Do not despair, Carla. There is no reason to feel blue. You have not only awoken your faculty friends, you have reminded them that they are the university. You have empowered them again and they appreciate you for it. The “assholes” (as you so aptly call them) may not be listening, but the majority of your colleagues are. Rejoice, the Times They Are A-Changin’.
Only yesterday, the premier of our province announced upcoming legislation to require all BC universities to have sexual assault policies. This was not random. This did not happen after the 2013 pro-rape chants by some UBC Sauder Business School students. This is happening now because you and your colleagues chose to speak up and fight for the victims of sexual harassment and violence, and for adequate processes to protect them.
A couple of days ago, the minister of Advanced Education promptly announced the resignation of a powerful member of the university Board, who was entangled with CRA lawsuits. This was not business as usual. It is directly linked to the higher level of integrity and accountability that you and your colleagues have been demanding from our governors.
The former Chair of the Board had to resign last October on the eve of the publication of the Smith report regarding his heavy-handed actions reacting to the thoughts of one of our colleagues. This was not business as usual. That it happened is testimony to the vocal support that you and your colleagues gave to the right for academic freedom while doing our jobs.
It is certainly not the first time that a person in a position of authority at UBC has tried to interfere with colleagues who dared to suggest that there is gender and racial bias at the institution. That people are talking so openly about it shows that it is not business as usual at UBC. Through the courage of our colleagues, advocating against institutional racism may become as “chic” as fighting for gender equity at UBC.
And hopefully never again will a small clique of Board members try to oust a president or anyone else, without due process, and just because they can.
And you shall witness more acts of courage and conviction by your colleagues as they refuse to endorse false promises of “healing” without inclusive conversations, or abide by and serve flawed processes to bring in magical menders.
You may be surprised to know that your impact has been more global than you think. Indeed, you and your colleagues’ refusal to accept the devastating impact of gratuitous “masculinity contests” in academia has led many university Board Chairs to reconsider their rapports with presidents and renew their commitment to principles of shared governance. The calamitous events that you and your colleagues helped uncover at UBC are inducing others to look for healthier chains of command, and for more professional interacting mechanisms between Deans, Executives and Boards.
The jury is still out, but your calls for reforming university governance will be heard. We should at least expect a closer adherence to the University Act, be it for the appointment of committees, delegation of powers within the institution, and/or regarding issues of conflict of interest. The need for a more professional Board secretariat who will abide and enforce proper governance has not been lost on anyone.
Even the battle for divestment from fossil fuel is far from over. That your colleagues and the excellent students of UBC have exposed to the country the Board’s flawed consultation processes and the role of government appointed governors in hijacking decision-making, is to be celebrated.
You may have noticed that some of your colleagues on the Board are already issuing “mea culpas.” Hopefully, it won’t be long before they will join your efforts at reforming our institution.
And thanks to your work and your colleagues, the provincial government will be expected to vet Board members for their integrity and their competence and diversity, and not for the size of their bank accounts and donations to political campaigns.
Even the Deans’ joint statement affirming their commitment to academic excellence and their support to the interim administration is unprecedented, and can be seen as an effort to acknowledge the faculty’s concerns about how their university is being run.
We should also cherish that never before has the university seen so many engaged faculty, willing to speak up, write, blog, tweet and run for Senate and Board.
Because of all this, you have restored the faculty as the heart, soul and conscience of our university.
And as you say, “the best parts of this experience, so far – and the ones that have felt the most productive and powerful and nourishing – have been the opportunities to come together and support one another.”