Leah Keshet: An open letter to Martha Piper regarding the loss of Arvind Gupta as UBC's president

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      By Leah Keshet

      Dear Dr. Piper,

      A recent email from you, which is still in my inbox, closes with the UBC motto “Tuum est”. My understanding is that this means “It is yours,” as in UBC belongs to us (the faculty, the students, the staff, and yes, even the administration).

      At the moment, I feel this motto is misplaced. Just as misplaced as the offhand remark “we won’t miss a beat,” by the BoG Chair in describing the “Leadership transition”—ouster—of President [Arvind] Gupta, who was a mere 13 months into his term when this “resignation” took place.

      I do not feel UBC is mine, or belongs to me after the recent unexplained and trivialized events. Like other faculty members, I am demoralized and in shock. I am not ready for the cheerful upbeat sugary words of celebration, nor am I “looking forward” to meeting and working with any president other than President Gupta.

      You were a fine and respected UBC president in your time. Why spoil such a solid legacy by stepping into the hornet’s nest, which has obviously stalled Dr. Gupta’s reforms, eventually driving him out of his post?  While you have likely good intentions to help UBC in its time of need, this is not the time to “get on with the celebrations” before a proper housecleaning, a return to the principles of shared governance, a pledge for transparency and accountability, and the full reinstatement of Arvind Gupta as our UBC president.

      Leah Keshet is a professor in the UBC mathematics department and the first female president of the Society for Mathematical Biology.




      Aug 14, 2015 at 3:43pm

      The folks in the Math Department must be terribly busy given the number who are writing letters to newspapers about their "shock and demoralization" about Dr. Gupta's departure. Clearly, they were too busy to notice that during his short tenure as president, he fired two VPs and removed the Provost from his role. There were also a few key senior administrators that also departed on their own steam. It's not uncommon for a new President to bring in his own people, but to fire half of the senior exec does raise a few eyebrows about who really was the incompetent person in this relationship.

      UBC Professor

      Aug 14, 2015 at 5:10pm

      Thank you. Many of us (UBC faculty) agree word for word with your sentiment, but are reluctant to come forward for fear of hurting our careers....

      UBC Professor

      Aug 14, 2015 at 8:31pm

      To staffer: These pesky faculty were not too too busy to notice the departure of corporate administrators - we cheered each departure announcement. The problem was not Gupta, but the previous administrations which brought in corporate MBAs with zero high-ed experience and brought the faculty to staff ratio at UBC to jaw-dropping 1 to 3 - i.e. over three administrators per each faculty member http://www.pair.ubc.ca/%5Cstatistics%5Cprofile%5CUBCV%20factsheet.pdf

      Float plane

      Aug 14, 2015 at 8:34pm

      Totally agree with Staffer. This is pure parochialism from the Maths dept. trying to protect one of their own. I wouldn't mind, but it's all the same talking points.

      With regard to UBC Professor, a word of alarm at the departure of the Provost from the Faculty Association would have been appropriate. It's a little late now to cry wolf. Or is it because the head of the FA is a Maths prof too?

      Anonymous Staff

      Aug 14, 2015 at 10:35pm

      UBC Professor: Yes, the ratio of staff to faculty is higher. And I'm sure the staff would be grateful if you would take some time to find out what it is the staff do before fretting that there are so many.

      It's really too bad Gupta wasn't the head of the Faculty Association. Sounds like they really deserve each other.

      Staff at UBC

      Aug 14, 2015 at 10:59pm

      Have you seen the letters supporting Dr. Gupta from the Profs. in Business School, Arts, Education...almost cross all UBC campus, not just Math....


      Aug 14, 2015 at 11:30pm

      I'm sure there are some who support Dr. Gupta. You probably didn't see any staff write letters voicing their concerns because unlike faculty, staff can be terminated without cause. Were the faculty unaware of the staff lay-offs, or did they just not care?

      Let it be

      Aug 15, 2015 at 12:50pm

      In response to Staff at UBC, one key early blog supporter of Gupta after word came out of his sudden resignation is Jennifer Berdahl of Sauder, who is the partner of the newly hired associate director of the Pacific Institute for Math Sciences, and a close friend of Nassif Ghoussoub. So here is another potential tie to the Math department. I suggest that the intense lobbying by the math department to suggest that there was an unjust treatment of the former president Gupta must cease. There are two sides to every story, and without having any first-hand detailed information on the decision-making process leading to Gupta's resignation, I think we should not pre-judge and speculate on the cause. Let it be, and let's move on.

      Never let it be

      Aug 15, 2015 at 8:40pm

      To correct what you said, Prof. Gupta got support from various faculties across UBC campus, such as Faculty of Arts: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/ubcs-board-owes-the-public-a...
      Faculty of Education: http://blogs.ubc.ca/ross/2015/08/arvind-gupta-known-knowns-known-unknown... and etc.

      The board should have made Prof. Gupta sign a non-disclosure agreement. For this significant case, it should be nullified and allow Prof. Gupta to explain his reasons for his stepping down.
      We MUST Hear from Prof. Gupta.

      Float plane

      Aug 15, 2015 at 9:02pm

      Shocking to see the faculty treat staff dismissals as cause for celebration.

      Still doesn't explain why no-one said anything when the Provost was sidelined. He's not an MBA with no university experience but a well-respected, seasoned academic who know UBC inside out.

      Where were the Maths Dept. and the FA then? Why did you say nothing? Because your guy was at the helm? Surely not. That would be hypocrisy.