When credit is due

Last week, UBC inaugurated its new Law building. So what? You may say. What’s the big deal about yet another building in UBC’s amazing journey of development and renewal? Well, to me, the story behind the completion of this major project is as important as the feat of having it built and operating before the start of the academic year. It is a story of good governance, of credible leadership, and of trust.

I have written before about the complex relationship between the Board of Governors and the Administration. I have said that, “in practice, oversight (by the Board) is not as obvious as it sounds, since essentially all the information that forms the basis of Board decisions is provided by the Administration.” But, I have also said, “Compatibility and trust become the main currencies in this relationship.”

The arduous journey towards the completion of this new law building is a marvelous illustration of what good governance is. It is also a textbook exercise on how confidence and trust develop between the Board of Governors and the administration it is supposed to oversee. It is also a good illustration of sound decision-making and on how projects move forward at a well-run university.

Indeed, the project was jumpstarted a few years ago by a substantial but far from sufficient donation from the Law Foundation of British Columbia. The additional fundraising that was required for the building was however not forthcoming. In spite of being high on the Administration’s academic priority list, the Board (and I bear much responsibility) resisted the use of university operating funds to proceed with the project and declined to give the go-ahead before we get close to the required amount for the construction.

Eventually, the Board approved the project in July 2009, but not before the President made a convincing plea for its academic importance, in addition to a personal pledge to actively fundraise for it.

Two years later and merely a couple of months before the completion of the construction, the President and his team delivered on the pledge.

Thank you Stephen Toope, for augmenting UBC’s financial Capital, but more importantly for adding to your administration’s credibility and trust Capital, which makes our job as Governors so much easier.

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