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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
Whereas things at UBC are too messed rather than Tuum Est, and whereas symbolic speech plays a significant role in governance, we propose that the Board of Governors change the University’s coveted motto to Potentia ad Populum, “Power to the People.”
This change would do justice to UBC President Wesbrook’s anticipation in 1916 that UBC would be the “people’s University,” which could hardly be translated into a condescending corporate brand or real estate agency. Or could it?
Each time Admin chants Tuum Est, an entire history of bad Latin is recalled in mistranslation. In context of its initial translation from Greek to the Latin Lord’s Prayer (i.e., Pater Noster) and later in Jerome’s translation of the Book of Jeremiah, tuum est refers to deference and reverence to the power, right, and glory of God’s Kingdom. In Horace’s Melpomene, it is rendered as reverent debt and duty to the muse.
A decade or so after UBC’s first President uttered Tuum Est in the 1916 Invocation, the motto was secularized with relative hubris: “It is Up to You.” Or alternatively and eventually, as in the classic Seinfeld episode, to “Master of my domain.” By the 1930s and 40s, this was perfect for advertising Felix Dry Ginger Ale. As the ad went, Tuum Est “can well be carried into business.” Nowadays, we notice that the Board and Admin are giving lip service– labellum officium or other wise hypocrisis in Latin– to the meaning of the motto.
For the next century, how about a new UBC motto? Potentia ad Populum
Faculty members at the University of British Columbia overwhelmingly approved a motion of no confidence in the Board of Governors. This is unprecedented at the University and demonstrates the ineffectiveness of this governing body.
For seven months, the University and its Board have been entirely unaccountable to faulty, staff, and students. On 7 August, the University announced the resignation of President Arvind Gupta and immediately began a process of sweeping evidence under the rug by shielding records in non-disclosure agreements.
For faculty members, the unaccountability and disclosure of shadow governance combined to a no confidence vote.
The Faculty Association will now take next steps in acting on the vote.
Since University of British Columbia executives scrambled on 7 August 2015 to announce the sudden resignation of President Gupta and seal records related to the resignation, confidence in the Board of Governors has progressively waned. The Board has been entirely unaccountable to its actions and unresponsive to consistent calls from faculty, students, and staff to come clean.
On 22 March, faculty members assembled to move and debate the no confidence motion. UBC faculty members are now voting on the following:
#UBC admin again dodges accountability in report on privacy breach @ubcnews #ubcnews #ubc100 #bced #highered
Yet another “investigation” into administrative mismanagement at the University of British Columbia has failed to find any facts related to leadership. Today’s report on the investigation into the “privacy breach” or leak of records related to President Gupta’s resignation fails to find accountability at the top of the Office of the University Counsel. From within this Office was an inadvertent leak of records supplementing UBC’s official disclosure.
Made aware of the “privacy breach,” on 27 January VP External Relations Philip Steencamp and University Counsel Hubert Lai announced that they would “immediately launch an independent investigation into how the material became public.”
Already on 28 January, Steencamp and Lai were back-pedalling: “UBC deeply regrets the error that led to this privacy breach…. To that end, UBC has retained an external expert to review its disclosure practices and provide recommendations.”
The Smith Report on breaches of academic freedom UBC following the announcement of Gupta’s resignation cost the University about $78k.
So taking the Review of UBC’s Processing of Freedom of Information Requests as an investigation report, UBC is now 0/3 in finding facts of accountability in its recent reports.
The first was the Fact Finding Report: Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) FROSH CHANTS. The second was the Summary of the fact-finding process and conclusions regarding alleged breaches of academic freedom and other university policies at the University of British Columbia.
Since August and the announcement of President Gupta’s resignation, avoidance of accountability has grown progressively worse.
Avoidance of accountability is now UBC’s greatest liability.
At the same time, faculty members’ access to information regarding the budget and governance on campus is increasingly blocked and ridden with obstacles. Denied access to basic files and information, including budgets, faculty members are now forced to submit Freedom of Information requests.
And with that said, Information and Privacy within the Office of the University Counsel is swamped and overburdened, understaffed and unable to provide timely access to records.
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.
Building from the power of petition, faculty members at the University of British Columbia are moving toward a vote of no confidence in the Board of Governors.
A “no confidence” vote will set a new precedent at UBC wherein accountability in shared governance takes on meaning.
Since University executives scrambled on 7 August 2015 to announce the sudden resignation of President Gupta and seal records related to the resignation, confidence in the Board of Governors has progressively eroded.
Members should have received a notice regarding the presentation of a petition to the UBC Faculty Association signed by over 450 faculty seeking to have a membership vote on a no confidence motion. The motion, sponsored by Jonathan Ichikawa (Philosophy), Juliet O’Brien (FHIS), and Alan Richardson (Philosophy) is as follows:
“Be it resolved that the Faculty Association of the University of British Columbia has no confidence in the University of British Columbia Board of Governors.”
In the opaque cloud of process, the University of British Columbia announced yesterday that it is operating “in a constrained funding environment.” So what in the world does “constrained funding” mean?
Of course, UBC’s faculty and students have grown accustomed to “constrained funding” if this means few to no internal funds for research and teaching despite millions in revenue for more administrators and capital projects. Yes, we know what “constrained funding” means in that sense.
But what exactly does “a constrained funding environment” mean at the University level? Does it mean a $120m deficit? $30m deficit?
Does it simply mean that the economy and Loonie and are nosediving, so expect the worst in 2016-17?
Lo and behold, the University of British Columbia finally made an announcement about the budget leading into a new fiscal year (1 April 2016). Trouble is, the budget news is vague and the process opaque.
Compared to other Canadian universities, UBC faculty, staff, and students are in the dark on the budget, whether it be at the University or local unit levels.
Today’s news that “UBC continues to operate in a constrained funding environment” is clear as mud. How “constrained”?
The Provost continues to hold a freeze on faculty hiring and a balance of Faculties are running up deficits. Come September, the University will most certainly face another $100m deficit with expenses increasing.
UBC announced that “many central administrative units absorbed significant budget reductions in the last year, and most of these flow into 2016/17” but admin bloat continues unchecked.
For various reasons, the Deans have been pampered by a central administration looking the other way when it comes to the bloat and deficits.
Since the 7 August announcement of the sudden resignation of President Gupta, UBC has been silent about the budget. Actually, save for a very partial disclosure of records given a volume of FoI requests, UBC has been silent about most issues of accountability.
In the meantime. the Council of Senates’ Budget Committee has been left to tinker with Student Information Systems instead of holding UBC’s executives to account.
In an era not too long ago, deans were able to assert their authority on most matters of governance, finance, management, and planning. Now, with credibility and legitimacy eroding, with shadow systems opening to scrutiny, can mere assertion of authority and excellence continue to pass for reality or truth at UBC?
So what part of the “Deans support UBC leadership” Op-Ed is believable or persuasive? Can the Deans support their “strongest” assertion?
Let’s test this assertion of commitment “to the pursuit of academic excellence” with a graduate program on campus:
- A graduate diploma mill, which in 13.5 years graduated 680 masters students but did not hire a single FT faculty member. Yes, 680 masters students and 0 FT faculty hired in 13.5 years.
- Instead is an exploitation Sessional labour—85% of all the courses—to teach at a piecemeal per student wage while their benefits start and stop at the term’s beginning and end. Staff members are hired to teach, who then double-up on their M&P jobs and displace the Sessionals from additional course assignments. The Sessionals are denied office space or worse:
- “Per the policy and requirements of space usage in [the academic building] for Sessional instructors, the  temporary office space, must be cleared of all personal belongings, borrowed library items and additional furniture installed.
- If, by Dec 1, 2015, the space is not restored to its original condition, items will be disposed of, and you shall be invoiced for the cost of clearing and removal.
- As requested, I attach the photos of the room in its original condition, taken prior to it being temporarily assigned to you in February 2015.”
- It took 8 years of agitation across two Faculties to complete a single Self-Study and Program Review. There are 7 administrators overseeing this Program but not a one could initiate a Review. Effectively, when it finally did happen, well, let’s just say that an expectation of arm’s length Reviewers was mocked.
- Did I mention that this was a revenue generating program and maybe there is something to shield from scrutiny? When in April 2015 the Associate-Provost reviewed the Office (yes, Office) that runs and manages the Program, he reported:
- “Shadow systems are used more than University systems which is concerning because the data in the shadow systems are not verifiable, and because of the opportunity for misuse of funds.”
- In the last four years, this program generated about $5.4m in total revenue but we cannot account for expenses or overhead “because the data in the shadow systems are not verifiable.”
- Where does the money go then?
- Is it just thrown at the deficit that’s run up elsewhere year after year?
- But still, where does the money go? Is it just paying for administrative bloat?
- Did I mention 680 masters student graduates and 0 FT faculty in 13.5 years?
If this is “academic excellence” we’d hate to see academic mediocrity or compromise…
Lowering the bar of excellence? No, just inflating the envelope of greatness.
Moira Warburton, The Ubyssey, February 9, 2016– A rainbow flag, raised on the pole outside the old SUB for the Pride Collective at UBC’s OUTweek this week, was discovered to have been burnt down earlier today in what is presumed to be a violent act of hate.
Pride Collective members noticed that the flag was missing this morning and contacted the UBC Equity and Inclusion Office to ask if they knew anything about the disappearance. Upon investigation, the office found remnants of the scorched flag still attached to the pole.
“It’s been a rough day,” said Rachel Garrett, one of the coordinators of the Pride Collective. “[There’s been] a lot of stress. I don’t think any of us feel safe right now and that’s a really hard feeling to be going through.”
OUTweek is an annual eight-day event, organized by the Pride Collective, which celebrates “queer and trans identities, communities and learning,” according to its Facebook page.
Although OUTweek will not be completely cancelled, the Pride Collective has cancelled a Fuck the Cis-tem March due to take place tomorrow in response to the event because of concerns that it would give public recognition to individuals who could then potentially be targeted by further acts of hate.
Although OUTweek will not be completely cancelled, the Pride Collective has cancelled a Fuck the Cis-tem March due to take place tomorrow in response to the event because of concerns that it would give public recognition to individuals who could then potentially be targeted by further acts of hate.
Read More: The Ubyssey
On 7 August, the University of British Columbia announced the sudden resignation of President Arvind Gupta. The next day, Professor Jennifer Berdahl queried whether he lost a masulinity contest. The UBC Board of Governors Chair, John Montalbano, took exception to this query and expressed to Berdahl his dismay. Sauder School of Business administrators also objected and requested she downplay the post and tread carefully so as not to insult financial donors, such as Montalbano, when speaking and writing.
On 25 August, UBC and the Faculty Association agreed to find the facts of the “alleged breaches” of academic freedom. On 15 October, UBC released a 10 page summary of the 84 page Report written by the Honourable Lynn Smith. The Summary is peculiar in its exclusion of any facts of administration or management.
Following a Freedom of Information request, the University disclosed the full Report, albeit heavily redacted.
In the full Report, Smith offers a very helpful analysis of academic freedom, reaffirming “the ‘right to criticize’ either UBC or other societal or governmental Institutions” (p. 21).
Part and parcel of academic freedom, criticism or critique of University management, managers, decisions, and direction was reaffirmed in June 2015 in BC in a case involving faculty member George Rammel’s academic freedom in criticizing the Capilano University President’s directions and decisions.
The Berdahl and Rammell cases, combined, are extremely important for academic freedom.
UBC Deans, what do you know and when did you know it? After six months and a crisis that’s growing, it is time to come clean.
The Freedom of Information disclosure indicates that you were unhappy with President Gupta. On 1 May, Gupta couldn’t tell: “Things seem to be going well with the Deans now (or at least I think so).
On 22 April, a week after the FAUBC claimed a mini-victory over scaling back and amending Policy #81 (“Use of Teaching Materials in UBC Credit Courses”), Gupta did the accountable thing by announcing that he was moving Dave Farrar from the post of Provost.
Except the Deans. The Deans took a tantrum. Why is that?
Montalbano said as much to Gupta: “The issue with the Dean’s in response to the Provost announcement was a catastrophic example that you are not either being informed in a timely manner or worse.”
Ok Deans, time to speak up and come clean. What happened?
Time to come clean UBC Dean.
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!