By Mark MacLean, President, on behalf of the Executive Committee
Dear Search Committee,
Thank you for meeting with us on January 12. We welcomed the opportunity to communicate some of our concerns about, and hopes for, this presidential search process.
We would like to take this opportunity to both reiterate and amplify some of the points of our conversation with you. We are convinced that the new President must be someone able to regain the trust of the faculty and university community, and have the credibility required to move forward in a responsive way to the damage our university’s reputation has suffered in the last half year.
We mentioned the importance of diversity-in a number of dimensions-to this process. Our campus is marked by a wonderful variety of opinion and personal characteristics. It is a large and heterogeneous community, which plays host to a wide variety of persons, opinions, and groups. The new President must be someone who is comfortable with, and skilled in, managing the tension and heterodoxy that is part and parcel of such a university community. As we remarked, diversity is not only a question of race or gender or sexual orientation; rather it is also about the coexistence of a range of beliefs and values. A new President and a new administration, must be comfortable with debate and difference, capable of leading by persuasion, and tolerant of dissent.
We strongly urge you to pursue the appointment of an external candidate, one not associated with recent controversies. Mr. Gordon’s optimism that UBC’s reputation will offset the negative publicity that the university has suffered is an important perspective, but we urge caution in downplaying the wide impact and negative impression left by recent administrative crises. Sudden presidential transitions in the university context are unusual, and destructive of internal and external confidence in the institution. It is critical to have a new president who is clearly not part of the pre-existing set of circumstances that saw these crises precipitate.
We add, as well, the observation that the Faculty Association has a large number of unresolved grievances involving the central administration and several deans on core issues such as academic freedom, human rights, and collegial governance (e.g. deans’ interference in hiring and in workload assignments). It will be an unfortunate distraction and complication if the new president is someone already implicated in any of these matters. We urge you to seize the opportunity to make a fresh start as we begin to move forward.