NDP MLA Harry Bains says optics look very bad in B.C.'s first Indo-Canadian university president being "pushed out"

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      The NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton chose his words very carefully in an interview this morning with the Georgia Straight's Carlito Pablo.

      When asked what he was hearing from people of South Asian descent about Arvind Gupta's departure as UBC president last year, Bains said, "It's a huge disappointment in the community."

      The veteran MLA said that Gupta's ascension to the presidency in 2014 was seen as a "sign of progress" in light of Canada depriving South Asians of the vote from 1907 to 1947. Bains also mentioned the ban on people of colour joining the professions in that era. 

      So Gupta's appointment as UBC's president made him a role model, according to Bains, "because the community does put a lot of value in higher education for their children".

      "So he was a symbol of that success," Bains said. "And so there is a big disappointment—and especially under the circumstances that he parted at UBC. UBC has a lot of explaining to do. It has put question marks on UBC's reputation, on their board, and how they conducted themselves. There's not a lot of information."

      Earlier today, Gupta told CBC Radio he was informed last summer that an ad hoc committee of the UBC board had "determined that I did not have their confidence".

      Moreover, Gupta claimed that there was no performance review, despite his request for one, and he was not given evidence of his supposed shortcomings as president.

      "I was told that they had a legal opinion that they could block me from speaking to the board," Gupta alleged to CBC Radio host Rick Cluff.

      The Straight's Pablo asked Bains if he saw any racial implications or undertones in what happened.

      Again, Bains answered the question carefully.

      "Well, reading all that stuff in the media—you know, how they tried to silence the academic independents, academic freedom, and especially when someone questioned whether he lost the masculinity test, remember?—that part clearly puts some question whether, you know, is there something behind what we’re reading?" the MLA replied.

      Bains then asked himself if Gupta's colour played a role, before saying that "only time will tell once we have all the information".

      "But certainly, it does not look good," Bains said. "The optics looks very bad. The first Indo Canadian, the head of one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and having to—it seems to [us] in the community he was pushed out. And the way he was pushed out, certainly there are those undertones."

      Bains refused to speculate if the provincial government or the cabinet played any role in Gupta's departure.

      "It's hard to answer that question," the MLA said.