UBC president Arvind Gupta's resignation came less than a year after departure of university's finance boss
There's been a great deal of speculation over possible reasons why Arvind Gupta resigned as UBC's president.
Gupta and UBC have each pointed to a fairly bare-bones news release to explain his decision. It's left many thinking that there's much more to the story than this.
Looking at Gupta's one-year tenure from an administrative perspective, one of the most significant things that occurred was last September's departure of Pierre Ouillet.
The former Best Buy International vice president held the lofty title of UBC vice president finance, resources and operations.
As a result of centralization of authority under his office, Ouillet was an enormously powerful presence after being hired to a five-year term in 2009. In 2013, then-president Stephen Toope announced that the board had reappointed Ouillet for another five-year term starting January 1, 2014.
"In approving his reappointment, the Board acknowledged that Mr. Ouillet has been an innovative member of the University leadership, and has done much to implement Place and Promise: the UBC Plan, and to enhance the financial and operational practices at UBC," Toope said in a statement.
Toope also called Ouillet "one of the most influential financial leaders in Canada in higher education".
This announcement from Toope came seven months after he had announced his own resignation, effective June 2014, three years into his second five-year term as president.
A month after Ouillet's announced departure from UBC last September, he was named vice chancellor and chief financial officer at the UC San Diego.
I don't know if Ouillet was among those applied to become president after Toope announced his resignation. Nor do I know if UBC's board of directors gave Ouillet his walking papers at Gupta's urging or if Ouillet simply lined up another job after his contract was renewed.
Regardless, Ouillet's departure marked a huge change in the upper administrative structure of the university. He would have played a key role in keeping the UBC board informed about the financial situation.
From the contract renewal, it appears that Ouillet was valued by a majority on the board.
He may not have been nearly as popular with members of the UBC Senates at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, which oversee academic governance.
That's because Ouillet would have been the administrator who wielded the financial levers over university departments. This wouldn't have won him any popularity contests on either campus.
In recent years, the B.C. government has not been very generous to UBC. The province chopped funding by $16.6 million in 2014-15, which didn't make things any easier in Gupta's subsequent dealings with various departments.
The chair of UBC's board, John Montalbano, and UBC officials have made it clear that Gupta quit.
However, it's not unreasonable to wonder if the seeds of Gupta's early departure, just one year into his five-year term, were sown with the departure of UBC's vice president of finance, resources and operations.
Aug 9, 2015 at 5:43pm
More speculation - at universities a VP Finance does not become President because they are not academics nor grandees. This is a non-starter as a theory.
Aug 10, 2015 at 3:41pm
Nonsensical. This statement is absolutely not true:
"That's because Ouillet would have been the administrator who wielded the financial levers over university departments."
Aug 10, 2015 at 11:14pm
Ask people who worked with him and I think you'll find that Pierre is held in the highest regard by a whack of UBC leaders. He is honest, hard working, dedicated and smart. Not afraid to make bold - sometimes contentious - decisions, he made so many improvements at UBC that me pulling a list together would simply bore most people.
He was never going to be President and didn't want it. Let's make that clear. Him being let go was a massive mistake, a fatal mistake. That he got picked up by UCSD so quickly tells it's own story.
Stephen Toope is no idiot either and you know that he isn't going to praise Pierre without it being fully justified. So ask yourself - what problem does letting go a seasoned, respected and highly competent VP solve ? Cos I can't figure it out...but I'll bet every cent of my pay check that it has nothing to do with ability, it's all about ego and power. Obvious traits that you want in a leader of a highly respected university.
Aug 11, 2015 at 9:32am
UBC like so many other public institutions is fraught with the old boys club syndrome.
Gupta was probably the wrong choice to begin with, but that does not call out of question the fact that so many of these people who get to the top are WASPY bullies.
I have had the opportunity to work at a few different institutions and it has always been the same.
Not all of the WASPs are men and some are what you call " Trailer Trash", but due to current demographics and genetic selection they hold the keys to power and prefer it that visible minorities play the subservient role. ( Watch the film "The Butler" for clues).
Canada for all it talk about multiculturalism remains a bastion of old boys.
Look at Harper's cabinet.
Look at Trudeau's and Mulcair's shadow cabinets and tell me what you see.
The bamboo ceiling just got another wheelbarrow of sod thrown on top.
Not too much has changed since the 40 plus years I've been in Canada, maybe not as life threatening, but that's probably due to big brother's surveillance cameras.
Let's see who they choose next.
Poor Arvind, you got played.
Aug 14, 2015 at 2:52pm
Uhm... wasn't Ouillet let go because of the massive financial scandals (i.e. embezzlement) in Dentistry and Medicine that happened during his tenure? Not saying that he was responsible for those or could have prevented them but my understanding is that the buck had to stop somewhere and that's where it ended up stopping (shows exactly how serious those issues were that an actual senior executive ended up paying the price). As such, even though he departed during Gupta's tenure, it had nothing to do with Gupta or his administration but was a result of stuff that happened long before Gupta arrived on the scene.
That was my take, at least.
Pierre San Diego
Aug 19, 2015 at 8:44am
Interesting speculation... reminds me of the game of clue: "It was Pierre, in the board room, with the candlestick". Which is probably more accurate than most of clueless speculation in this article and in the comments so far. With one exception...I think 'notmyrealname' has it right.