What is the “Best Interest” of a University?
The central issue of the #UBCBoG controversy is undoubtedly lack of transparency. However I feel there is another important aspect that deserves an equal attention and clear definition: what is really the best interest of a university.
You may have come across this term in the following places:
- when referring to the code of conduct for the Board of Governors:
Governors act honestly and in good faith and in the best interests of the University and exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person.
- when the BoG justified their actions in the name of best interests of UBC
- when former chair of UBC BoG justified his plans for course correction
- or when the elected members of BoG finally came out admitting their vote in accepting Dr. Gupta’s resignation, justifying it in their belief that is in the best interest of UBC.
- or in the BC University Act (Section 19.1)
where all it says is:
19.1 The members of the board of a university must act in the best interests of the university.
but not actually define it, to any useful extent.
As you can see, different stake holders of UBC may have a different interpretation of what the best interest of UBC really is. And what it must absolutely entail.
Given it is being used justify events and actions of consequential nature, it requires proper definition and abundant clarity.
In addition to the obvious factors of research and teaching excellence, I would like to suggest this important term — best interest of a university — must entail the following factors at a minimum:
- Protection and celebration of Academic Freedom, wherein the stakeholders are not reprimanded for their opinion or they should not concerned about their employment security or promotion.
- Processes and rules to enable & uphold transparency, wherein the Faculty Association doesn’t have to make multiple FOI requests just to be informed.
- Culture of inclusion, where opinions of all stakeholders are considered, irrespective of their rank, title and access to political power.
- Culture of open debate, as opposed to secret meetings and lack of documentation.
Another important factor that deserves debate are the Terms of Reference under which elected members, by either faculty or students, of BoG operate with:
And moreover as the elected members of the Faculty and Students, they must strive to keep their electorates informed, even if they are not representing the interests of their respective electorates.