It is becoming clear that the replacement of John Montalbano by Stuart Belkin as chair of the board hasn’t been accepted as sufficient enough to assuage the concerns of the UBC faculty.
This is according to a scathing letter sent today by the executive of the UBC Faculty Association to thousands of its members.
Indeed, another letter was sent today to Belkin, Premier Christy Clark, and Minister of Advanced Education, Andrew Wilkinson. “It has become clear that the University of British Columbia is in the midst of a governance crisis”, the letter says. They also call for a judicial external review of the Board and its operations.
The acting chair, Alice Laberge, had mentioned to the protesters who crashed Tuesday’s board meeting that Belkin was committed to reform and that he has a few ideas about how to improve transparency and accountability at the board level. This said, the concrete evidence of irregularities is quickly piling up, and we don’t see how the government can avoid a judicial review.
The bulk of the criticism seems to be pointing at Chancellor Lindsay Gordon, who is currently chairing the—all too important—presidential search committee. Given the apparent loss of confidence by the faculty, it is hard to see how the chancellor can continue with the task of leading a fair search process, and projecting an atmosphere of calm and stability in preparation for the incoming president.
Here are verbatim, some of the alleged irregularities singled out by the UBC Faculty Association.
1. Secret and undocumented meetings: “In the leaked documents from last week, we have seen several examples of secret meetings without any subsequent public documentation of these meetings. Does the Board’s current practice of holding some full Board and committee meetings without published meeting dates, agendas, and motions passed (and hence of decisions taken) meet the expectations for accountability and transparency for BC public bodies, and the obligations placed on the Board under the law?”
2. The ad-hoc and secret process used to resign president Gupta: “Has the Board been properly constituting and documenting all of its committees and their work? For example, a previously unknown ad hoc committee appears to have been created to manage the Board’s interactions with Dr. Gupta in the time leading to his resignation. Where is the documentation for the motions that created this committee? What processes were used, and what records kept of these processes? How many other such committees are there? Why is it necessary to keep the existence of any committee secret? Do all Board members know about each of the ad hoc committees? Is the Board operating in a way that meets all of its obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the general guidelines for public bodies? Is it lawful for secret committees to take actions that are not publicly recorded and not available for public scrutiny?”
3. Questions related to Chancellor Lindsay Gordon: “Two related concerns pertain to patterns of email business conducted by Board members. First, why are all Board members not using a UBC email address for all of their Board work? Second, how does that Board ensure that the work of the Board is properly recorded and archived?
For example, the University’s response to one of the Faculty Association’s Freedom of Information requests for the Chancellor’s email correspondence around a critical event claims that Mr. Gordon had no emails that were captured by this request. However, other individuals covered under this same request provided several email chains relating to the event that included multiple emails to and from Mr. Gordon. Why were Mr. Gordon’s emails, which were clearly about University business, not provided by Mr. Gordon as the law provides? How are Mr. Gordon’s emails about university business thus archived? More generally, do the email processes of the Board meet all legal obligations applicable to the Board and to UBC as a public institution?”
The Faculty Association concludes:
“In sum, to our minds, the Board of Governors is operating in the “shadows,” purposively orchestrating its activities in such a way as to deny public access, accountability, and proper scrutiny. Secret agendas, clandestine ad hoc committees, and chains of emails that disappear or are conducted on private email addresses, are not what one expects from the governing board of a significant public institution.
Moreover, freedom of information law in British Columbia is intended to provide any interested member of the public access to the basic documentation related to the business of a public body such as the University of British Columbia. Such law provides for appropriate confidentiality, but it does not intend that the business of the University should be completely beyond the reach of the public.”