Arvind Gupta says he regrets quitting as UBC president
The former president of UBC, Arvind Gupta, has spoken out about why he quit last August.
In an interview this morning on The Early Edition on CBC Radio, Gupta said he regrets resigning from the presidency and not pushing back harder against the board of governors.
Gupta also told CBC Radio he's wondered if "wonderful scholars like Jennifer Berdahl would not have had to go through what they went through" had he not quit.
The former board chair, John Montalbano, contacted Berdahl directly to complain about a blog post she had written about Gupta being forced out of his job.
"Part of the job of the president is to make sure that academic freedom is preserved," Gupta said.
The former president spoke after UBC accidentally released unredacted emails this week from Montalbano to Gupta raising concerns about his management.
In response to Montalbano's assertions, Gupta told CBC Radio that he tried to learn from the feedback but also "constantly" asked for evidence. That's because Gupta said he wasn't hearing this from the university community.
In addition, Gupta told CBC Radio's Rick Cluff that he asked on several occasions for a performance review but this was never granted.
"In late summer, I was told an ad hoc committee of the board had met and determined that I did not have their confidence and there was no avenue for me to speak to the whole board about these issues," Gupta said. "I was told that they had a legal opinion that they could block me from speaking to the board."
Gupta added that boards of directors "have a great deal of power".
"If they have sufficient votes, they can decide to exclude anyone from a discussion," he told CBC Radio.
So did he quit or was he fired? Gupta would only say that he didn't think it was a black and white situation to say whether or not his decision was "voluntary".
Gupta revealed to CBC Radio that the board never asked to speak to him to find out what happened.
Later in the interview with Cluff, he said that there are "many, many issues" around the governance of UBC that must be addressed.
They include "issues of how board members may or may not be in conflict on different issues", "how the board is receiving information", and whether this information is being conveyed "in a systemic manner or an ad hoc manner".
Gupta also raised concerns on CBC Radio about how committees are being formed by the UBC board and whether it should even be possible to form ad hoc committees without the knowledge of the president.
Media reports have noted that three vice presidents left during the year that Gupta was president. He told CBC Radio that "all senior personnel decisions have to be discussed by the executive committee of the board".
Gupta emphasized that it's important for professors to run the university because they are on the ground talking to students and stakeholders.
Otherwise, the idea will "perpetuate" that running of the university is separate from what happens at the grassroots level.
Gupta concluded his interview with Cluff by saying he's not concerned about whether or not his comments will constitute a violation of his nondisclosure agreement with the university.
"The entire negotiation with the university happened extremely quickly," Gupta revealed. "I wasn't out to try and negotiate a big package or anything. It's immaterial to me. What I care about is the welfare of the university and the people at the university. That's my number one priority."