Patterns of Governance Crisis at UBC
The governance crisis at UBC could be illustrated with the following recurring patterns of disengagement, self-absolution and circumlocution:
- Patterns of disengagement: Neither the Board of Governors (BoG) nor the Deans would like to engage with stakeholders such as faculty and students. So far, they have declined to even meet with the Faculty Association, or the student societies (GSS, AMS) regarding the resignation of Dr. Gupta and released their statements via op-eds in the media or a simple statement on UBC websites. The UBC community had to learn from the media what their statements were, and not via the official channels. Further, the UBC Faculty Association’s attempt to reach out to the Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson has been met with disappointment as well (FOI package).
- Patterns of self-absolution are evident in the Smith and Butler reports. For example, Hon. Lynn Smith concluded that no one, neither John Montalbano (the former chair of UBC BoG) nor the senior administrators at Sauder school of Business, were personally at fault and UBC as a whole failed to protect Academic Freedom. The Butler report blamed the policies, processes and delays, and absolved UBC of any blame. If I were to predict, BoG may find another legal expert to absolve them of being responsible for the current crisis. In fact, the BoG has already obtained legal counsel regarding this and reiterated the legality of their actions and their authority to perform such actions.
- Patterns of Circumlocution: Although there have been at least 3 statements so far on the governance crisis from the BoG, Deans and the elected members of the BoG, there has been no clear, direct and concise answer to the question of what led to Gupta’s resignation. The BoG and the senior administrators at UBC have been simply beating around the bush and sticking to their pattern of disengagement and self-absolution.
This can not be reflective of inspiring leadership of any reputable university.
All these patterns indicate that the current BoG either
- haven’t been trained sufficiently on university governance or leadership,
- haven’t been oriented to the academic environment of open debate, or
- haven’t been introduced to their duties/responsibilities well enough.
Either way, this crisis must end, for which there is a simple solution: transparency.