Let’s not make a habit out of this!

The UBC faculty and the UBC Board of Governors have just ratified their collective agreement for 2010-2011. That’s six months after the previous contract had expired on June 30, 2010.

I wasn’t the only one surprised by this turn of events. “Are we entering a new era of adversarial relations between the faculty and the administration?”, colleagues started to ask.

Indeed, we thought that these often unnecessary disputes were part of a forgettable history, a period of strife between the UBC faculty and its administration that was ended by President Martha Piper in the 90s. Early on in her presidency, Piper gave top priority to faculty relations, and instructed its administration to never resort to hard-fought and drawn out disputes. Under Martha, salary adjustments and related agreements were always ready on July 1.

Why were we surprised by the protracted disagreement that dragged out long after the expiration of a relatively long 4-year contract?

Well, because the motto of the current Faculty Association Executive is collaboration and not confrontation. I know that because the current president tried to recruit me to run with her in the past, in an effort to change the confrontational atmosphere of that time.

And we were also surprised because the current administration’s motto has been, since day one, peaceful, civil and constructive dialogue among all UBC’s constituents and stakeholders, starting with the Provost’s successful efforts in smoothing out past stormy relationships between the central administration and Deans. As to the UBC President, his outreach to students, staff and all of campus residents is known to be exemplary. It suffices to quote this paragraph from his re-appointment announcement, which reflected a wide-ranging consultation process (I was there so I know).  “His leadership has contributed to a particularly positive atmosphere throughout the university that is conducive to learning, research and civil discourse.”

So, I put my investigative reporter hat on, and sure enough, a story behind the story emerged.

An attempted palace coup, moles, leaks, false promises, and agents who couldn’t deliver … on time, and Oops! It is June 30th and no one blinked!

Much more intrigue than you can handle today! So I will stop and settle for saying — Don’t make a habit of all this. If all parties negotiate in good faith and above board, then we all win at the end, including our favorite institution.

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