Resignation of the director of the Wall Institute: The reaction

The Board of Trustees of the Wall Institute is trying to reach out to a revolted UBC community by announcing a one-year moratorium on the changes they had dictated, only a week ago, to Director Philippe Tortell. This had led to his resignation in a – worth listening to- fiery speech in front of most heads of units at UBC. President Santa Ono did not, however, address the institute’s future beyond next year, though he committed that the (unchanged and apparently conflicted) five-person board would consult with members of the UBC community on future decisions. In the meantime, Philippe Tortell received tons of correspondence (comments, supportive messages, copies of letters to Ono) and “Piece of Mind” got several requests from faculty to post their opinions and letters about this matter. They are informative and we think worth posting even anonymously for practical reasons. The “listening tour” of the Board of Trustees can surely start with a stop here.

Anonymized messages and comments

  1. I am dismayed to read that you are stepping down as the director of the PWIAS. It was under your leadership  that the PWIAS became a intellectually stimulating and enriching institution that radiated across campus. At the same time, I am disgusted about the background of your decision, namely a top down decision to undermine and eventually destroy a truly cutting edge institution of our university.  It is a totally different situation when it comes to the research clusters decided upon by central administration. It needs not too much time investment to see that the topics chosen were pushed by the usual insiders who are highly connected within the university, and that none of the selected cluster topics was adjudicated by leading international scholars. In-house breeding is the end of a critical and open university. It is indeed bitter to learn that central went now one step further and cuts one of the few truly curiosity-driven programs, with the additional step  to streamline academic curiosity along narrowly defined clusters. To be clear, the current research clusters are relevant, often more in political than in purely knowledge-driven ways, though. A aspirational university, however, should not cut off voluntarily a program that intentionally does not ask for immediate relevance but is guided by an old-fashioned but critical search for truth. Inspiration comes from various sources, and castrating one of the most inspirational programs on campus that brings international scholars and thinkers on campus maybe valid in a McKinsey world but is unacceptable for a university that lives from independent thinking.
  2. I was so sorry for that devastating decision you had to make this week. You have done absolutely remarkable work at the Peter Wall Institute. I don’t think it has ever had such a strong profile and you will be sorely missed – if, indeed, it survives. The time I’ve spent with Deborah Carruthers after your introduction has been so stimulating, and she has obviously been only one of the many collaborations you initiated. It’s UBC’s loss. And, my bet is that it is not over yet!
  3. Let me just add my voice to those many who are expressing dismay.  I have no idea of the back story except for what I read in the press.  But I do know that you are fighting for an important cause, and I salute you.  No need to respond to this.  I just wanted to endorse the position you have taken, however surprising it appears to have been to some of your colleagues.  I was looking forward to working with you going into the future.  Perhaps that is still possible.  With all good wishes for a courageous stand.
  4. I am appalled and deeply troubled by what happened, I would’ve cherished the opportunity to have an in-person conversation about it with the rest of the PWIAS community.   I want to thank you for your integrity and commitment to the values of the Institute and of scholarship. And I really hope that, as you said in your message, we will all come out stronger and better from this very unpleasant situation.
  5. This is terrible and very sad news. I am in shock. I wanted to respond right away to let you know that I am incredibly grateful for all your support and enthusiasm for all of us this year. I cannot imagine the rest of the year without you.
  6. I’m shocked and angry over this issue.  My colleague and I benefited from the exact type of small-scale PWIAS academic freedom that you describe in your letter. I’ve always enjoyed the breadth of interests that one encounters at PWIAS.
  7. I am truly sorry to hear this.  This is a great loss for the University.
  8. I am shocked and horrified by the high-handed approach taken by the trustees and I fully support your decision.  It is hard to view this as anything other than an attempt to secure success for the Cluster program by co-opting the Institute’s resources and good name.
  9. Fuck!  First of all, good for you in making a stand. Secondly, I am deeply sorry that you had to do so. This is a complete betrayal of what the institute was supposed to do and I am also sick of the university “higher” administration pathetically trying to chase after some other “next big thing” they predefined  rather than leaving it to the faculty to determine what that next thing will be. The specific idea that the VPRI office can identify these clusters is itself laughable. As you know, I have been thinking a lot about applying to the institute as a refuge from the growing world of bullshit that is coming to define academia, or at least its administration, so this is a terrible set back for me personally, but I have to say I also believe for the university. Faculty simply have to stop letting bullshit rule the decision making processes at our university. If we let this continue, then we will become not what we have the potential to be, but some poor shadow of what administration perceives as the strong points of other universities or, worse yet, government funding priorities.  I can imagine this was a hard decision, sorry to hear it. I honestly think we should not give up and force this idea back into whatever dreadful box it came out of. Do you think anything can be done?
  10. That’s a beautiful letter, Philippe. I am so sorry about what is happening to our Institute. Thank you for your service over the years, and also for your passionate stand in defense of academic freedom. I hope our paths cross soon.
  11. Although I have been much less involved in PWIAS recently, I read your letter in shock. I agree with you that senior administrators should not be the only ones taking important decisions regarding research directions at UBC. I would like to add that channeling more “in house” support to Research Excellence Clusters, who likely do not have great difficulties attracting a variety of funds at this stage, will potentially have a significant negative impact on the idea of unconstrained thinking that every University should support. I found that the Early Career Scholar program (and its successors) was very inspiring in that respect.  This decision makes, de facto, PWIAS nothing else than a satellite of the national funding agencies and this is not what PWIAS was meant for.
  12. Deeply saddened by your resignation, and deeply troubled by events leading to your decision.
  13. Oh, Philippe, what a mess they are making. I am impressed with your principled approach to this, and your decision. Thank you for standing up and speaking out. You remind me that senseless agendas get stopped because very smart and principled people are not willing to roll over.
  14. I am writing to thank you for all of the efforts you have put into invigorating the Wall Institute and making it more equitable and engaged.  I am wondering if I can lend my voice in any useful way.  I have benefited from PWIAS support. Perhaps more importantly, the Wall Institute has given me opportunities to learn from colleagues in ways that I normally find institutionally and socially impossible at UBC. Despite the rhetoric of inter-disciplinarity, I have found it very challenging to carry out research and teaching across disciplines and departments at UBC. The PWIAS has been one of the few places that acts as a crucible for such work. In my department, we tend to refer to the formation of clusters using a more profane term because we find we are constantly being asked to develop such clusters as window dressing, despite already carrying out collaborative work without necessary structural support.
  15. Very sorry to hear about this decision and your resignation. Thank you so much for your outstanding directorship and the tremendous energy you brought to the Institute.
  16. Thank you for your letter, and for bringing these troubling developments to the attention of PWIAS affiliates and other faculty. I agree with you that the Institute needs to maintain budgetary and programming autonomy in order to function properly. Any appropriation of programming or budgetary authority from other units would erode the Institute’s ability to fulfill its mandate. I hope that you will also have the opportunity to bring PWIAS Trustee actions to the attention of the Board of Governors, as–if what you describe is accurate–it sets an alarming precedent.  Thank you for your work for the Institute. I hope that its Trustees can be persuaded to reverse their decision.
  17. This is very disappointing news. You succeeded very admirably in your tenure as Director of PWIAS, with last week’s wonderful talk and dinner just as an example of the quality of innovative programming and collegiality all too rare in today’s university. That said I can well understand why you can’t carry on under the new mandate from UBC, and wish you all the best.
  18. I am devastated to receive this news from you–you, who embodies everything that is pure and honest about the mission of Peter Wall. I have been so inspired by your passion for what the Institute and what it represents and I have honestly looked forward to the day when I could help fulfill its mission together with you. Must this be? I can’t imagine the year without you. You are our fearless leader. All I can say is that I admire you even more for your integrity and your unwillingness to go along with something that is simply not right. I hate to think that you have had to go through this struggle and I wish it were not so. If there is anything that we at the Institute can do to work together to reverse it or to write to Santa in your name–or anything you can think of, you must tell us.  We must talk about this together and see if there is anything that can be done in response.
  19. Thank you so much for your leadership and your courage. I too am deeply troubled by the decision that was thrust down upon you and the manner that it was done. I can only hope that the trustees will come to their senses, sooner or later.
  20. Oh my — this is indeed a sad, sad day but one that should no longer surprise us. A  logical coup that stems from the Board insisting on a ‘close connection’ with the academy – many people fought very hard after Janice left to make sure something like this would not happen.   This is a disgrace and the Board of Trustees should be ashamed – but likely won’t be.  Thank you Philippe for your passion, your commitment and your general sense of purpose, humanity and plain fun. They were lucky to have you and fools to let you go.  That said – I support you wholeheartedly.
  21. Very sorry to see this. But I agree that we are seeing PWIAS move into a very sad direction with these directives. You have my very strong support for your actions.  I have been seeing this kind of mindset among some senior administrators at this university for a while now. It does not bode well for the future of UBC.
  22. It is with sadness that I read your brave, articulate and thoughtful letter of resignation.  It is disheartening that the Institute will not have your inspired vision at the helm and that the PWIAS has moved  in this direction.  In fact, it’s amazing, rather unconscionable, that this dramatic new direction was taken without your input or those of the scholars.   I’m sorry you had to face this – it’s clear from your letter that it has not been an easy time nor that the decision was easy to make.  I’m out of town this week but happy to get together for coffee if you would like to chat.   Thanks for everything you have done for the Institute and research at UBC.  I wasn’t able to attend as many PWIAS events as I would have liked but I followed your innovations and activities closely.  You have been a terrific Director!
  23. Wow what a turn of events. I am really sorry for you and shocked for the health of the academy. Let’s have coffee very soon.
  24. First let me say thank you for sending these materials that document where a process, or set of processes, went off the rails.  Transparency about these matters is often, all that we have. I don’t know if you have read Latour’s ‘Aramis’, but it documents just such a process and just such rails, and it is one of my favorite academic books for this very reason.  It is the fate of these units to be too smart and too good, and for the money to appear very attractive to others. And many, and maybe most of these units end up being folded up in spite of the unique role they serve. It’s not easy in a University like this one to tell the truth. But I feel like you held the line and did not sugar coat the situation. As hard as that is, it is honorable.
  25. I am really sorry to learn of the changes you mention in your letter and more importantly that you have had to resign because of them.  The Institute was seen by its Founding Committee as something that would complement and be very different from the existing academic programs.  I know that you have been a superb Director and taken an active leadership role. I appreciate your service and thank you for it.  Finding a successor will obviously be very challenging.
  26. We have not met but I wanted to offer my thanks for taking this difficult step—sadly this is part of a trend at UBC which is most disconcerting.  In my experience the research clusters have to date be underwhelming and not always academically sound and reflect the lack of serious research leadership at UBC—this seem to compound that problem.
  27. This change in direction from above could potentially be very beneficial to me personally as a scholar, and also to my research cluster, and YET, I think it is ALL WRONG.  Fundamental research and rich cross-disciplinary dialog can eventually lead to clusters, but it shouldn’t be mandated to be the other way around.
  28. Philippe, this is a powerful, eloquent, and courageous statement. It’s delivered with force but without animosity. It brought tears to my eyes.
  29. That’s really shabby! I wish I could expect better from the UBC higher administration. From what I understand, they have been eyeing the PWIAS as a potential money pot for years, and it seems they can’t keep their fingers out any longer.  I’m very sad it came to this.  You have been an awesome director from all that I could see, and I don’t blame you at all for resigning. But I do worry who they will put in place as their puppet.  Thanks for all you have done for PWIAS. You made it a welcoming place that it was a pleasure to come to. Thanks also for hosting my visitor, and for making all of us feel so at home.
  30. I am very disappointed to read about the direction the university is taking with PWIAS.  Thank you for all of your work as the director, and I understand your position. PWIAS is a very special place for me, which led to my current endeavour.  I don’t think my new research initiative would have happened under the proposed system, at least as I understand it.
  31. That was very powerful today. I am in shock, and find it very difficult to understand the Board’s decision. The PWIAS is a unique place on campus, for the reasons you elaborated. We already have clusters from within, picked by the VPR – fine. Why do they need to go after the PWIAS and their programs?  You showed great leadership today. I was in awe and proud of you.
  32. I just read your note and listened to your talk, and my heart is racing.  I’m very saddened to hear what has unfolded.  Your passion, vision, and desire to make PWIAS the best place it can be was so clear and felt by many.  I hold deep respect for you to hold onto to your core values, even at this cost.  That takes a lot of courage.  I’m very sorry to hear about how all this has unfolded.
  33. My profound regrets. Can we fight the power?
  34. This is with enormous disappointment and great shock that I just read your email.  Given what you describe, I can fully understand your decision. Your resignation will be a great loss to PWIAS.
  35. Thank you for so clearly expressing the highest level of integrity in your letter. The issues you raise are unfortunately far from unique to the Wall Institute.
  36. You should be congratulated on taking a principled stand on this difficult issue.
  37. My heart goes out to you, but I also applaud your principled actions. Brilliant letter. Hopefully many of us will communicate with the President what a fundamental error UBC is making.
  38. I am so, so sorry that you have resigned and that the Institute’s programs and mandate are being changed. I knew something was very wrong when I saw you today, and feared something like this. I, too, cherished my time as a Wall Scholar, and found the interdisciplinary interactions and space for thought in new directions to be tremendously valuable.
  39. I really appreciate your integrity. I’m sorry for you and for UBC that this had to happen.
  40. I’m very sorry to hear– not just about your resignation, but, more importantly, the circumstances you describe. This feels like a step backward that is inconsistent with intellectual energy and excellence at UBC. I’ll be very interested to hear more about the university’s rationales.
  41. Thanks for sharing both your letter and the audio file.  I’m really sorry to hear this news, but in your shoes I probably would have done the same thing and appreciate you taking a stand.  Let me know how we can support you.  I have lots of views on these VPRI research Clusters relevant to your concern.  I have felt that our academic freedom and creativity to bring together scholars in these ’thematic clusters’ is somewhat constrained/easily manipulated, because there is a feeling that we need to shoehorn specific kinds of people into them [defined by narrow metrics] in order to get funded. They are too large as well – what I noted most excitingly in your list of cool collaborations coming out of the PWAIS is that they are based on small numbers of people coming together authentically and deeply.  And it also seems strange to me that the PWAIS would be mandated as a vehicle to support pre-existing configurations, vs. some of those configurations coming to the PWAIS when it makes mutual sense.  Anyway, thanks for standing up for academic integrity and let us know if there’s anything we can do.
  42. Thank you for taking a stand for your core values, along with those we should all be espousing. This was clearly a difficult decision and I hope that your resignation will have a positive impact on the choices of the various institutions involved.
  43. That sounds very disturbing. Anything we can do?
  44. Very surprised by the changes and very sorry to hear about the way in which it happened. I appreciate your candor.  I know you put your heart into being Director, and were doing a wonderful job. I will be sorry to see you go.
  45. This sucks!  You’re right to resign, since this looks like the end of PWIAS as we know it.
  46. I am very sorry to hear this news. However, given the proposed change of direction of the PWIAS,  I think it may very well be the correct decision.  In general terms I should say I am very concerned about the direction UBC has been taking in recent years. Its senior administration seems to aspire to mediocrity, rather than excellence.
  47. Your resignation is entirely understandable . . . how high-handed of the admin and how typical.
  48. I am SO sorry to hear this. You have done a tremendous job as head of the institute, and it is very sad to see you treated so shabbily. It is hard to imagine what is going on in the top echelons of UBC.
  49. I am very regret to hear this news, you have down an outstanding job for the Peter Wall. Please take care.
  50. I am shocked and so sorry to hear of these developments.  Philippe ‹ This comes as a complete shock and terrible blow, especially in light of the very engaging evening last Thursday where the intellectual serendipity of the PWAIS was on full display.  This is just so disheartening.
  51. This is indeed troubling. I am so sorry for the stress that this must have caused. Can the Nov 16th letter be made ‘public’ (or at least available to the PWIAS community)? It might help to put more in context. As it stands, I am disturbed by the idea of PWIAS being tightly tied to the clusters (as I think that you suggest, the loss of the unique niche of PWIAS, rather than anything inherently problematic about the clusters, is the concern).
  52. I applaud your sentiments and am saddened that you have tendered your resignation for lack of board support. Please know that I fully support your message and agree that major advances only come to those who are prepared to take risks.
  53. I opened my email after class to find your letter and the audio, which I hope to hear. I am so very much in support of your initiatives, your commitments and your understanding of Academic Freedom, made even more acute in the context of an Institute for Advanced Studies, such as PWIAS. I send you my support. If you need anything in the way of letters, presence at meetings or anything else, even a drink (!), please let me know.  I totally support your efforts and your leadership. I am dismayed by the procedures undertaken by the university.
  54. You have guts, principles, and integrity. Thank you. You should be President.
  55. The circumstances are miserable in terms of both the Institute and UBC.  I commend your decision.
  56. I think the PWIAS has been prospering under your leadership and am dismayed, but not surprised, by the mandated strategic changes you have described.  Much of the UBC grasping for promoting research is top down idiocy.  It spans everything from the clusters to the excellence chairs.  I am sorry you are being forced to abandon PWIAS. My own reaction has been to withdraw from UBC as a whole.
  57. Philippe, I am shocked and dismayed by this new development, and I admire your conviction in upholding the value of the institute.
  58. Just saw this and listened to the recording. Very sad to see/hear how this has transpired. You’ve provided exemplary leadership to the PWIAS on so many fronts, and this will be a huge loss to the Institute and University. You have my 100% support, and I’m certain there’s a large body of faculty on campus that would STRONGLY support you, your articulated vision, and the overall need for the PWIAS to continue to function as you’ve articulated.  I’m sure you’ll be bombarded by emails, so no need to respond, but if there’s any way of collectively pushing back against the President on this please let me/us know.
  59. My first response to this news–apart from shock–is anger.  I want to know what–in actual research practice this means–and I am also appalled by this Administrative interference in the PWIAS mandate and money. You have my support, although I am hugely disappointed that things have come to this.  Quite frankly–and I have been associated with the PWIAS for a very long time–during your tenure we (may I say ‘we’?) with your leadership have done more for the institute AND UBC than ever before.
  60. Congrats on taking the high road.
  61. It sounds like your (and many other people’s, including my) worst nightmare scenario has come true. What a sad day for intellectual engagement at UBC.
  62. I read your letter and listened to your announcement. I am moved to tears by what’s happened, and I deeply respect your action. I share your vision for the Wall program, and it is literally the single most inspiring aspect of UBC and the one of which I am most proud. I am here to support you and the Wall initiative, and I suspect many other wall scholars are too.  How can I help? A letter to the board?
  63. Argh – I’m sorry. PWIAS was really thriving under your leadership.  This sounds like it would completely eliminate the unique aspects of the Wall.
  64. I’m sure you’re being deluged with messages this evening, and I’ll include myself on the long list of faculty who are hugely disappointed by this turn of events.  The energy and ideas you brought to the PWIAS have been game-changing and I have been so impressed by what you have accomplished in a short period of two years. In my view, you have been exactly what the Peter Wall Institute needed in a leader – someone with commitment, drive, creative energy, a deep sense of the academy and a willingness to try new programs and projects.  Frankly, I cannot understand what is to be gained by trying to shoehorn Peter Wall programming into the research clusters. There are already existing ways in which PWIAS programs and funds support several clusters and I wish we’d had the opportunity to perhaps explore those further.  I’d like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for your incredible work and many contributions to PWIAS.
  65. This is a frustrating situation for you and for PWIAS to be in. I am quite disappointed by the Trustee’s actions, and I fully understand why you are stepping down. I think there is a lack of imagination and leadership being shown by UBC, and this will compromise the possibilities offered by PWIAS and its programs.
  66. Thanks a lot for sharing this and sorry indeed to hear about what happened. I have been impressed by your work and leadership at PWIAS and you will be dearly missed. I look forward to next change to meet.
  67. Damn. Sorry to hear this, Phil. You did that right thing but sorry to hear that it came to this.
  68. I am sure that you are overwhelmed by what has passed in the last few days so I will keep my email short. Words cannot express how sorry I am that you have (completely understandably and rightly) resigned from the Directorship at PWIAS.  That UBC has chosen to take PWIAS in this direction, and the way in which they did it, is beyond reprehension, and left you with no other course of action. I greatly enjoyed working with you over the many years and was looking forward to seeing more of you at PWIAS when I returned from sabbatical, but the opportunity for such creative discussions for all of us is clearly to be denied. It is a great loss for all who have fostered PWIAS and for the UBC community.
  69. The decision of the board of trustees and the president is appalling. I fully support your decision to step down for the reasons you so eloquently articulated in your speech. Still, it is truly unfortunate— you’ve done amazing work in that role.
  70. I hope such decisions from the board of trustees can can be reviewed and they reconsider their decision.  That is really a shame… Thank you for the great job you have done as the head of the institute in the last few years.
  71. I greatly admire your integrity. But oh what a loss— I can’t begin to tell you how sad it makes me.  I want to specifically thank you for the many ways in which you have been responsive to interesting and innovative requests that have led to so many exceptional activities.
  72. I have had a chance to listen to your very elegant talk—well said
  73. What a pile of crap this all is!  Emma and I were just talking the other day about how perfectly suited you are to this position – so curious about everything and everyone.  I’m so bummed.  Will we at least get to toast you over wine? I sure hope so. I’m hoping even more that somehow this will be reversed.
  74. I just heard, I can understand your reasons perfectly, and I am very sorry to see this happen. I hope to see you in person soon.
  75. Right on, Philippe!!!
  76. I read your message with a mixed sense of disbelief, shock and admiration. While fully understanding your position, I strongly feel, like many in the Wall Scholar cohort, the need for a meeting with you as a group and a discussion forum for expressing our views to UBC higher administration.  In addition to the current group, PWIAS has hosted many distinguished experts and supported truly outstanding Wall cohorts in past years. I cannot imagine anyone better than the scholars who have benefitted from the open, welcoming and collaborative environment at PWIAS to stand by it and justify its existence to the rest of the university.  I hope you will continue to lead us with your vision, even if not as an institute director. Your ideology is an inspiration and your presence critical in this academic environment. We hope for your input in the days to come.
  77. This unfortunate news and its implications for all of us as scholars at UBC are just beginning to reverberate on Twitter – if you have an account, please feel free to chime in, retweet, etc, in order to bring this to the attention of people outside the Peter Wall associates stratosphere.
  78. Just listened to your speech. I’m shocked by what you reported is happening to the Wall Institute, and 100% behind you. Please let me know if there’s any way I can support you.
  79. Thank you for your integrity, your courage and your sacrifice. I agree with you completely and have even more respect for you for taking this stand. This is truly a sad moment in UBC history. Thank you for your commitment and your passion. Knowing one has done the right thing does not make it any less painful.
  80. Yes, I am very saddened by it all. How brave of Philippe though. I don’t know if there is something we could do further than re-tweeting to alert the president, UBC community & beyond of how much opposition this strategic direction will have.
  81. Sorry to hear about this. I have been associated with Peter Wall for many years. It does not seem that I will be associated with it much longer.
  82. The letter is masterful and I admire greatly your stand on principle and your elegant argument. I hope that Nassif’s position on the BOGs can generate useful reactions to counter the administration’s coup. If there is anything I can do to help, please ask. At very least I can put my name to a letter of protest from sympathetic faculty. Let’s hope the battle is not over. I will see tomorrow who on campus is leading the charge in support of the academic freedom and interdisciplinary creativity that you inspired in the Institute.
  83. From my perspective, the biggest problem here is the Board of Trustees (on which the UBC president sits, I believe), making decisions as to how the Peter Wall Institute should be run without involving the key persons who have over the years envisioned and implemented the institute’s programs — Philippe, Brett, Derek – and are there to specifically carry out its scholarly mission.  An Institute for Advanced Studies run by a Board of Trustees is, I believe, unheard of – and, it seems to me, the pinnacle of administration taking over the determination of scholarly activity.
  84. Blown away by your speech at the PWIAS – your vision, your passion, your commitment to the core values, shone through like a guiding light!  Your speech was positive and inspirational – I’m sure the Prez will lose sleep over this.  It takes guts to stand up and speak out about such outrageous hypocrisy – my hats off to you for that.
  85. Was very distressed to read this and listen to your speech just now. I am wondering what all of us can do that would be most helpful. Letter writing? Social media? Is there anything you do not want us to do? I know that Derek and Brett are meeting with Ono but I would also like to know how each of us can pitch in. Do you want media attention or not? And what should our ask be? Just for board of trustees to back off?  I’m sure you have a huge amount of correspondence to attend to – so no pressure – but I am very happy to get involved in whatever way is most helpful as are many others in our cohort.  Your stand is principled, brave, and very important for all of us.
  86. I am very saddened about all this and still in shock. I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow. Philippe, what can I say… your energy, ethics, passion, warmth, sensibility is the best leadership combination I have ever seen. It is hard to imagine what’s next without you being there.
  87. I’m very sorry to hear that the situation with the Institute has deteriorated so significantly. I appreciate how difficult of a decision to resign must have been, especially since you were on the path to making the Institute an even better oasis amongst the desert of mediocrity at UBC.  I hope there is an opportunity to get together once the dust has settled.
  88. This is a terrible tragedy.  I want you to know how much PWIAS and its open and interdisciplinary approach to knowledge has meant to me. It has enriched my time at UBC immeasurably. Indeed, it has given me a sense of hope and vision in UBC. How sad to lose that. All of us who have been involved will feel its loss.  Thank you for all you have done for all of us, in your role at PWIAS.
  89. I commend you on your brave speech and on your adherence to core values and principles.
  90. Philippe, I’m so sorry to hear this news.  Your speech was beautiful and clearly articulated all of the wonderful ways that PWIAS enriches scholarly life at UBC.  I hope others will seriously take note.  As a leader, you are honest and someone who a stands true to core beliefs and principles — qualities that are becoming scarce today.  Thank you for protecting those values.  While many of us have only worked with you for a brief time, I for one, feel very grateful for the experience in which you have guided, encouraged, and supported us all.  Thank you.
  91. I am in Norway right now, but let me express strong support for your vision and stand. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.
  92. Thank you very much for your brave actions to protect the PWIAS. I am shocked and saddened by the board’s decision on the future of he Institute, which goes to the opposite direction of what makes the Institute such a unique and valuable place in the university. Just to let you know that I will be joining other fellow PWIAS associates to offer support. It must have been a very difficult time for you. Take care.
  93. I’ve been wanting to email you since I heard the news.  First, I completely share your concerns about the university administration’s direction. I increasingly worry about what the university has become.  And second, I can imagine this was not an easy decision, but for what it’s worth, I have so much respect and admiration for you. Thank you for your principle and integrity. These seem to be increasingly rare qualities in the environment in which we work.  As a former Wall Scholar, I will be sending an email to the President’s office and will talk to others about circulating a collective letter….
  94. Dear Philippe – I totally appreciate your 100’s of email situation and don’t expect a reply. I just wanted you to know that I hope you personally are ok. I so enjoyed chatting the other night – you’re a super person who totally gives well over 100% to the community.
  95. I appreciate your integrity deeply Philippe. My experience as a scholar at PWIAS was one of the best of my academic career. I am very sad to hear about these developments and what it means for our institution. Please just know that you have my support.
  96. I was very sorry to read about the difficult situation that forced you to resign. During my 20 years at UBC, I’ve tremendously benefitted from being closely associated with the PWIAS, and I am deeply saddened about the turn of events.  I still often cite the PWIAS as a wonderful institution, one that can and should inspire similar institutes elsewhere, for all the reasons you’ve outlined in your message (and supported as PWIAS director). I applaud your standing up for a vision for the PWIAS and UBC as a whole that puts freedom of research at the centre – something that gets chipped away in too many places these days.
  97. I’m only now reading this as I have been out of email contact for the past several days. Of course I love the Research Clusters, but this is the wrong move on the part of the administration. I, too, cherish the independent that PWIAS brought and the different kind of intellectual vision it brought – continuing and expanding under your remarkable leadership – to UBC.  I completely understand why you are resigning, but I am so, so sad this has happened and hope that our collective outcry will be able to turn this process around.
  98. I was shocked to learn the circumstances of your resignation from the Wall Institute.  Indeed the whole future of an Institute for Advanced Study at UBC seems to be at stake. I spent some of my best research time at IAS at Princeton so am a big fan of the model.  I am hoping this can and will be rectified.
  99. Just a personal note to say that we will do whatever we can to support you.  It is such a shock, and you are 100% correct to stand firm with confidence and integrity.
  100. I was shocked at the news of your resignation from the directorship of the PWIAS, but I want to thank you for your courage and leadership in standing against such an assault on our academy.  I am told the Executive of the CAUT is discussing what has happened with the PWIAS.  From my own conversations and emails, I can tell you that you have wide support from your colleagues at UBC and beyond.
  101. I am appalled at what has happened and completely support your decision.  Your speech was superb; I was very moved. Anything I can do to support your leadership and to underline the essential importance of PWIAS remaining a true IAS I will do.
  102. This is awful. I can’t believe you had to do this! Your integrity and determination to protect what is precious is incredible. I admire you.  Yes I’ve listened and read and the support for you is deep and wide. Let me help in any way I can.
  103. No need to reply to this but as an ex member of PWIAS I wanted to give you my full support. It is clearly a money grab and it has to be exposed. You did a brave thing, you have earned a lot of respect.
  104. Just sending one more email of support to you! I listened to your speech and it was inspiring. Thanks so much for your excellent leadership.
  105. Thank you, Philippe. You are my hero this week.
  106. Thanks for giving us a chance to help. PWIAS has to be protected, and we are all ready to voice our support. I have written a letter, as you suggested, and I’m happy to do all I can.  With gratitude for your work, and for PWIAS’s role in my own intellectual life.
  107. I’m afraid my voice comes late, but I wanted to let you know to what degree I empathize with your plight here. As you know, the Wall Institute has meant so much to me as well, and  am shocked that the Board of Directors would have acted in this way, especially in an in camera meeting. It’s astounding.  Thank you also for the other follow-up messages, and in particular the one looking forward.  I hope Brett and Derek’s meeting is a productive one. I am sorry that you were put in the position where you had to resign, but from what you say it was the principled thing to do, however difficult you must have found it.
  108. Just a note to say how much I appreciate the tone and substance of your decision. You have done an outstanding job and this, as you know from our earlier discussions, is not the first time that the Senior Administration has lost its way in relation to PWIAS.  I am writing to the President right now to pose some questions that I think should  be answered at the earliest.  Unfortunately, this will be my third attempt to contact the President and none of the e-mail messages have so far been acknowledged. I refuse to descend into the gutter of Twitter language, which I presume would generate a quicker response.
  109. Dear Brett and Derek: I wanted to say first how dismayed I am at the events leading to the resignation of Philippe. I extend my support for his leadership as Director, his vision for free and open research, and his decision. I hope you will accomplish a miracle in gaining back immediately all that appears to have been lost, including his immediate reinstatement as Director on the terms he has already laid out. I wish you the best in your meetings and please count me in should you need anything at all.
  110. I was very sorry to hear about the situation with PWIAS and your resignation. I’ve been very impressed with the energy and activity you’ve brought to the Institute, including sacrificing part of your recent sabbatical for it.  If the university is going to put all its resources into “research clusters”, that means those who don’t belong to one will be out in the cold. Not good for independent thinkers like those your programs are designed to support. Scientists can cook something up and stick a name on it, but it’s pretty hard for people in the arts.
  111. I was at yesterday’s meeting when you announced your resignation, and like many others there I was shocked and angered by the way in which the PWI Board responded to your strategic plan. I see this as a clear case of infringement of academic freedom. There are others who agree, and many of us would like to raise our voices in protest. To who do you think we might most effectively speak?
  112. We have been supporters of the Peter Wall Institute from its very beginning and have always appreciated its contribution to enriching not only our own intellectual lives but those of our students and colleagues. Thank you for the stand you are taking and we are with you in your efforts.
  113. I would like to add my support to the many you have already received. There has been a troubling trend at UBC (and at funding agencies like SSHRC) where centralized areas are earmarked for funding based on agendas that are often short-sighted or politically motivated.  These changes have grave consequences for disciplines like Humanities and Creative Arts where large research clusters are often not a useful way of moving the discipline forward – small group collaborations and interdisciplinary research are far more effective.  In any case, I appreciate you taking a stand on this and I will write to the President this morning.
  114. As news of your resignation reverberates across the pond to where I now sit in London – I am so sorry to hear about this unfortunate turn of events. Your dedication to PWIAS, to upholding its core values and pushing the envelope have been commendable. Your efforts made PWIAS and UBC a better place and indeed have been influential for many UBC faculty and their networks. It is only just recently that I am really appreciating how much the year I spent at PWIAS influenced my own work and future directions and gave me the foundation upon which to pursue new avenues – places where I am now seeing success and innovation and generating important new knowledge.  Your leadership and accomplishments at PWIAS have been unparalleled in my time at UBC – which includes the entire lifetime of the institute. I must say that it was only at the time that you took over that I truly began to appreciate the institute and really felt that I wanted to get more involved.  The year I spent as a Scholar reinforced this desire and I looked forward to continuing to engage with PWIAS upon my return from sabbatical. I had also encourages many UBC colleagues to get involved. So sad to hear that the model you have nourished and pushed has been struck down by the UBC administration. Sadly this is not altogether surprising, but very unfortunate –  another stain on the reputation of the university – and a sign that the administration still does not get it….For what it is worth, you were the consummate leader – with a clear vision yet extremely approachable, engaged and open to input from all. The two books that you conceived and which were produced under your leadership show UBC at its best –  more than decades of UBC annual reports, rankings and other metrics. I will do what I can to express my concern to the administration and hope that more careful consideration be given to the future direction of PWIAS. I hope you know how much of a model you are to many faculty and how commendable have been your actions in taking a stand to uphold the core values of PWIAS.
  115. I have only just heard about the unsettling decisions that have been made concerning the future of the Peter Wall Institute, and about your brave decision to step down as a result. We have similar things afoot here at Western and I am entirely sympathetic.  I wanted to reach out to say that I admire your decision very much. I know these must be upsetting days for you. But please know you have friends and admirers in many quarters—me included.
  116. I just wanted to express my support for you and your actions.  You have always struck me as a person of strong and just convictions.  This can’t be easy.
  117. I was traveling yesterday.  This is very disturbing news, although I’m sadly not really surprised.  Mark and I are at a family wedding over the weekend.  I’ll send an email.
  118. You have my strong support for the stand you have taken. Sadly, I am not surprised by this interference in budgets and policy.  I assume you have talked with my close friend Janis Sarra, your predecessor, about her dismaying experiences at the hands of the UBC administration.  I shall write a note to Santa now.
  119. Bravo! What a beautiful, thoughtful and important justification for your resignation. We need such powerful statements and eloquence explaining the importance of pushing the boundaries of knowledge, unconstrained and unfettered. I will treasure your speech. Count on my support on whatever you do or wherever you go.
  120. It was an ill-advised decision by the administration.  Thank you for standing up.  Let¹s hope that something positive can come from this.
  121. @ubcprez The Peter Wall Institute has long been one of the few UBC institutions that prioritized pure scholarship.  If Dr. Tortell’s letter is accurate, we’ve lost that.
  122. Just to add my voice to the chorus of support that you’ve obviously received. I’m glad to see that you stand up for what you believe in – not everyone does – and I hope these changes can be reversed.
  123. I was saddened and dismayed to learn of the events surrounding your resignation from the PWIAS directorship.  I think you are correct that what has happened is symptomatic of the broader deterioration of the research environment at UBC that has come with, among other things, a seemingly endless array of administrative initiatives aimed at a one-size-fits-all approach that assumes the value of creating research clusters over all other forms of intellectual inquiry.  I’ve come under growing pressure to join various clusters, all of which have been tangential to my own research interests, and most lacking in any kind of organic intellectual coherence, because they have been designed in response to mandates from above rather than ideas and interests percolating from below.  Meanwhile, governance issues and bureaucratic bloat continue to plague UBC.  This attempt by the VP-Research and VP-Academic to, in essence, seize control over the PWIAS seems entirely improper from a governance standpoint, as well as antithetical to the values of research creativity that the PWIAS has always sought to foster.  I confess that I have become more and more discouraged by the increasingly stifling atmosphere at UBC in recent years.  Whatever happens, thank you for writing, and for letting people know in some detail about this latest attempt by the administration to centralize power at the expense not just of the faculty, but of the principles which the university ought rightly to defend.
  124. Congratulations on your brave resignation as Director of the PWIAS after the President and Vice-President’s attempts to try and control what should be done in the PWIAS.
  125. I was really disappointed to hear the PWIAS news yesterday. I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done at this point to reverse the Board’s decision, but if there is I’m happy to help in any way. It’s such a shame to gut such a unique program.
  126. Just to send you my full support and solidarity in the face of this outrageous attempt by VPR to take over the institute, which as you clearly indicated would practically destroy its creative spirit.
  127. That is depressing. But your response is on point. Your vision for pwias was inspiring, and your strength in this decision is still.
  128. I’ll keep this brief since your life is no doubt horribly tempestuous right now.  Above all, I want you to know that I admire your courage and integrity in facing the very distressing action by the Board of Trustees.  I can palpably imagine your frustration and disappointment, but you have steeled your grip on higher principles, and you have set an example that is inspiring, and will strengthen the resolve of many others.  You have done tremendous service to the Institute, and the University, through your energetic and inspiring leadership of the Institute over the past years, and your tough and eloquent stand in response to the present untenable situation.  The Trustees’ decision will have ramifications that they did not expect, and it will be important to all of us to learn who was driving that decision.  Your uncompromising action and eloquent expression of values calls for similar transparency and integrity from the administration.  I agree with your optimistic diagnosis that good things will come from this, but it’s a great pity that unnecessary bad things are the cause of it.  Your decision inspires us all to hold to higher principles and demand transparency and accountability, and you can be certain that many will be carrying the torch in the days and weeks ahead.  Thank you for your contributions and your courage, and best wishes for all sorts of good things in the future.
  129. We are all outraged here by what is happening. Lots of reactions on Twitter!  I am in the midst of writing a letter to Santa Ono…  Philippe, you are a prime example of academic and integrity. The way you spoke during your resignation was absolutely brilliant!
  130. I was shocked but not altogether surprised at the contents of your email to associates.  I was shocked at the steps which you describe as having been taken and which are to be considered fait accompli which fundamentally change the scope and focus of the work conducted at the PWIAS.  And while I was sad to read of your resignation, I was hardly surprised by it under the circumstances.  As a Peter Wall Scholar myself, I fully share your thoughts on how intellectually stimulating it was to have engaged with colleagues from a wide range of fields at UBC and how that experience and the work we did together got me to think not only beyond my home field but even the already quite extensive bounds of my primary interdisciplinary field.  I have followed the PWIAS throughout my time at UBC and have consistently thought of it as an incubator of truly exciting and sometimes unexpected research.  With you at the helm that work not only continued but was strengthened considerably.  With your resignation the PWIAS has lost a strong and apt leader. And with the stated changes, it would appear the very character of the work that makes PWIAS so exciting is also threatened.  There are lots of places and outlets for doing the research work that is envisaged in the UBC Strategic Plan.  However, it is quite short-sighted and a grave mistake to simply appropriate all of the PWIAS for that specific research agenda.  My hope is that a meeting can be called of the President of the University and other administrators on the one hand and yourself and other representatives of the PWIAS on the other to restore the Institute’s mandate and direction and if possible to have you agree to resume the role you have so ably conducted as Director of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
  131. I was so sad to hear about your resignation. I just finished listening to your speech you gave together with your resignation announcement. I am deeply moved by your commitment to the integrity of your vision and the PWIAS. I want you to know that you and your vision have so much support within the UBC community – it is scholars and leaders like you that make me proud to call UBC my academic home. I am so sorry that the administration has let you and the scholarly community down in this way.   I do hope that the university will recognize its mistake and I sincerely hope that you will continue to lead the way towards a future that values academic freedom, multi-disciplinarity and the exploration of new ideas.
  132. I am of course deeply distressed at your resignation from the PWIAS Directorship.  You have done an absolutely splendid job as a leader of an organization that badly needed the vision, energy, and commitment you brought to it. I am in awe of all that you achieved.  Your resignation letter is a moving statement. It will be no surprise that I agree wholeheartedly with the way you frame the purpose and potential of university research in the beginning of your statement and I am only – and deeply – saddened by the way things have turned out through no fault of your own.  I fear the implications of recent decisions re PWIAS augur ominously for the university, but let’s see what resistance might bring.  All the best, Philippe — and thanks for your great contributions and inspiration.
  133. An exquisite letter, Philippe. I can well imagine that would not wish to lead the charge against this misguided neo-liberal assault but, rest assured, you have allies. I need more information. Can we talk? This level of misguidedness seems so very UBC.
  134. I admire what you did on Tuesday. While I don’t know the backstory, your character and judgement means I can support your position without reservation.  I am therefore very disappointed in Santa Ono and the other members of the board of the PWIAS.  I had hoped, perhaps naively, that after Andrew Szeri and Santa Ono heard from the heads (I know many of us wrote to Andrew), that there could be a reconciliation. Santa’s memo put an end to that hope. I don’t get it. Why can we not have a small, safe harbour for undirected curiosity-driven research? Why was that so threatening that they had to shut you down in such a ham-handed manner?
  135. Hi Philippe: I am sure you do not need another email in your inbox. But have to tell you after listening to your speech this morning that I am super impressed by it in every way. I admire what you say and support your vision for PWIAS. Your were inspiring on a bleak Thursday. Missing US Thanksgiving, but grateful for the intelligence of colleagues at PWIAS like you!  I am sure you are aware of the history of PWIAS, I hope you will break that pattern with your resignation and vision. I send you my best.
  136. I’m so sorry that the Trustees have taken this choice. Your speech was powerful and beautiful, and your actions commendable.  I wish I could have connected with the PWIAS before this happened.
  137. Thank you for your measured response to the events leading to your resignation from the Peter Wall Institute.  I am shocked by the news, and, above all, by the way in which the scholarly integrity of the Institute is being assaulted. Talk about a bad case of corporate convergence! The use of the words “In line” makes me shudder. I would like to support efforts that ask the Board to rethink its decision, via social media and otherwise. Who would be able to keep me abreast of any such efforts?  Thanks again for your cool-headedness, and for speaking up on behalf of academic curiosity.
  138. I wanted to thank you for sharing the recording and for taking such a brave, if not brilliant, stand. Although I am late to reply, I will still send my comments to Santa Ono etc. as I completely support your position and the importance of the values you outlined. While my Peter Wall experience did not (as of yet!) result in a new line of research or collaboration, the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn about what my colleagues were doing, and just bask in deep, intellectual conversations was very transformative for me. I would hate to see that be devalued and lost and have future PW scholars pigeon-holed into outcome driven awards/experiences.  Thank you for your leadership and I hope that this situation will resolve with you resuming the helm of the Peter Wall Institute. I also hope that I will have the opportunity to meet and thank you in person.
  139. I can’t tell you how much I admire your integrity and respect your decision and letter/speech for trying to uphold what we, as active, and formerly active scientists, nay, scholars of all disciplines, believe to be the mandate of all research explorations, Peter Wall or any other institutions.  Thank you.
  140. I have just read the shocking news of your resignation and the appalling oversight the trustees are wanting to apply to the Peter Wall. Although I’ve never been a fellow, I have known past directors who, as in your own case, I have much admired and even had the pleasure of serving on committees with. It is an extraordinary institution and the links you set in motion between research and the wider public through publications were visionary.  I am very sorry that you have stepped down from the director’s role, but having listened to your address, I am very proud to be part of a university where there are people of integrity who will not compromise the fundamental tenets on which the academy is predicated. Your action only strengthens your role as a leader in the dark times in which we are living.
  141. I just listened to your resignation speech. This is the first time I hear someone in a leadership position who is able and willing to clearly articulate what many of us think. I hope your example will foster a movement within the faculty to resist the ever increasing encroachment of administrative directives. As you indicated, this transcends PWIAS and even UBC, but it is particularly flagrant in the PWIAS situation and in the way the new directives were imposed on you.
  142. I was shocked to hear about the changes that have been implemented for the PWIAS.  Just to let you know I sent a letter of support for you and the independence of your institute to President Ono.  I pointed out that the exhibition of the Cajal drawings benefitted from the support and involvement of the PWIAS.   I also most whole-heartedly agree with you that the most pernicious aspect of these changes are the “dangerous precedent of senior administrators directing research at UBC”.  This would be kiss of death leading to the curse of mediocrity if we let this happen.  Good luck and keep in mind that you have a lot of support in the UBC community.
  143. I’ve been following the events at PWIAS the last few days with interest. I’m writing to let you know that I admire very much the stance you’ve taken and I believe that you’ve done the right thing by resigning your position at the Institute.  You’re a gentleman of principle and courage.
  144. Just read in the newspaper about your resignation. Hats off for standing up for your principles!
  145. I heard about your resignation from a colleague, then read about it in the Globe and Mail last night. I am very sorry to see this, but support you 100%. UBC has made a number of poor decisions over the past several years, in my opinion.

Selected letters to the Administration. There are many more.

Kalina Christoff: Dear Professor Ono: I would like to express my dismay at the recent developments in governance at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. The resignation of the Institute’s director, Prof. Philippe Tortell, signifies to me a deeply problematic relationship between the Institute’s scholarly governance, as envisioned and implement by its director, and the Institute’s more general governance, as undertaken by its Board of Trustees. An Institute of Advanced Studies is only as good as its core values – core values so eloquently expressed and formulated in Prof. Tortell’s resignation speech. These values cannot, and should not, be solely determined by the Institute’s Board of Trustees – and neither should the institute’s core research initiatives and programs.

I was a 2017 Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall under the directorship of Philippe Tortell. The experience left me with immense appreciation for the direction in which Prof. Tortell has taken the institute during the past two years. His resignation, which follows in the footsteps of the resignation of the Institute’s previous director, Prof. Janis Sarra, has left me and many of my colleagues in a state of grave doubt as to whether UBC truly stands for core values such as academic freedom and scholarly self-determination. Without those values, UBC in general, and the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies in particular, are not – and can never be – true academic institutions.

Sujatha Ramdorai: Dear President Ono, It is distressing to hear about the developments regarding PWIAS. Particularly so, after the message about the survey seeking inputs on  how we envision UBC in 2025. PWIAS is an integral part of UBC and unique in its programmes, public discussions, the possibilities it offered for interdisciplinary dialogue, etc. I would like to stress that I cannot imagine UBC now or in 2025 without PWIAS in its present, or improved form. We should do all we can to strengthen, support and sustain the activities of PWIAS.

Bonny Norton: Dear Dr. Szeri, I am one of the many faculty at UBC whose research has benefited from both the vision of the UBC VPRI and the mission of the PWIAS. I am confident that there is a great deal of compatibility between the UBC Strategic Plan and the interdisciplinary focus of the PWIAS.
In the Governance of the PWIAS, there is both a Board of Trustees and a group of Official Observers, including the Institute’s Director. There is thus a mechanism in place for discussion and negotiation of the common ground between UBC and the Institute.
I urge the President of UBC, who also serves as the Chair of the PWIAS Board of Trustees, to make energetic use of the Institute’s Official Observers so that UBC’s research community is strengthened and enriched in the years ahead.

Leah Keshet: Respected President Ono, I join my colleagues in expressing a deep concern at the developments around the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) over the past several days. As a former Distinguished Scholar at the PWIAS, I have benefitted immensely from my time at the Institute, from many interactions since then, from the open welcome and hosting of my International Visiting Scholar guest by the Institute last year, and from ongoing programs of an exceptionally high caliber over many years.I have been a regular attendee at these programs, and especially so since the beginning of the Directorship of Prof. Philippe Tortell, who brought his vision, energy, and effective leadership to the Institute. Just as one example, in his hosting of Fields Medal winner Cedric Villani, Prof. Tortell masterfully engaged a wide interdisciplinary group on a discussion of “beauty” (in mathematics, in art, and in science) that was deep, meaningful, and edifying. I got to see this first hand, and I was simply inspired. I have seen Prof. Tortell in action at many PWIAS events since then, and found him to be an outstanding leader, spokesperson, and representative for the Institute and for its vision.I was therefore surprised and disturbed to hear about the directives that Tortell received from you on Nov 16, and even more concerned to hear that these emanated from an in camera session from which he was excluded. I was astonished that those directives amounted to eliminating the essential mission of the Institute, and replacing it with top-down mandates to ‘enhance and complement the work of existing Research Clusters’. I agree entirely with Prof Tortell’s appraisal of this step as (1) entirely misguided. From my perspective, I add that it comes across as (2) a clear error of judgement on the part of the higher administration and (3) a new installment that will contribute to the sense of alienation between faculty and administration at UBC. Unfortunately, UBC has had its share of debacles that started with in camera sessions at which misguided decisions were made, dating back before your appointment as President.

In your letter of Nov 21, 2018 in response to the resignation of Prof Tortell, there appears the statement “Dr. Tortell’s decision to resign as director was unexpected and is disappointing.” I maintain that Prof Tortell resignation was not unexpected, given the directives he received. In an academic community where integrity is a core value, Prof. Tortell’s resignation was exactly what should have been expected. While Prof Tortell’s resignation is indeed a blow to the associates of PWIAS, the actions of the administration are even more disappointing.

While few people have inside information about the motivation and reasoning that led to these actions, I can say that to us, as well as to most outsiders, it will appear as a blatant grab for resources held by the Institute. This perception, whether correct or not, will bring shame and detract from the image of UBC as one of (if not THE) leading research universities in Canada.

The UBC Faculty Association

Dear Professor Ono,

RE: Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council met in Ottawa this past week. In light of the statements and media stories relating to the resignation of the director of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS), the following motion was approved by Council:

CAUT Council notes the resignation of the Director of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies over allegations that the academic independence of the institute was violated. Council calls on the CAUT Executive Director to work with the UBC Faculty Association to gather further information about the matter and report to the CAUT Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

In the PWIAS case, the UBC Faculty Association, in conjunction with the CAUT, will want to gather information on what avenues of collegial consultation were employed to formulate the new mandate for the PWIAS and what procedures were used to adopt this mandate. More generally, we are concerned about whether your administration believes that the implementation of the University’s strategic plan authorizes the central administration to alter the research or teaching missions of academic units without sufficient collegial consultation, both with the members of the unit and with UBC’s wider academic community, and without approval of Senate. We view such actions as potential incursions upon the academic freedom and autonomy of UBC’s academic units as well as usurpations of the academic governance powers of Senate.

The Collective Agreement, signed between the Faculty Association and UBC, enshrines a positive duty upon all members of UBC for “supporting, safeguarding, and preserving” academic freedom. In her comments on this positive duty, the Honourable Lynn Smith, Q.C., wrote “this means both supporting individual members in the exercise of their academic freedoms and rights, and ensuring those protections are embedded in the larger governing structure.”1 The Faculty Association looks forward to working with you to ensure that proper governing structures are in place for the implementation of the strategic plan.

 

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