Decolonizing our imaginations and building a university that reflects our society

It looks like Stuart Belkin is now a member of the UBC presidential search committee. This could have been a welcome positive gesture to the faculty had he replaced Lindsay Gordon in the Chair. Unfortunately, he seems to have taken the spot of Celeste Haldane, the only aboriginal member of the Board of Governors. Belkin also announced that Ken Fung, the only Chinese-Canadian member of the Board has resigned. No explanations were given. These developments bring back to mind the topic behind the rise and fall of the previous Board Chair last summer. Indeed, John Montalbano had personally objected to Jennifer Berdahl’s now famous blogpost, where she wonders whether Gupta’s departure may be related to diversity issues within UBC’s leadership. Montalbano countered in the press and on the airwaves by relaying a portrait of a positively diverse club of decision makers at UBC. Indira Samarasekera also chimed in into that debate. The distinctly condescending tone of the recently (unintentionally) leaked memo, however, proved offensive to some, especially those on the other side of the cultural fence. In light of these new developments, we decided to probe a bit more into these assertions by reviewing the individuals involved or portrayed therein.

The leaks have now revealed the members of the Board, who were part of the inner circle involved in the early process of assessing whether Arvind Gupta is “sufficiently presidential” or not. They are John Montalbano (Chair of the Board), Lindsay Gordon (Chancellor) and Greg Peet (Chair of Finance Committee).

The latest broadcast email by the elected members of the Board allude to the fact that eventually, the Executive Committee of the Board played a role in accepting the resignation and recommending it to the rest of the Board. Besides the above three, this committee includes Alice Laberge, Richard Johnston, Doug Mitchell, and Michael Treschcow.


And these are the three VPs who parted way with president Gupta, which may have played a role in his departure.

imgres-1 imgres-3 imgres


There were also hints about the role of the Deans in Gupta’s “unsettled year.” Here they were (at least those on the Vancouver campus).


So what? you may say, if UBC is led, governed, and administered  by such a homogenous elite group? Well, here is an astonishing enrollment data on direct entry students at UBC-Vancouver from 2013. 


The UBC 2013 equity employment report (the latest available) shows that 0% of senior managers are aboriginals, and another 0% are visible minorities.

So allow me to respectfully suggest that yearning for a bit more “diversity” in our university’s government and management ain’t so bad. Cultural/Racial diversity leads to greater intellectual depth, a better understanding of the world, a larger collection of life experiences, and a more rounded leadership class, especially for a globally significant university such as UBC. A culturally homogenized senior administration such as the current one, could be quite limited in its perspective on the diverse humanity populating our university.

Recognizing these facts is another important step towards decolonizing our imaginations and building a university that reflects our society. Because it is 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 8.47.53 AM

This entry was posted in Board of Governors, Op-eds and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Decolonizing our imaginations and building a university that reflects our society

  1. Peter says:

    Another wonderful blogpost. British Columbia is certainly a hotbed of modern post-colonialism (how could it not be with that name!), something that its flagship university, UBC, appears to reflect identically.

  2. UBC Prof says:

    This is even more striking once one looks not just at race but place of birth, and ethnic origins. UBC faculty are a fairly diverse bunch – in my department I counted 11 countries of birth for faculty and it is IMHO the same across much of our campus – faculty are quite a diverse bunch, even if not as diverse as the students. Yet once we look at administration, diversity absolutely plummets. Sad….

  3. Peter says:

    And the new appointments to the BOG since Montalbano resigned (despite him having the full confidence of the BOG and the UBC senior admin to continue) are …(let’s see their names and pictures).. and the current student reps and additional faculty member rep are (names and pictures please)….

  4. Peter says:

    And while we are at it, let’s have a look at the interim President, the interim Provost, the new VP Finance, the new VP Communications, etc. White or no?

  5. Place and Price says:

    What you see is the result of true color. There are shiny statements for public consumption. Gupta had Gandhi’s vision to reach to grassroots and liberate the place. His downfall was he did not follow orders from the empire!

  6. Ghoussoub says:

    And please do not miss this interview with three courageous women.

  7. Peter says:

    To paraphrase Emperor Hirohito: The leadership transition situation has developed not necessarily to UBC’s advantage. In fact it has served to shine a spotlight on UBC and what is illuminated is not too pleasing for all to see; a white supremacy of senior administrative and BoG leadership; a botched redaction cover-up catching the Chair of the BoG, the Chancellor, and their secret cabal with the smoking gun, sexual harassment protocols and procedures exposed as shams, a heavy-handed compromise of a professor’s academic freedom, etc. What, we did miss a beat?

  8. Pingback: Berdahl vs. Potter: The Tale of Two “Globe and Mail” Editorials | Piece of Mind

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s