Dean Marc Parlange weighs in on president Gupta’s “resignation”

In a letter to the Faculty of Applied Science at UBC, Dean Marc Parlange made some of his views known as to the complex — and confidential — resignation decision of former President Arvind Gupta,” while throwing his support behind Chancellor Lindsay Gordon and others in the current UBC administration. The Dean seems to be unaware of what the leaks have revealed about the so-called “resignation” and how “confidentiality” had been handled by some in the UBC administration. He seems, however, conscious of the ongoing campus protests, the Faculty Association’s in-depth analysis of the situation, and the AMS principled statement. He wrote, “I have been less impressed, however, with some recent developments elsewhere within the university community regarding this same matter”. What’s remarkable is how dismissive the Dean seems to be of the concerns of the faculty and students, whose associations are calling for transparency and accountability at UBC. Questions are already being raised about the link between the Dean’s statement and the groundswell support for the petition advocating a vote of non-confidence in the Board of Governors. The Dean’s message also coincides with recently published articles inquiring about the role of Deans and mid-level management in the current crisis.    

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The students join the faculty in requesting a judicial review of the UBC Board of Governors

In a major reversal of past positions vis-a-vis president Gupta’s departure from UBC, the Student Society of UBC-Vancouver issued a public statement expressing disappointment in the process followed by the Board of Governors as revealed by the recent leaks. The AMS urges “the incoming Chair of the Board of Governors to instigate an external review process into governance practices,” and asks the Board “to delay approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such time as the suggested external review is complete and incorporated.” On the faculty’s front, a petition (see below) is circulating for presentation to the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee. It calls for the latter to bring a motion to its membership expressing no confidence in the UBC Board of Governors. Faculty members who wish to sign should send an email to ubc.fa.resolution@gmail.com from their @ubc.ca email address.

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The UBC Board of Governors is operating in the “shadows”

This is according to a scathing letter sent today by the Executive of the UBC Faculty Association to thousands of its members. It is becoming clear that the replacement of John Montalbano by Stuart Belkin as Chair of the Board hasn’t been accepted as sufficient enough to assuage the concerns of the UBC faculty. Indeed, another letter was sent today to the Chair, Stuart Belkin, Premier Christy Clark, and Minister of Advanced Education, Andrew Wilkinson. “It has become clear that the University of British Columbia is in the midst of a governance crisis”, the letter says. They also call for a judicial external review of the Board and its operations. The acting Chair, Alice Laberge, had mentioned to the protesters who crashed Tuesday’s Board meeting, that Belkin was committed to reform and that he has a few ideas about how to improve transparency and accountability at the Board level. This said, the concrete evidence of irregularities is quickly piling up, and we don’t see how the government can avoid a judicial review.

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Spring cleaning has started early at UBC

It was historic, it was rowdy, and it was fun. It has been a while since UBC has seen a couple of hundred of its faculty screaming their heads off, protesting the Board of Governors meeting, and demanding UBC management and Board accountability. A friend related how the gathering provided a nice and welcome opportunity to get to meet colleagues from other departments and Faculties: a rare occurrence at UBC. Some of the protesters wanted nothing less but the resignation of Chancellor Lindsay Gordon. The Smith report, recent FOI disclosures, and the latest unintentional UBC leaks have been pointing to his direct involvement in the Berdahl case, as well as in the brutal removal of President Gupta. Quite a feat for someone who had been in this –mostly ceremonial– position for less than year.

12631499_10100958852383941_5752796274896187777_nIt is worth noting that in the December 2015 Board meeting, and four months after these two unprecedented acts, Lindsay Gordon was quoted as saying“I don’t come from an academic background, so I am still not sure what I can and cannot do as a Governor.” Protesters seem to agree and are wary of the fact that he is now chairing the presidential search committee to choose the successor of Dr. Gupta. In the meantime, we suggest that he takes a look at Alan Richardson’s analysis of the difference between a university’s board and a corporate board.

UBC faculty, staff and students were also demanding a clean up of the Board and university administration, in particular that:

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Beyond the BoG Standard: UBC Governance and the Need for an Academic Voice in Choosing Our Next President

By Alan Richardson, Professor of Philosophy, UBC

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“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. The Board will provide its full support to Dr. Gupta as he guides UBC in its pursuit of excellence, so that we may better serve the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world.” – John Montalbano about Arvind Gupta, March 2014

“You must refrain from thinking controversial thoughts out loud, especially when the facts are far from certain.  Creating division among individuals whether within the Executive, the Board or the Deans must cease immediately.  The role of the President is to bring people to together.” – John Montalbano to Arvind Gupta, May 2015

These are strange times at UBC.  In the opinion of the then Chair of the Board of Governors (BoG) the person who was the “best choice to lead this great university” in the winter of 2014 became, by spring of 2015, someone who failed to understand the basic job of the President. By the middle of summer…

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Together we can make UBC transparent and accountable

UBC faculty, staff and students will gather on Tuesday, February 2 at 12:30 PM2:00 PM at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre, 6163 University Boulevard.

They will protest the upcoming UBC Board of Governors Meeting, and will publicly demand that

  • the Board of Governors stop holding secret, undocumented meeting
  • the Board honour its duty to operate in a transparent and accountable fashion
  • an external review of its past practices take place immediately

For more background on the issues leading to this protest, see this letter from the Faculty Association, 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, staff, alumni… 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.

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A statement by Dr Arvind Gupta

Today UBC released a number of documents related to my resignation as President and Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia. As a result, I am compelled to comment on the documents, their content, tone and the accuracy of what they portray.

What was published is a one-sided representation of what transpired in the months prior to my resignation.

I have spent my entire working life trying to make this country and province better. The chance to be UBC’s President was an exciting opportunity to build a 21st century university, one that is better connected to the community, and the bigger world beyond the campus. This modern version of our largest university is essential to making BC into an even better society.

As President, I made a commitment to the people of British Columbia, the Board, the students and the faculty that we would move UBC to become one of the top universities in the world.

That goal meant substantial change including a rethinking of priorities and refocusing on the academic mission. And change can make some people uneasy. If it didn’t, it would be called the status quo. So, it is no surprise that not everyone at the university embraced this vision and the required actions.

That said, the assertions in the released documents, were not based on facts or evidence given to me at any time.

Still, I attempted to work in a collegial manner which is the hallmark of every well-governed university. Unfortunately there was never any formal review of my performance, or outreach by the Board to the broader university community. This would have allowed both the UBC Board and myself to assess my first year accomplishments and the scope of the work ahead.

This summer it became clear to me, that I did not have the support of the full Board, and as such felt I had no other option but to resign in the best interest of the university. It is my sincerest hope that I with leading UBC scholars will carry on with this important work on behalf of UBC, British Columbia, and Canada.

Media Contact:

Kirk Williams

604 340 4597

kwilliams@pacegroup.com

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