UBC Faculty Association executive accuses university board of acting in secret and skirting FOI law

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      The UBC faculty association has called for an "external review of the UBC Board and its practices".

      It came at the end of a four-page letter from UBCFA president Mark Mac Lean blasting the board's oversight of former president Arvind Gupta and its processing of freedom-of-information requests.

      The letter was written on behalf of the UBCFA executive committee and accuses the UBC board of having "acted via secret, in camera processes that do not meet the standards of best practices for public bodies in British Columbia".

      "Worse, it is becoming apparent that such a lack of public accountability is the normal mode of operation for the UBC Board of Governors," Mac Lean alleges, "and we are concerned that the actions of the Board may expose the University to charges of contravention of the University Act and provincial privacy and access to information laws".

      The letter was released after Gupta claimed on CBC Radio that an ad hoc committee of the UBC board had lost confidence in him and that he wasn't given a chance to speak to the entire board.

      Moreover, Gupta asserted that he asked for a performance review, which wasn't granted, and that he was never provided with evidence of any shortcomings.

      "We were concerned that there was a significant variance from the usual process followed at UBC for the review of the President," Mac Lean states in the letter.

      The letter also alleges that Gupta's "performance seems to have been evaluated personally by [former chair] John Montalbano, together with a few Board members, including Greg Peet, Lindsay Gordon, and Alice Laberge".

      "The formal committes of the Board appear to have been bypassed, and it is not clear whether the Board as a whole was ever apprised of the process, most of which seems to have occurred via undocumented and unreported meetings," Mac Lean writes. 

      The UBCFA president also states, "It is perhaps noteworthy that no elected member of the Board appears to have been involved in the process."

      Access requests questioned

      The letter includes scathing criticism of UBC's handling of information requests, which is now the subject of a university investigation.

      In particular, the UBCFA president objects to a freedom-of-information request yielding no information about a May 18, 2015, meeting of the board's executive committee.

      "It is alarming to us that the records supplied in response to a formal request under the Access to Information laws should be incomplete, and that University Counsel should be supplied with incomplete records," the letter states.

      In addition, Mac Lean mentions that a "secret meeting" of the board was held on August 7, 2015, at the law firm Harris and Co. LLP in downtown Vancouver. This meeting, Mac Lean alleges, was not recorded on the board website.

      A meeting on July 29—the last recorded in Gupta's schedule before his resignation on August 7—was also not in records released, not even in a redacted form, according to Mac Lean's letter.

      "It seems certain to us that this meeting precipitated Dr. Gupta's resignation, and yet there appears to be no record of it and it is not clear how it was reported to the Board," Mac Lean writes. 

      He wouldn't comment on the substance of information that was released this week "since most of it is of a personal nature".

      But Mac Lean questions whether the general operating practices of the board are in accordance with provincial guidelines and any applicable laws.

      "We are deeply concerned by the evidence that a culture exists in UBC whereby the Chair of the Board is personally involved with managing university personnel and their concerns, and whereby back-channels exist between the Board and the University which bypass formal governance structures," the letter states.