Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases — John Adams.
The elected members of UBC Board of Governors (BoG) have issued a statement recently to let the boarder community of UBC know that they have in fact voted to accept the resignation of President Arvind Gupta. The statement has attracted much criticism from several faculty, including Prof. Alan Richardson, Prof. Nassif Ghoussoub and other concerned twitterati.
In particular, Prof. Richardson questioned
- the accuracy & completeness of their knowledge at the time of voting
- the reliability & impartiality of their judgement given their limited understanding
- their ability to uphold the Code of Conduct and Ethics for the BoG, given they have not acted yet towards providing greater transparency or promoting culture of integrity
- the propriety of their presence on, or the confidence in the presidential search committee, or its subsequent selection.
And Prof. Ghoussoub thinks their statement raises more questions than it answers. He elaborates: “It feels, like so many recent broadcast emails, both selective and defensive. I am curious who has given you the go-ahead — and why now? — to break, though selectively, the confidentiality agreements you protected yourselves behind so vehemently last fall. Why have you spoken to some aspects of what happened last year and not others?”
And few other inconsistencies and questions were raised:
Moreover, elected member Prof. Richard Johnston (who was a member of the Executive committee of the BoG involved in the discussions and evaluation of President Gupta’s tenure) admitted that “as a member of the board for five years, I sort of acquiesced in some of these trends” — referring to the secretive, undocumented and ad-hoc nature of scheduling the meetings.
Although there was a highly visible protest for the resignation of, a strong support for a vote of non-confidence and external review, of the entire board, it was thought elected members may not have been part of the secret subcommittee. This reasoning is owing mainly to the predisposed majority of the appointed members by the BC provincial government, additional details revealed in the leaked documents (secret ad-hoc subcommittees!) and President Gupta’s response to the leaks (subcommittee blocking his access to full BoG). Hence it was understood their level of complicity might not be significant.
However, with the recent confirmation of their vote and participation of few selected members in the still-secret committees leading to the resignation and lack of complete transparency expected by their electorates, any such doubts have been erased.
Although they are not contractually obligated to represent the interests of their respective electorates (faculty, staff and students), they do have a moral obligation not only to consult their electorates on important matters, but also to keep them informed.
They have failed in each of these aspects.
Hence the question elected member Prof. Johnston should be asking is not ‘Is this how we should be doing business?’, but rather
“do we have the the moral authority to continue?”.