Houston, we have a problem … with the UBC governance

The relevance of this blog is being tested earlier than we thought. Are you all wondering why the results of the elections for the 2 faculty representatives on the UBC Board of Governors haven’t been announced, even 3 weeks after their conclusion?

Well, it is because UBC’s governance is being challenged big time. I am somehow in the middle of this mess and your help is urgently needed. So, please tell us –sooner and not later– what you think, and what you know about related legal matters and precedents, whether at UBC or elsewhere.

What’s the problem? Well,  the candidate who received the second highest number of votes in that election, is a Senior Associate Dean! In a widely distributed letter to the UBC faculty, the President of the Faculty Association explains the situation. I will be returning to this subject in future posts.

Message from the President

7 January 2011

RE: Faculty Representation on Board of Governors

An unprecedented situation has arisen recently regarding membership on the Board of Governors that has caused me, as President of the Faculty Association, to send a letter to the Chair of the Board of Governors earlier this week, alerting him to a potential problem arising from the recent elections.

The Board of Governors of UBC comprises 21 members: The President, the Chancellor, 11 appointed members, 3 elected students, and 5 elected employees of the University, of whom 3 are to be faculty members and 2 are to be employees other than faculty members.   It has always been the position of the Faculty Association that the 3 elected employees representing faculty members must be persons who are employed as faculty members, not as management. For that reason our position has always been that the Vice-presidents, the Deans, and other people in management positions are ineligible to be elected to any of the three “faculty member” positions on the Board.

Previously this stance, that Vice-presidents, Deans, and other people in management positions are ineligible to be elected in any of the three faculty member positions on the Board, has not been an issue between the Association and the University. We have no reason to believe that the University takes a position contrary to this. However an unfortunate confluence of events has created a potential problem. At the time the nominations and election for the faculty member representatives on the Board took place, Associate Deans were faculty members who were entitled to run for, and be elected to, the Board. However, just shortly after the election, the Board of Governors ratified the recently negotiated Collective Agreement in which the parties agreed that Associate Deans are, like Vice-presidents and Deans, not employed as faculty members but instead are managers.  As it happens, one of the persons just elected to a faculty member position on the Board is an Associate Dean, and thus no longer employed as a faculty member under the Collective Agreement.  This has created the problem about which I have alerted the Board Chair.

A little context on this issue might be helpful.  At the bargaining table UBC took the position that Associate Deans are managers (that is, that their principal employment responsibilities were management responsibilities), and thus that the Associate Dean position should not be subject to membership in the Faculty Association. After consulting our legal counsel, reviewing relevant statutes, and considering the situation at other universities, the Association came to the conclusion that the University was right. Associate Deans are managers as defined by BC law. Further, by law, managers are not employees and cannot be members of the bargaining unit. Therefore if Associate Deans are truly managers, as UBC asserts and as we ultimately accepted, they must be excluded from the bargaining unit by law. That is also why Deans, though they may teach and/or do research, have never been a part of the bargaining unit.

We believe that the intent of the University Act is to provide for five elected employees on the Board, three of whom are to be employed as faculty members and none of whom may be managers. The Faculty Association is responsible to make sure that the faculty representatives on the Board of Governors represent the voice of the faculty, not the voice of the administration (i.e., management).  Thus the Association position has to be that the faculty representatives on BOG must be employed as faculty members, not as management. As President, it is my job to champion our members’ voices, and make sure that the university administration listens to our members.

It has been a longstanding precedent at UBC that Deans and Vice Presidents do not serve on BOG, recognizing that they hold management positions, and the letter simply reminds the Chair of the Board of Governors that this precedent must be upheld in the face of Associate Deans being removed from the bargaining unit. As president of the Faculty Association it is my responsibility to make sure that we do not allow a precedent (of permitting Associate Deans to serve on BOG as faculty representatives) that could lead to a dilution or even negation of one of the few aspects of the university governance where faculty have oversight rights and responsibilities.

I will continue to make sure that the voices of faculty members are heard at UBC in all areas of governance. Please feel free to contact me to discuss these issues further.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

Best,
Nancy
Nancy Langton, Ph.D.
President, UBC Faculty Association
112, 1924 West Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
ph 604 822-2651
http://www.facultyassociation.ubc.ca

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20 Responses to Houston, we have a problem … with the UBC governance

  1. Pingback: While UBC’s Board is tested, others’ are running for cover | Piece of Mind

  2. Amartya Lahiri says:

    It would seem logical that any rule changes that have been agreed upon in this round will apply from the next election onward. Why is the Faculty association trying to enforce it ex-post? If the rule wasn’t in place when the election took place then one cannot be applying new rules retroactively. I do not agree with the Faculty Association’s position at all.

  3. I agree with Professor Lahiri that rule changes should not be applied retroactively (unless there’s explicitly agreement that they should be). However, there’s another consideration that I think takes precedence over whether the rule should be applied retroactively. The faculty representatives to the Board are elected by us, members of the faculty. At the time of the election, we knew the credentials of each candidate, and there are perfectly good reasons why we might have elected an associate dean to the Board. For example, we might have thought his or her experience in administration would enhance his ability to voice faculty interests. We might reject the hard line the Faculty Association draws between faculty as “employees” and administrators as “management.” We might have been voting for the best person to help make decisions for the sake of the university viewed as a community of scholars, teachers, students, staff, and alumni: we might not have wanted a sectarian representative. The Faculty Association should respect the vote of its members and allow the results to stand.

    • pr0ffer says:

      Dominic’s comment also suggests that only the Faculty Association draws a “hard line” between “employees” and “management.” Actually, every BC organization governed by the BC Labour Relations Code must, by law, make this distinction, and UBC is no different. It is a statutory requirement that persons in an organization know to whom they report, who represents and defends them in case of conflict, and how their work is fundamentally defined. In this particular case, it was UBC itself which suggested that Associate Deans should be defined not as faculty but as managers under the Labour Code and therefore governed by different loyalties, obligations, and terms of employment than rank and file professors. To suggest that the Faculty Association is somehow inventing a false divide is to misunderstand the nature of BC law.

  4. Alan Kingstone says:

    i agree w/ AL’s comment entirely. the current rules were not in place when the election was held. the original vote must stand.

  5. Anne Condon says:

    I agree with Amartya that the results of the most recent election should stand, based on the fact that Associate Deans were eligible to run at the time of the election.

  6. Charles Menzies says:

    It seems to be more than a simple rule change. The issue is to have representation for faculty on the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors, in having ratified the new faculty/university contract (which is a retroactive agreement), has effectively made the decision that academic management is separate from normal faculty. Thus, the only honourable thing would be for the Senior Associate dean to resign his post, step aside and clear the way for the candidate with the next highest votes to move forward. Failing that the BoG -or whomever is legally responsible for certifying the election results- is obligated to declare the senior associate dean ineligible to have run and to declare the candidate with the next highest votes elected.

    I will also make clear that I have for many years taken the position that those individuals in academic leadership positions that are essentially management positions should not be considered members of the faculty association nor should they be eligible to represent faculty in elected positions.

    Irrespective of any particular individuals intentions, there is at the very least a perception of conflict of interest vested in the very nature of these dual roles (i.e. being both an elected representative of regular faculty and a member of the senor management team in a faculty).

  7. Richard Anstee says:

    I am pleased that Nancy Langton as president of the UBCFA has raised this important issue. I agree with Nancy that action needs to be taken. As a former president of the Faculty Association I recall members agreeing to withdraw from the executive when they took on roles (e.g. Associate Dean) that would put them in conflict. Nancy has wisely pointed out the need for non management faculty representation on the Board of Governors. This is important for the University. I would prefer that the `senior associate dean’ that Nassif refers to would simply resign.
    I am puzzled as to the nature of the posts above. At least one suggests that having a Dean as a representative of Faculty on the Board of Governors would be appropriate if the Dean were elected to the post. I disagree.

  8. Pingback: Before we lose sight of the question at hand | Piece of Mind

  9. Stephen Petrina says:

    The distinction made between faculty members and management in this latest round of bargaining has to necessarily now be reflected on the BoG and other committees or boards on campus. Clearly, like Deans, Associate Deans are now by definition management and no longer in a position to represent faculty members on these types of appointed or elected seats. Indeed, I expect that Associate Deans occupying privileged seats designated “faculty member” representative will recognize the implications of changes to the Collective Agreement and voluntarily remove themselves from said seats. Let’s begin with BoG representatives and work through the balance of committees and boards on campus.

  10. Richard Sullivan says:

    The decision made through collective bargaining signals a clear intent with respect to maintaining reasonable representation of rank and file faculty. To delay its implementation by describing it as “retroactive enforcement” seems a recalcitrant manoeuvre to resist the what was achieved through good faith bargaining.

  11. pr0ffer says:

    The question to me has nothing to do with timing. It has to do with whether or not the Board, faced with both the election-results and its own collective agreement ratification, thinks the current situation is acceptable. Elected BoG representatives do resign, take other positions, become ineligible because of graduation, etc. There is nothing odd about this, just as there is nothing particularly sacred about being elected. If I were elected to the US Senate and then surrendered my American citizenship, I could hardly expect my membership in that body to remain unquestioned.

    • Amartya Lahiri says:

      The logic is a bit odd. To take your own example, the appropriate analogy would be whether the US senate can change the rules ex-post to make elected senators ineligible and force them to resign!! The issue is all about timing.

      • Amartya, I don’t think the reasoning is flawed. There is already a rule in place that says that management is excluded from serving as the faculty reps. This AD was not management when elected, but, with ratification of the agreement between the University and the FA, now is. No one is disputing the right of the AD to have served prior to the ratification. The question is what should happen now that the AD’s official status has changed to one which makes him or her ineligible to hold this office (which is what the citizenship renunciation example above was getting at). As I said earlier (see post below), I think the appropriate and honourable course for the AD at this point is to voluntarily resign.

  12. I also agree with the FA’s position as outlined by Nancy Langton. The election is barely over and the newly elected representatives will serve for the next couple of years. If the election were held today, mere weeks later, it would be clear that this Associate Dean would be ineligible to run. I have no objection to the fact that the AD ran at the time, but now that the University has ratified the new agreement explicitly recognizing ADs as management (which, in my view, they have always been), the honourable course for the AD would be to resign in recognition that they no longer have the moral authority to fulfill their intended function. To do otherwise would be to spend his or her entire term under a pall of illegitimacy.

    The suggestion that faculty members might respect their administrative experience is irrelevant – it may be the case that we collectively think a Dean has a wonderful understanding of faculty concerns (having been one) and might wish to elect such a person, but the distinction between management and faculty (and the rule preventing management from serving as faculty representatives) is there to prevent confusion over fundamental responsibilities and allegiances. It is clear that if a faculty member on the BoG had accepted a position as Dean, they would be expected to step down immediately. For the same reason, a BoG faculty representative who finds themselves no longer a faculty member, but part of management, as this AD has, should also step down regardless of their initial right to be elected. If the AD does not resign, I would support the FA taking whatever steps are necessary to force their removal as our faculty representative.

  13. Ghoussoub says:

    I was told that the abstract scenario I put forward in the post “Before we lose sight of the question at hand” was misguided, because it doesn’t reflect the fact that in the case that triggered this debate, people voted knowing very well that the candidate is an Associate Dean.

    Fair point and I stand corrected. My apologies.

  14. Charles Menzies says:

    Dear All,
    There is one other honourable option that we haven’t considered – the AD could resign their position as a serving associate dean. That would remove the conflict, bring the AD back into the faculty association and allow them to hold onto their elected position.

    PS – regarding the issue of ratification of the contract. It is retroactive agreement that makes the effective start date July 2010 – which creates the catch-22 situation that in fact and in accord with the collective agreement the AD is rendered retroactively ineligible (other wise all of our new benefits of the contract would only begin on Dec. 15, as opposed to July 2010).

    • Excellent points, Charles. While no-one could fault the AD for running at the time, a strong case could be made that their election is now technically invalid as well as invalid from the point of view of the intent of reserving seats for particular classes of stakeholders (I note that there appears to be no disagreement that an AD will be ineligible in all future elections, all of us seemingly having accepted the premise that members of management may not occupy seats allocated to faculty, so the issue really comes down to whether or not this particular AD should be permitted to serve out their term; since their election has not even been announced yet, there can be no issue related to wasting time already invested in coming up to speed on BoG issues or being in the middle of a major BoG project, so there seem to me to be no substantive obstacles to an immediate voluntary resignation). As you rightly point out, the other route to resolving the conflict is resigning as AD – either resignation would be completely acceptable.

  15. Pingback: Hats off to Darrin Lehman! | Piece of Mind

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