UBC, WTF?

The UBC leadership crisis is entering its fifth week. By “leadership crisis,” I include of course the sudden and non-explained resignation of a president, but also the glaring deficiency in leadership that followed. Starting with the amateurish handling of the announcement, to the alleged heavy-handed interference with a colleague’s research work, to the power vacuum eventually occupied by PR consultants, to the valiant but somewhat simplistic efforts of the interim president to restore a semblance of sanity to the institution. To those of you who are just joining us, here is a good analysis/summary of the situation by Melonie Fullick.

Whiteboard Workout

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the recent events at UBC, it’s that silence can say more than words, whether you’re withholding information or telling someone else to keep quiet. That probably sounds obvious, but the university’s announcement of Arvind Gupta’s resignation—and its handling of the events that followed—reflect some problematic assumptions about who should be able to speak, when, and what should be said.

What was it that triggered UBC’s current public crisis? Gupta’s July 31 departure was announced publicly on August 7 in classic “Friday Afternoon News Dump” fashion: UBC published a news release, which was tweeted shortly after 4pm EDT. In a news release where roughly 50% of the text was devoted to celebratory prose about the incoming interim president (Dr. Martha Piper), UBC gave no explanation for Gupta’s resignation except that he had “decided he can best contribute to the university and lead…

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