UBC president’s resignation raises fears of staff cuts on campus

Association of Administrative and Professional Staff sends memo to campus employees

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      An organization representing almost 4,000 employees of UBC is seeking a "full accounting of the costs" associated with the unexplained departure of president Arvind Gupta.

      In a memo to its members, the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff of UBC suggests that the "potential multi-million dollar price tag" for the continuing controversy could lead to cuts to staff on campus.

      Issued by AAPS president Isabella Losinger and executive director Joey Hansen on August 20, the memo states:

      Dear AAPS Members,

      AAPS is concerned about the impact the resignation of President Gupta may have on you as part of UBC’s Management and Professional Staff group.

      As the costs of Dr. Gupta’s resignation and the subsequent fallout continue to mount, AAPS is concerned what these expenses will mean for your workload, your job security, and your departmental budget. You are already being asked to do more with less, and the potential multi-million dollar price tag for recent events may mean further cuts. We are concerned that Board Chair Montalbano’s assurances to the public that neither students nor faculty will suffer as a result of these expenses may indicate that staffing positions will be cut to cover these additional costs.  As you well know, Article 9 provides little job security for Management and Professional Staff. For those of you not familiar with the Article, it can be found here: Article 9.

      We will seek a full accounting of the costs associated with the resignation of Dr. Gupta and the related fallout. We will also seek assurances that you will not bear the brunt of these costs.

      Current and potential costs include:

      • The Presidential search that recommended Dr. Gupta
      • Dr. Gupta’s salary for the 2015–2016 academic year that he is on leave
      • Renovations to the President’s residence
      • The cost of terminating three Vice Presidents during Dr. Gupta’s short tenure
      • Interim President Martha Piper’s salary
      • Legal costs associated with the resignation
      • Fees to Kirk & Company Consulting Ltd. (contract public relations services for UBC)
      • New Presidential search costs
      • Installation costs of the new President
      • Loss of productivity and revenue as strategic decisions are placed on hold
      • Staff time required to handle the resignation and the transition
      • Potential loss of donor funds based on eroded public confidence

      In the last two years, the BC Government has cut its contribution to UBC’s operating budget by $25 million. We know that many of you have been impacted by subsequent budgets cuts and are already working at or above capacity. Additional reduction in M&P staffing will have serious consequences for the university. In addition, a growing number of you work under a cost-recovery model where you are essentially expected to generate the funds necessary to pay for the costs associated with your positions. It is simply not acceptable to ask you to pay for the costs associated with a failed Presidency.

      The UBC community deserves a full and clear explanation how these costs will be absorbed. We need to see a clear and workable plan to ensure this does not happen again. Most importantly, we need to see a plan to pay for these additional costs without simply assuming that Management and Professional Staff positions can be reduced without serious consequences to the university and students.

      Earlier this week, the UBC Faculty Association let it be known it had lost confidence in UBC board of governors chair John Montalbano and called for his immediate resignation.

      The Canadian Association of University Teachers has also called for Montalbano to "step aside" as UBC chair while the university investigates allegations that he violated the academic freedom of a professor who blogged about the president's abrupt departure.

      Aaron Bailey, president of the Alma Mater Society, issued a statement today (August 21) declining to add the student union's voice to those want Montalbano out.



      UBC Staff

      Aug 21, 2015 at 6:43pm

      It is only staff right, we are expendable, nor have any worthwhile skills. I am sure some of the faculty at UBC are excited by this possibility.

      Important Things

      Aug 21, 2015 at 7:06pm

      The only important things are paying the Executive and Board all that they have contracted for. All other considerations at a university take a back seat.

      Welcome to the real world.

      Bleak future

      Aug 21, 2015 at 7:48pm

      Hopefully the next President and Provost will recognize the value of M&P staff and what they contribute to UBC.

      What next?

      Aug 21, 2015 at 8:16pm

      I once attended a dinner where Stephen Toope stated that staff ARE the institution. By no means was he down-playing faculty and students, but instead was recognizing that he knew from his years as the President that staff were equally essential to UBC. Then Arvind Gupta started, and claimed - without any comprehensive research as to whether it was viable - that staff should be reduced by 30%. Wonder how many successful leaders - in any type of organization - begin their tenure by stating anything so ignorantly?

      Going forward, hopefully both the next President and Provost have a modern-day understanding of the importance of staff to the university. The relationship staff have with the university has been badly frayed this past year; hopefully, our two key administrative positions will be entrusted to individuals that understand the dynamic of the importance of staff, faculty, and students. If the former president's performance this past year has reminded us of anything, it is how unproductive the university becomes when only one employee group is catered to.

      Thank you!

      Aug 22, 2015 at 1:03am

      Given Article 9, it's brave of you to speak out, Isabella. We've seen some incredibly dedicated staff fall victim to this atrocious 'reign of error & terror' and we can't take much more. It's ironic that UBC does research into workplace bullying given the way staff are treated.

      Your list doesn't take into consideration the more hidden costs. But as I've heard from a few faculty members and academic administrators: "If you don't like it here, then leave." It would be interesting to compare the rate of staff turnover and the number of sick days taken to see if there's a noticeable rise.

      plato flane

      Aug 22, 2015 at 10:36am

      I presume then that AAPS is not calling for the resignation of the chair because they do not say so and the costs of a new search would presumably endanger more staff jobs. This really isn't any different than the faculty position which is turf protection.

      Like the UBCFA, it would have been really helpful if they had spoken up at the time of the reign of terror and error, rather than seeking to protect turf when the damage is done.

      Thank god for the students - the only group (including the Board) thinking about UBC as a whole rather than pursuing their own narrow agenda.

      @UBC Staff

      Aug 22, 2015 at 11:25am

      Count on it!

      And we all know the type: They're past retirement age, no longer doing any research, teaching probably only one course (a grad level course with maybe 8 students max), but will take every opportunity to moan about how staff should be seen and not heard, all the while collecting their 6-figure salary for doing sweet eff all.

      Insight Needed

      Aug 22, 2015 at 1:25pm

      Plato Flane: Your criticism is a bit harsh if you know the background of how AAPS' members have been historically treated by some academic administrators, and the full repercussion of Article 9 in the collective agreement. Unlike students and faculty, M&P staff have NO protection. Article 9 states that staff can be terminated without cause. AAPS most definitely did speak up about the hit its membership has taken the past 14 months, but it did it behind close doors and to the appropriate people.

      I know a couple of people that have been vocal (but fair) in their criticism of how UBC treats staff. I don't know what they're doing now, because their positions were eliminated and they're now gone from UBC. Because that's what happens to staff - there's no academic freedom, they just get called into a meeting out of the blue with a rep from central HR and their boss, and they're gone within half an hour.

      As for John Montalbano, it would be inappropriate for AAPS to weigh-in. Jennifer Berdahl has made the serious complaint that she's had her academic freedom threatened, and it's being investigated by the university. Sure, I have my own opinions regarding what's happened, but they're based on partial evidence and anecdotal comments I have heard from friends across campus. If Montalbano does have to step aside, it should be because there's reason to be removed as Chair, and not because the court of popular opinion has decided his fate. Because I think you'll agree, to terminate people without cause is just wrong.

      Staff will be hit

      Aug 22, 2015 at 6:35pm

      BoG chair promised that students and researchers will not pay for the cost. Then only staffs will pay for it.

      @UBC Staff

      Aug 22, 2015 at 11:03pm

      Administrative bureaucrats are pretty much disposable---and now so are PhDs, pretty much everyone is thanks to globalization. Certainly BC's poor and disabled are. I sure do feel sorry for those people on University-welfare pushing paper who otherwise would be pumping coffee or on _real_ welfare. Solidarity? No, I'm more important than other people---I file papers in a University department!!