Documents show ex-UBC chair John Montalbano and ex-president Arvind Gupta had a sometimes rocky relationship
The university will launch an investigation into how some documents became public
UBC has apologized for the release of unredacted documents dealing with last summer's resignation of its president, Arvind Gupta.
The vice president of external relations, Philip Steenkamp, and UBC counsel Herbert Lai issued a statement saying the university "deeply regrets that this privacy breach has occurred".
They also promised an independent investigation into how the material became public.
One of the documents was a June 4 letter from the then board of governors chair, John Montalbano, to Gupta following their meeting two days earlier with chancellor Lindsay Gordon.
Montalbano wrote in this letter that no aspects of the University Act can be ignored by the president at his discretion, but this can only be done "at the discretion of the Board".
"It will be ideal that you explicitly acknowledge your understanding that you report to the Board," Montalbano wrote. "This may seem like overkill, but the Board is very concerned that you may not fully appreciate the importance of formal governance, in every aspect of your role."
He added: "There is general consensus that your actions and reactions to the Board's concerns,, advice and inquiries suggest you possess an indifference or intolerance of the Board at best - or worse, an intended disregard of its authority. That being said, your expressed desire to involve the Board more strategically is very welcome and we look forward to more engaging Board discussions."
Montalbano also stated in the June 4 letter that he and Gordon "remain deeply concerned" about the "inexperienced team" around Gupta.
"Elaborating on how you can make your office more effective and trusted is important on a go forward basis," Montalbano wrote. "Specifically, do you have the right people in your office and do you have sufficient resources to get the information you need on a timely basis and in accurate form? How will you resolve the issue of trust?"
Other parts of the letter dealt with how Gupta would build consensus around his vision, improving communications with internal and external stakeholders, enhancing engagement with deans, and reviewing of the provost model.
On June 8, Gupta wrote to the board executive about how vital he felt it was to "create an atmosphere of trust among decision-makers and stakeholders".
"I believe that we are moving forward in necessary ways for the long-term health of the institution," Gupta wrote. "That said, change can induce anxiety and resistance. This is further magnified in a university setting; universities are places of great innovation, but also, historically, places which resist institutional and structural change. Even without an agenda of reform, there are typically tensions between various parts of the university that vie for resources for their own needs and plans."
Gupta added that UBC's highly decentralized nature...often exaggerates this".
Two months later, UBC announced that Gupta had resigned and by the end of the year, Montalbano had quit as chair of the board.
(Editor's note: Shortly after this story was posted, Arvind Gupta issued the following statement)
Today UBC released a number of documents related to my resignation as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia. As a result, I am compelled to comment on the documents, their content, tone and the accuracy of what they portray.
What was published is a one-sided representation of what transpired in the months prior to my resignation.
I have spent my entire working life trying to make this country and province better. The chance to be UBC’s President was an exciting opportunity to build a 21st century university, one that is better connected to the community, and the bigger world beyond the campus. This modern version of our largest university is essential to making BC into an even better society.
As President, I made a commitment to the people of British Columbia, the Board, the students and the faculty that we would move UBC to become one of the top universities in the world.
That goal meant substantial change including a rethinking of priorities and refocusing on the academic mission. And change can make some people uneasy. If it didn’t, it would be called the status quo. So, it is no surprise that not everyone at the university embraced this vision and the required actions.
That said, the assertions in the released documents, were not based on facts or evidence given to me at any time.
Still, I attempted to work in a collegial manner which is the hallmark of every well-governed university. Unfortunately there was never any formal review of my performance, or outreach by the Board to the broader university community. This would have allowed both the UBC Board and myself to assess my first year accomplishments and the scope of the work ahead.
This past summer it became clear to me that I did not have the support of the full Board and, as such, felt I had no other option but to resign in the best interest of the university. It is my sincerest hope that I, with leading UBC scholars, will carry on this important work on behalf of UBC, British Columbia, and Canada.