The Learning & Research of the UBC Board of Governors (II)

(This post is a slightly updated version of an article that appeared on October 10 in The Ubyssey).

On September 12, I resigned from the Chair of the Learning and Research (L&R) Committee of the Board. I chose to do it in an open session because I happen to believe that transparency is key to accountability and therefore most sessions of the Board should be open. As to why I have decided to resign can be summarized in the following three reasons.
Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors | Leave a comment

The Learning & Research committee of the UBC Board: What a difference a year makes (I)

“You had demanded to chair the Learning and Research Committee,” the Chair of the Board proclaimed at last week’s open meeting of a Board’s committee. You bet I did, I replied, “because the reason I ran for the Board one more time is precisely to stop the marginalization of the UBC-Vancouver faculty representatives on this Board.” Charles Menzies interrupted that exchange, and so we may never know whether the chair was tone-policing me (again) by stressing that I had “demanded” or just claiming to have been particularly accommodating to the UBC-V faculty representatives. For I became the Chair of the Learning and Research (L&R) committee of the Board and this series of posts is about what we have done with it over the past year.

Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors, Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UBC: Failures in governance are slowing down the pace of academic renewal

I had promised many things to those who elected me to the Board of Governors as a faculty representative for UBC-Vancouver. But as I mentioned in a previous post, a data dump from the faculty association last October opened my eyes as to what my top priority should be. The data showed how far this university had veered away from its academic mission. Between 2006 and 2018 student enrolment has increased about 52% (41,573 in 2006 vs. 63,439 in 2018). The FA data shows that in the same period the RESEARCH faculty increased 4.2% (from 2,107 to 2,196) and the TOTAL faculty rose 8.2% (from 2,965 to 3,209). The numbers provided by the administration are different but the overall picture is similar. Here is a personal account on how things developed since, with a focus on what I see as deficiencies in governance practices that are pre-empting both Board and Administration from realizing stated ambitions.

Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A research community at the mercy of a leaderless NSERC  

The bureaucrats of a leaderless NSERC have extended the 5-year grants of three research institutes by two years. This amounts to assigning awards exceeding $7,500,000. They have done so without peer review and against the wishes of one of their own liaison committees and even against the stated position of most of the grantees themselves. Besides issues of authority and accountability, this seemingly friendly act is destined to fracture a research community that strives to work collaboratively and coherently for the national interest. Moreover, the move threatens to upend Canadian leadership in a fragile international collaboration.  Let me explain.

Continue reading

Posted in Op-eds, R&D Policy | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A busy first four months on the UBC Board of Governors

Things are different from my earlier 2008-14 term on the Board of Governors, but I still don’t know exactly why. The 2015-17 “revolt of the faculty” has surely been a factor. The UBClean campaign was triggered by questionable actions of a clueless Board vis-a-vis a new presidency that was trying -among other things- to refocus the university on the academic mission.  And now we have more data about how far this university had erred away from that mission: the number of assistant professors decreased from 619 in 2006 to 408 in 2017, while student enrollment increased during that same period by more than 20,000–Think about it! My sense is that the current Board -in spite of its new membership- has learned from that painful episode and is trying to re-prioritize the core mission of the university: learning and research. I am not so sure yet about our relatively new administration, which may still be taking its pointers from an entrenched middle management. Otherwise, why do they keep defending an inglorious record that is not theirs to own?

Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors, Op-eds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Academic publishing in the time of sanctions and boycotts

On December 7th, the academic publisher Taylor & Francis informed two authors that they are unable to publish their mathematical research paper, even though it had been accepted by the editorial board of one of its journals two years after submission and revisions. Actually the paper had been posted online and a DOI had been assigned. The reason given? The US sanctions on the authors’ country: Iran. I give a bit more details below, but there is also another story within the story.

Continue reading

Posted in Op-eds, R&D Policy | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Maurice Sion: 1927 – 2018

Maurice Sion was a very dear friend and a distinguished colleague in the mathematics department at the University of British Columbia. He died peacefully in his sleep on April 20, 2018. Maurice retired from UBC in 1989, after a career in which he contributed much to Mathematics and to our university. A former Department Head, Maurice was the lead organizer for the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Vancouver in 1974. There was a memorial service for him on July 27, 2018. I spoke there about Maurice’s life and my personal relation with him and his family. I was planning to include my notes here, but then the speeches of his three children were so spectacular that they were the ones worth publishing. Here is the one by his daughter Sarica, where she documents his fascinating pre-UBC years.

Continue reading

Posted in Honouring friends | Tagged | Leave a comment