Saving the UBC Senate from itself

By Vinayak Vatsal, Professor of Mathematics, UBC



Much has been made at UBC on the subject of governance, sparked by such diverse issues as the sudden resignation of Arvind Gupta, the violation of academic freedom that occurred in the aftermath of the resignation, the university’s non-response to complaints of sexual assault, and the handling of a petition to ask for divestment from fossil fuels.

Most of the discussion has been focussed narrowly on the Board of Governors and senior administrators, since it is within their ambit that this series of unfortunate events lies. A vote of non-confidence in the Board was held, and more than 800 faculty members voted to censure the Board for its perceived failures.

But largely forgotten in the discussion are the facts that UBC is a bicameral institution, and that the UBC Senate is is endowed by the University Act with expansive powers to manage the academic affairs of the institution. In principle at least, the…

View original post 968 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Some unedited thoughts for Canada’s fundamental science review panel

The Government bureaucracy seems to be buckling under the sheer number of reviews that the liberal government is currently conducting. One of them is focused on “determining the strengths of our current arrangements and pinpointing gaps and bottlenecks in Canada’s research funding ecosystem.” This review is welcome and overdue, especially that its panel is chaired by the knowledgeable and straight shooter, David Naylor, and populated by a few distinguished scientists such as Robert Birgeneau and Art McDonald. I will be submitting and co-submitting more formal recommendations elsewhere, but yesterday’s CFREF announcements managed to shake me out of my blissed procrastination. Time to get a few ideas off my chest. Continue reading

Posted in R&D Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A life of mathematics and computation: Jon Borwein

by Anthony Bonato, Department of Mathematics – Ryerson University

The Intrepid Mathematician

There was sad news this week with the passing of Jonathan Borwein on Tuesday, August 2, 2016.

Jon Borwein in his lab at University of Newcastle, Australia.

Jon was a powerhouse mathematician and computer scientist who leaves behind a rich legacy. As a highly awarded scholar, his academic output was staggering: almost five hundred papers, twenty-eight books, and he supervised dozens of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.  His work spanned many areas within mathematics, such as analysis, optimization, financial mathematics, experimental mathematics, and high performance computing. He is also well-known for his work on computing digits of π, and the featured image of this blog is from one of his visualization experiments for that number.

I met Jon when he was Canada Research Chair at Dalhousie University. He was also Director of the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (AARMS). I was teaching an AARMS summer school course at Dalhousie, and my first…

View original post 134 more words

Posted in Honouring friends | Leave a comment

UBC’s new president is not a mathematician, but …

The last time I saw the fabulous Frances Bula, she said that she liked my tweets whenever I commented on mathematics and mathematicians. I think she really meant for me to leave the rest of the news and analysis to her and the pros. However, thanks to Stuart Belkin, I now have a chance to do both. I mention the Chair of the UBC Board because I hear that –fortunately I must say– he is the one in charge these days, including of the presidential search.  The remarkable choice of Santa Ono (yes Santa!) as UBC’s 15th president is nothing but a victory to those among us calling for a renewed spirit of research excellence, academic freedom, diversity, decency, humanity and fair-play among the UBC leadership, be it mid-level and up. Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors, UBC Presidential Search | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

An open letter to Faye Wightman, Chair of the UBC Alumni Board of Directors


From Roger Francois, Professor, Canadian Research Chair, FRSC, UBC Alumni ’87 (PhD)

Dear Ms. Wightman,

I could not attend the meeting of the Board of Governors on April 14th because of a scheduling conflict but owing to the new openness of the board under the leadership of Mr. Belkin, I was able to view the proceedings later that evening. What I saw and heard encouraged me to believe that I was witnessing a new era of earnest dialogue between the various stakeholders of the university. The representatives for UBC students, faculty, and staff raised their cases frankly but respectfully, and the response from the board members conveyed the desire to build bridges and work towards addressing the concerns of the different constituencies of UBC.

It was therefore very unfortunate that this atmosphere of goodwill was partly clouded when you took the stage, although the silence that followed your rather condescending…

View original post 104 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An open letter to Stuart Belkin, Chair, UBC Board of Governors


Re: Ms. Wightman’s presentation at the April 14th meeting of the Board of Governors

From: Prof. Kalina Christoff, Department of Psychology

Dear Mr. Belkin,

As a faculty member at UBC, I was delighted to hear today’s discussions between the Board of Governors and various UBC representatives. It was encouraging to hear your thoughtful responses to each presenter and the engaged questions that a number of Board members asked. I was just starting to feel a pleasant sense of hopefulness and, dare I say, a glimmer of trust in the Board of Governors — when suddenly, a cold bucket of water was poured over my head in the form of Faye Wightman’s presentation.

Ms. Wightman’s tone all but destroyed the atmosphere of respect that was created throughout the preceding 1.5 hours. In the space of 10 short minutes, she managed to gravely insult, disrespect and belittle faculty members and others who have…

View original post 198 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thank you Chair Montalbano and Chancellor Gordon: UBC couldn’t have done it without you

“I think governance is always expressive of the gang that are there doing it at any one point in time.” With this statement, Stuart Belkin seems to be distancing himself from the practices of former Chair, John Montalbano, Chancellor Lindsay Gordon, and the Board members who supported them, actively or not, in the ouster of former President Gupta. Eight months into this ever-intensifying debate, we say it is time to solemnly declare our deep gratitude to this “gang.” For without them, we probably wouldn’t have had this debate, and surely not on so many sensitive issues relevant to the future of our university. Thanks to them, the UBC centennial will enter the history books as the year when the faculty woke up to their power and responsibilities.

Continue reading

Posted in Board of Governors | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments