from the Faculty Association of UBC, which details how the BoG has, among other things, held committee meetings that left no official record, and made decisions about personnel matters without formal assessments or performance reviews.
Please share with all interested UBC people: faculty, students, alumni.
And faculty are encouraged to wear academic robes if they have them!
We have invited MLA David Eby, MLA Andrew Weaver, Minister Andrew Wilkinson, and President Arvind Gupta to join us and speak about these issues.
Special issue: Educate. Agitate. Organize: New and Not-So-New Teacher Movements #activism #k12 #education #edreform
We are thrilled to launch this Special Issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour:EDUCATE. AGITATE. ORGANIZE: NEW AND NOT-SO-NEW TEACHER MOVEMENTS
Special Issue of Workplace
Mark Stern, Amy E. Brown & Khuram Hussain
- Forward: The Systemic Cycle of Brokenness
- Tamara Anderson
- Introduction to the Special Issue: Educate. Agitate. Organize: New and Not-So-New Teacher Movements
- Mark Stern, Amy E. Brown, Khuram Hussain
- Principles to Practice: Philadelphia Educators Putting Social Movement Unionism into Action
- Rhiannon M Maton
- Teaching amidst Precarity: Philadelphia’s Teachers, Neighborhood Schools and the Public Education Crisis
- Julia Ann McWilliams
- Inquiry, Policy, and Teacher Communities: Counter Mandates and Teacher Resistance in an Urban School District
- Katherine Crawford-Garrett, Kathleen Riley
- More than a Score: Neoliberalism, Testing & Teacher Evaluations
- Megan E Behrent
- Resistance to Indiana’s Neoliberal Education Policies: How Glenda Ritz Won
- Jose Ivan Martinez, Jeffery L. Cantrell, Jayne Beilke
- “We Need to Grab Power Where We Can”: Teacher Activists’ Responses to Policies of Privatization and the Assault on Teachers in Chicago
- Sophia Rodriguez
- The Paradoxes, Perils, and Possibilities of Teacher Resistance in a Right-to-Work State
- Christina Convertino
- Place-Based Education in Detroit: A Critical History of The James & Grace Lee Boggs School
- Christina Van Houten
- Voices from the Ground
- Feeling Like a Movement: Visual Cultures of Educational Resistance
- Erica R. Meiners, Therese Quinn
- Construir Y No Destruir (Build and Do Not Destroy): Tucson Resisting
- Anita Fernández
- Existential Philosophy as Attitude and Pedagogy for Self and Student Liberation
- Sheryl Joy Lieb
- No Sermons in Stone (Bernstein) + Left Behind (Austinxc04)
- Richard Bernstein, Austinxc04
Sandra Mathison, Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors, Institute for Critical Education Studies
Information that has come out from freedom of information requests, as well as Wednesday’s leak of documents, has justified our concern that the Board of Governors had acted via secret, in camera processes that do not meet the standards of best practices for public bodies in British Columbia. Worse, it is becoming apparent that such a lack of public accountability is the normal mode of operation for the UBC Board of Governors, and we are concerned that the actions of the Board may expose the University to charges of contravention of the University Act and provincial privacy and access to information laws….
It is alarming to us that the records supplied in response to a formal request under the Access to Information laws should be incomplete, and that University Counsel should be supplied with incomplete records. As such, this would appear to be a violation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)….
What remains unknown about Board procedures is, we think, significant in the matter of Dr. Gupta’s resignation. Board procedures, more generally, appear not to be documented. Instead, they appear to be maintained as some form of “oral knowledge” managed by either the Board Secretary or the University Counsel, depending on the matter. This is at variance with best practices, and certainly inconsistent with a notion of open and transparent university governance….
Given the events that have unfolded thus far and the information that has been revealed, we believe it is time for an external review of the UBC Board and its practices. Such a review should be an open process that engages fully the faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the University of British Columbia.
Superb work on behalf of members of the University and the public good.
Dear John, how goes it?
Did you hear what happened? Spoiler Alert: you’re not going to believe it!
First Law of UBC’s Statement on Respectful Environment: Thou cannot complain up.
You and our good ‘ol Board of Governors knew this better than everyone; after all, pursuant to Policy #1, you administrated all 97 Policies, plus the Statement.
And we all know what that Statement says about complaining up: “Bullying or harassment does not include the exercise of appropriate managerial or supervisory direction, including performance management.”
The President, of all people, has the right under the Statement to be uppity, snippity, and, to be candid, John, “void of empathy” whenever he, she, or they exercise/s managerial direction. It’s b&w in the Statement. It’s in the book.
Truth be told John, if the middle managers deemed Arvind “too quick to engage in debate in a confrontational or dismissive manner, which is demoralising to a group of executives in fear of their employment security,” you should have enforced the First Law, took those managers to task, and protected that top level.
Remember, the purpose of the Statement is not only to pit faculty against faculty, staff against staff, and student against student. It is all that, secondarily for sure.
The primary purpose of the Statement is to protect managers from any bottom up criticism. That toxic critique of Arvind should’ve been nipped in the bud.
Top down, never bottom up.
It’s awesome to know you and we all now feel we know you even better. You now know us a little better too! Sometimes a “course correction” is ok.
Be good (and if you can’t be good at BMO, by all means, be bad).
UBC, famous for its pots calling kettles black, is now scrambling to explain why its unaccountable Board of Governors is lecturing its President on accountability. “We are still not certain that you fully appreciate the scope of your accountability,” Gupta was told last May.
UBC, famous for cutting off its nose to spite its face and body, is now in reaction mode trying to explain why its President, having just secured $66.5m of federal research funds is the same day hauled into meetings and told “You are deemed too quick to engage in debate in a confrontational or dismissive manner.”
UBC, famous for redecorating its deck chairs as its leadership sinks, is now back-pedalling to explain why its Chairman is dressing down its President for not addressing the Board “in a manner that is ‘Presidential’.”
VP External Relations Steencamp, welcome to UBC. Suddenly there is a lot of communicating to do. “UBC will not be commenting.” Say what?
Given the implications that an unelected body has been running the show at the University of British Columbia, through a series of behind the scenes ad hoc committees, confidence in governance has waned. It is time to recall the Board of Governors. And time to rescind the tuition hike the Board approved in December. Accountability?
After six months of silence, Arvid Gupta is speaking and sorting out distortions of his resignation and what transpired behind the scenes. The Globe and Mail posted a summary last night and this morning Gupta took to the airwaves on CBC.
A one-sided story prompted the University of British Columbia’s ex-President to introduce a reality check. UBC fumbled with Freedom of Information requests for six months but finally disclosed a package earlier this week. UBC Insiders detailed the serious implications of the embedded files, and by yesterday’s end Gupta broke the silence.
Turns out UBC’s Board of Governors formed an ad hoc committee to deflect the President’s attention from reform to their concerns with his style. Listen to CBC for Gupta’s side.
Suggestions that records were “unintentionally leaked” in the University of British Columbia’s Disclosure of FoI records seem a bit of a leap. UBC’s VP External Relations and University Counsel’s only statement on this says nothing about this being unintentional. “UBC deeply regrets… this privacy breach” but says nothing else.
Embedding files within a pdf is extremely intentional.
We need to establish that the embedded files are original records or were tampered with. The docx files embedded (e.g., in record 491) have no time or date stamp in the properties. When were they written or edited?
I’m not yet convinced that these two embedded docx files are the actual or entire records (i.e., “RE: Review of Meeting Held on May 18” and “Follow-Up to Our June 2nd Conversation”).
If the embedded records @ 491 are original, then this level of communication between the Board of Governors and the UBC President is another sign that this BoG has to go.
All who are calling for wholesale resignations across UBC’s BoG? Yes.
The University of British Columbia’s Office of the University Counsel released records this morning related to “Dr. Arvind Gupta’s resignation of his appointment as President and Vice-Chancellor.” Click here for Freedom of Information Disclosure Package.
Initial assessment: Redaction is rampant (e.g., 281-287, 467-83, 492-501, Strategic Plan 516-546, 566-577, 581-584, 846-861). This is sad but predictable. But now we have something to work with. Finally. Thank you FoI?
The process of redaction is simply discretionary: a body can decide what to redact and what to disclose. And for too many records in this Disclosure the redaction is wholesale. Exemptions from disclosure are discretionary and in this case legalism prevails over UBC. Sections 13 (Policy advice or recommendations) and 22 (Disclosure harmful to personal privacy) of the Act are used wholesale in this Disclosure.
Second assessment: Records are undisclosed. There is a large volume of records related to this controversy that remain undisclosed–withheld from Freedom of Information disclosure.
Third assessment: It’s quite a shame and sham, depending on how this disclosure is read. There are way too many red herrings and entirely irrelevant records in this Disclosure (e.g., the Ministry of Advanced Education records, 630-681). I read through the Disclosure package and learned little to nothing about President Gupta’s resignation, his Performance Evaluation, and the role of actors on campus, such as the VPs, Deans, and Board of Governors.
The most relevant records (566-584) are unreasonably redacted: BoG problems late July leading to the resignation. The sole record between Gupta and BoG concerning the resignation (589) is fully redacted. There is an interesting record concerning the Deans (439) as heads were rolling RE President Gupta’s reform of the the now infamous “Provost Model.”
Tentative Final assessment: Request comprehensive disclosure. Follow the money. Deans are running up deficits year after year in many cases as they bloat the admin ranks. Meantime, FT hires stagnate, graduate funding declines, and tuition rises. Follow the money to find out what happened between President Gupta and the BoG.
Index to the Disclosure Package:
- Records related to Dr. Arvind Gupta’s Departure, 1-7
- Records related to Dr. Arvind Gupta’s Performance Targets, 8-33
- Dr. Arvind Gupta’s Expenses, 34-124
- Dr. Arvind Gupta’s Calendar, 125-132
- Records related to Dr. Arvind Gupta’s Emails, 133-248
- Emails between Dr. Arvind Gupta and John Montalbano, 249-587
- Emails between Dr. Arvind Gupta and Board of Governors in relation to resignation, 588-589
- John Montalbano Emails containing “Arvind or Gupta” and “resignation or Piper”, 590-611
- Susan Danard Emails containing “Arvind or Gupta” and “resignation or Piper”, 612-629
- Emails between President’s Office, Board of Governors & Ministry of Education, 630-681
The University of British Columbia is renowned for its lack of accountability and transparency in budget practices. This past year, with sustained failures of accountability and transparency since President Gupta’s resignation in August, the handling of UBC’s budget has reached a new bottom.
Early last week, VP Finance Simpson assembled the Deans and Directors of Finance from each Faculty to present their budgets. The optics are that they played patty-cake over the budget for two days. President Piper is on record commenting that the ‘presentations were excellent’. Yes, many of the Faculties’ budgets are a mess—in perennial deficit– but the PowerPoint slides the Deans presented are a thing of beauty. So that’s where we’re at here at UBC.
Yes, the administrators all get a trophy for participating. Is this not the ‘pampered Dean syndrome’?
Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped…. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet.
In the meantime, too messed (tuum est, eh?) is the budget that in December President Piper rushed the Board of Governors to once again approve international student tuition increases across the Faculties, e.g.:
- An increase in tuition for new incoming international students effective May 1, 2016 and for the two succeeding academic years:
- (a) International undergraduate students (including baccalaureate and post baccalaureate programs):
- 15% increase for all programs (listed in Appendix A), except the Bachelor of Education (0% increase) and the Bachelor of Commerce (23.5% increase) for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
- A range of increases from 0% to 15%, as specified in Appendix A, for 2018-2019.
- (b) Non-thesis-based international graduate students:
- A range of increases from 3% to 100%, for programs specified in Appendix A, for 2016-2017.
The PPT slides are a thing of beauty.
Meantime, administrative bloat continues unabated at UBC. Some of the administrators, with their Faculties in deficit, walked out of last week’s budget meeting with the President’s and VP Finance’s approval to hire, yes, more administrators.
Meanwhile, graduate student funding has stagnated; internal graduate funding in some Faculties has not increased for 15 years. Departments have been starved for FT faculty hires and postdocs face an increasingly bleak academic job market.
Meantime, agencies of budget accountability and transparency at UBC, such as the Council of Senates’ Budget Committee, have been reduced to attendants of minutiae. In September, the Budget “Committee Chair noted that the Committee’s formal mandate to advise the President on the University budget, but that it now tended for focus on areas of particular interest to its members, such as the new Student Information System.”
Such is the state of UBC’s budget accountability and transparency. Please, someone has to hold these Deans to account for their budgets.
Oh yea, almost forgot again, happy new year + #100!
The Faculty Association of UBC weighed in on the search for a new President. Since the sudden and still unaccounted for resignation of President Gupta, the University has been reduced to speculation after speculation and controversy after controversy. Now, a search committee for a new President is groping in the dark. With no sense of history or what happened, the search committee is wondering what to do next. Enter the FAUBC:
We strongly urge you to pursue the appointment of an external candidate, one not associated with recent controversies…. Sudden presidential transitions in the university context are unusual, and destructive of internal and external confidence in the institution. It is critical to have a new president who is clearly not part of the pre-existing set of circumstances that saw these crises precipitate.
We add, as well, the observation that the Faculty Association has a large number of unresolved grievances involving the central administration and several deans on core issues such as academic freedom, human rights, and collegial governance (e.g. deans’ interference in hiring and in workload assignments). It will be an unfortunate distraction and complication if the new president is someone al ready implicated in any of these matters. We urge you to seize the opportunity to make a fresh start as we begin to move forward.
E. Wayne Ross on The Courage of Hopelessness: Democratic Education in the Age of Empire #ubcnews #criticaled #ubceduc
THE COURAGE OF HOPELESSNESS: DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE
E. Wayne Ross
E. Wayne Ross
University of British Columbia
Friday, January 15th, 2016 12:30-2:00 p.m.
Scarfe Room 310
In this talk I argue there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of democracy in North America that subverts traditional approaches to democratic education. The tropes that have historically dominated the discourse on democracy and democratic education now amount to selling students (and ourselves) a lie about history and contemporary life. Our challenge is to re-imagine our roles as educators and find ways to create opportunities for students to create meaningful personal understandings of the world. Education is not about showing life to people, but bringing them to life. The aim is not getting students to listen to convincing lectures by experts, but getting them to speak for themselves in order to achieve, or at least strive for an equal degree of participation and a more democratic, equitable, and justice future. This requires a new mindset, something I call dangerous citizenship.
E. Wayne Ross is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC. He has written and edited numerous books including: Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies and Social Education (Sense, 2010); The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems and Possibilities (4th Ed., SUNY Press, 2014) and Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom (Peter Lang, 2016). He also edits the journals Critical Education, Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and Cultural Logic.
Open Letter to UBC President Piper:
Time to Lay Down the Mace
Time to Lay Down the Mace
It has been an emotional year for the University of British Columbia. As budgets moved from Central, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada launched Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. The residential university and college take on new meaning. 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. Now, as we march to Convocation, students and alumni launch evidence that UBC is failing to properly respond to sexual assaults on campus.
In the meantime, terrorists and terror struck Sharm el-Sheikh, Beirut and Paris while the dogs of war howl for bombers and drones to command from the skies above. Increasingly larger regions of the world live in a state of emergency.
It’s difficult to know where this University now stands or what it stands for.
To take a stand symbolic of peace and reconciliation, please lay down the mace for ceremonies and Convocation. Please put away the coat of arms and lay down the mace. If not for good, then how about for peace?
It is time to retire this symbol of aggression, authority and war. It’s time to march to graduation ceremonies this week 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 your 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. That’s “too messed,” as the students say.
Is it not time to retire both?
Laura Kane & Geordon Omand, Canadian Press, November 24, 2015–The University of British Columbia seems more concerned about handling a public relations crisis than taking meaningful action to help women feel safe after multiple allegations of sexual assault, says a complainant.
Glynnis Kirchmeier, who is planning to launch a human-rights case against UBC, published an open letter to the university’s interim president on Tuesday.
In the letter, the former student questions why Martha Piper issued a public apology but didn’t directly contact her or other students who made complaints.
“I was surprised to learn on Sunday that you had issued an apology to ‘the women in these cases who feel they have been let down by our university,”‘ she wrote.
“Did you mean to include me? I did not receive a personal communication from you, though you could have asked associate VP Dr. Sara-Jane Finlay for my email and phone number.”
She and other former and current students held a news conference Sunday, when Kirchmeier announced her plans to file a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The women said the university lacks a clear policy for handling sexual assault reports and that it took a year and a half to act on six complaints about a PhD student.
Kirchmeier was not assaulted by the student but said she witnessed his behaviour and reported it to the university in January 2014. She said UBC failed to act on complaints by her and others until last week, when it said the student was no longer at the university.
Read More: Vancouver Sun