Shared governance hits rock bottom at UBC, by Professor Stephen Petrina

The Board of Governors’ rejection this week of the Faculty Association’s request for accountability in President Gupta’s resignation marks the low point of shared or faculty governance at the University of British Columbia. It’s a shame that UBC sunk to rock bottom as it intended to rise to the occasion of its 100th birthday. Continue reading

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Artificial Intelligence uncovers how Gupta and Montalbano became blood brothers

In view of the sudden resignation of UBC’s president and the limited but informative statements provided by the Chair of the Board, a colleague decided to perform a computer-assisted reconstruction of the events that led to the resignation. She fed all the publicly available information into her state-of the-art computer program and added some of the known background about President Gupta, Chair Montalbano, and their associates. Here was the outcome as spelled out by R2D2. It is supposed to be funny, but if you don’t know whether to laugh or to cry, you are not alone. Continue reading

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The UBC leadership crisis is entering its fifth week. By “leadership crisis,” I include of course the sudden and non-explained resignation of a president, but also the glaring deficiency in leadership that followed. Starting with the amateurish handling of the announcement, to the alleged heavy-handed interference with a colleague’s research work, to the power vacuum eventually occupied by PR consultants, to the valiant but somewhat simplistic efforts of the interim president to restore a semblance of sanity to the institution. To those of you who are just joining us, here is a good analysis/summary of the situation by Melonie Fullick.

Originally posted on Whiteboard Workout:

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the recent events at UBC, it’s that silence can say more than words, whether you’re withholding information or telling someone else to keep quiet. That probably sounds obvious, but the university’s announcement of Arvind Gupta’s resignation—and its handling of the events that followed—reflect some problematic assumptions about who should be able to speak, when, and what should be said.

What was it that triggered UBC’s current public crisis? Gupta’s July 31 departure was announced publicly on August 7 in classic “Friday Afternoon News Dump” fashion: UBC published a news release, which was tweeted shortly after 4pm EDT. In a news release where roughly 50% of the text was devoted to celebratory prose about the incoming interim president (Dr. Martha Piper), UBC gave no explanation for Gupta’s resignation except that he had “decided he can best contribute to the university and lead…

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PR consultants, the “UBC side” and the rest of us

CBC Radio Early Edition host Rick Cluff introduced me at the beginning of the segment as someone who has been teaching at UBC for 38 years. Yet at the very end of my interview, he announced that “tomorrow, we will have someone representing the UBC side.” The UBC side was supposed to be John Montalbano, before the latter cancelled and was replaced by acting interim president Angela Redish. Many colleagues phoned me to mark their displeasure of this misstatement by Cluff. Right after the Twitter world reacted in the same way, a classy CBC Radio producer called me up to apologize. This incident was inadvertent. What follows was not. Continue reading

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UBC faculty to the Premier of BC: Help us out of this crisis

Two new types of allegations came out regarding John Montalbano, since I wrote 2 weeks ago the open letter asking him to resign from the UBC Board of Governors. One deals with his role in potentially compromising the academic freedom of one of our colleagues, and is being currently investigated by former Supreme Court Judge, Lynn Smith. Another relates to alleged conflict of interest violations, a matter that the Faculty Association is currently pursuing. But the original premise of failed leadership remains unanswered. Mr. Montalbano is still on the Board (though not Chair) hoping to be sufficiently cleared by the fact-finding report to get back in the saddle. Keep in mind that the investigation deals with only one –though an important one– of the Chair’s alleged actions. Continue reading

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What if dissent was manufactured?

Many colleagues wrote after last week’s post, that they had never heard of rumours of a “Deans’ rebellion”. Actually, I had started wondering about this when I learned that a few of the deans are as shocked and upset by the President’s resignation as most of the faculty. Furthermore, a couple of the dozen reporters sniffing around the Montalbano-Gupta affair asked me last week, whether I had heard of a joint letter from the Deans to the Board. I didn’t and for good reasons. One of the reporters eventually confirmed that no such letter exists; only a joint formal request by the Deans to meet the president to discuss the transition after Farrar’s departure from the provost-ship. So I started wondering. What if the rumours of a “Deans’ uprising” were only rumours? What if dissent had been manufactured? Continue reading

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Why the UBC Leadership Crisis Matters Beyond the Ivory Tower, by Professor E. Wayne Ross

The ongoing drama at University of British Columbia may look like a tempest in a teapot, but the dispute among university governors, managers, and faculty has implications that reach beyond the ivory tower. Two principles are at the heart of the crisis: transparency in governance and academic freedom. The early August announcement that Arvind Gupta had suddenly and immediately resigned as president was startling, coming just 13 months after his term began. In March 2014, UBC Board Chair John Montalbano said “The opportunity to lead one of the world’s great universities attracted outstanding candidates, but Dr. Arvind Gupta clearly stood out as the best choice to lead this great university.”

What happened? Continue reading

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