In a major reversal of past positions vis-a-vis president Gupta’s departure from UBC, the Student Society of UBC-Vancouver issued a public statement expressing disappointment in the process followed by the Board of Governors as revealed by the recent leaks. The AMS urges “the incoming Chair of the Board of Governors to instigate an external review process into governance practices,” and asks the Board “to delay approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such time as the suggested external review is complete and incorporated.” On the faculty’s front, a petition (see below) is circulating for presentation to the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee. It calls for the latter to bring a motion to its membership expressing no confidence in the UBC Board of Governors. Faculty members who wish to sign should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from their @ubc.ca email address.
While the AMS had requested in the past an “appropriate inquiry into the resignation of president Gupta,” they did not join the calls of last summer for the resignation of the then Chair of the Board, John Montalbano. While the Faculty Association and the Graduate Student Society (GSS) played a pro-active role in identifying and demanding governance reform, the AMS met some criticism, when they announced that they considered “institutional stability to be paramount.”
What changed since? Well, it is obvious that the recent leaks and Gupta’s public statements about how he was denied access to the full Board, gave the students representatives on BoG second thoughts about what really happened. They must be among those many Board members that didn’t know about the behind-the-scene power struggle between the Montalbano-Gordon-Peet trio and president Gupta, till that fateful Board meeting on August 7. Even then, they seem not to be aware of the deliberately humiliating memo to the president till the leaks that emerged last week.
In any case, kudos for the student leadership to come out with such a clear statement. With the Faculty Association and the AMS coming out so strongly for a judicial review of the Board and a suspension of the presidential search under Lindsay Gordon, I don’t see how Premier Clark and Minister Wilkinson can still punt their responsibilities to a Board of Governors under siege.
AMS statement re: New details on Dr. Gupta’s departure
Last week, unredacted documents erroneously released from the UBC Access & Privacy office unveiled details surrounding the resignation of the previous President of UBC, Dr. Arvind Gupta. The AMS is disappointed in the process followed by the Board of Governors as revealed in these documents. Although much remains inaccessible to the public due to the non-disclosure agreement, the released documents and Dr. Gupta’s responses have raised the following serious concerns with the current governance practices of the Board:
- That duly elected student representatives from both campuses appear to have not been rightfully involved in key conversations leading to Dr. Gupta’s resignation;
- That the Board of Governors discussed and decided matters pertaining to Dr. Gupta’s resignation within ad-hoc committees and during unscheduled, secret meetings;
- That Dr. Gupta was not engaged in a formal performance review as outlined in his contract, nor given the opportunity to liaise with the entire Board regarding the performance concerns raised by the Chair.
The Board of Governors affects the lives of students greatly through decision-making regarding tuition, investments in fossil fuels, capital projects, and accessibility among much else. Recent events have raised serious questions concerning the transparency and accountability of the current Board and has weakened the confidence of the AMS in the power and governance structures being employed.
The AMS urges the Board to enact the following changes:
- That the incoming Chair of the Board of Governors instigate an external review process into governance practices;
- That the Board of Governors delay approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such time as the suggested external review is complete and incorporated.
Ultimately the AMS views the recent events as an opportunity for the Board of Governors to comprehensively examine and modify the current governance structures and practices with the impetus to make positive change congruent with principles of shared governance and in convention with the University Act. As always, we implore that the process be consultative in nature and fulsomely engage students, faculty, alumni, staff and the greater UBC community.
Resolution for presentation to the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee
Whereas the UBC Board of Governors is required by law to act in the best interests of the University (BC University Act 19.2);
and whereas it has come to light that the Board has held secret, unannounced meetings of the Board, leaving no documentation of its activities;
and whereas Board members have formed secret ad hoc committees in which governance activities have been pursued without oversight and contrary to policy and procedural norms;
and whereas these committees and the Board have taken decisions or engaged in actions—such as declaring no confidence in the President with no formal review or input from faculty, declaring full confidence in the Chair after his role in interfering with a faculty member’s academic freedom, interpreting fiduciary duty to the university as pertaining to donors rather than its faculty, students, and staff—that are not obviously in the best interests of the University;
and whereas the Board has declined to explain such actions to the University community;
and whereas, consequently, we faculty members in good standing at UBC find that we cannot know—indeed, we have strong reason to doubt—that the Board has been operating in accordance with its legal obligations to the people of British Columbia;
therefore be it resolved that the Executive of the UBC Faculty Association, as soon as possible, bring a motion to its membership expressing no confidence in the UBC Board of Governors.