The crisis of administration at the University of British Columbia that began with the sudden resignation of President Arvind Gupta on 7 August has quickly eroded into a legitimacy crisis. Both CUPE and the Faculty Association of UBC are publicly questioning the legitimacy of a swath of administrators and what CUPE representatives referred to as the group of “unelected” officials on the Board of Governors.

Similarly, faculty members are questioning the legitimacy of middle managers appointed at the whim of the Deans. This has resulted in a bloat of assistant and associate deans that have little if any claim to legitimacy. Hence, UBC’s middle managers can do little more than cling to the authority of their title and entitlement.

A crisis of legitimacy forms as questions begin to focus on the legitimate nature of authority and limits to governance within institutions.

Since 7 August, the University has itself been limited to speculation on the President’s resignation.


September 1, 2015

Dear Ms. Laberge [Acting Chair, UBC Board of Governors]:

The events surrounding the 7 August 2015 resignation of Professor Arvind Gupta as President of the University of British Columbia continue to be of paramount concern to the Faculty Association as well as the University and to the public at large. We therefore wish to respond to the Board’s letter to Mark MacLean dated 14 August 2015. The Board’s letter simply reasserts that the mutually entered into confidentiality agreement between the University and Professor Gupta be respected and that further details regarding his resignation not be released.

However, any terms attached to Professor Gupta’s resignation may be reconsidered by the two parties who entered into such an agreement. Thus, it is fully within the powers of the Board of Governors to initiate a negotiation with Professor Gupta to agree to rescind the non-disclosure agreement to allow for greater transparency as to how we came to the point of a failed presidency.

We therefore call upon the Board of Governors to approach Professor Gupta to renegotiate the terms of his resignation agreement so that both the University and Professor Gupta are able to speak fully to the reasons for his resignation. Given the events that have transpired since Professor Gupta’s resignation, and the incessant stream of rumour and innuendo that continues to swirl around the University, we do not believe that the maintenance of a mutually agreed to non-disclosure agreement around Professor Gupta’s resignation is in the best interests of the University, of Professor Gupta, or of the public.

If this agreement was put in place to protect Professor Gupta, then speculation and the public dissection of his presidency in the media have removed any intended sense of privacy. Indeed, for example, it is apparent from the 26 August Globe and Mail article by Simona Chiose and Frances Bula that a number of individuals working in the administration have been speaking anonymously to the media in a manner that is disparaging to Professor Gupta, which surely is not the intent of a non-disclosure agreement. As a result, the public is left with incomplete and unverifiable information and innuendo in the place of the truth.

Beyond the lack of a proper assessment of Professor Gupta’s performance during his year as president, we are also missing an accounting of the Board of Governors’ actions during the period in question. Much has been made of the resignations of Vice-Presidents, for example, and dissatisfaction in senior administration with these resignations has been posited as one reason for Professor Gupta’s resignation. But these resignations were accepted by the Board of Governors, so how did the Board work with Professor Gupta to conclude that these leadership changes were in the best interests of the University? We also note that there were resignations from other senior administrators early in the terms of Presidents Piper and Toope, and these never merited comment. It has always been the case that a President can put his or her own team in place, so what was different for President Gupta?

We are also greatly concerned that continued secrecy about the circumstances of Professor Gupta’s departure will make it difficult – if not impossible – for the University to conduct a search for a new president, and to ensure that the unfortunate events of this summer will not recur.

Certainly the damage caused to the University’s reputation will increase the difficulty of finding suitable candidates. Furthermore, the stream of innuendo and rumour and media attention that envelop the actions of the Board in managing the relationship with Professor Gupta will likely make qualified candidates for the presidency (or for any of the currently vacant positions in senior administration) reluctant to accept an appointment at UBC.

We therefore invite the Board to share with us, and with the University as a whole, how they envision conducting a search for a new President without disclosing the circumstances that led to the resignation of Professor Gupta.

We are currently without a permanent President, without a permanent Provost and VP Academic, and without a Vice-President for Communications. Our VP Finance has been in the position for less than 4 months, and the VP Research & International is coming to the end of his term. Meanwhile we have a major public relations crisis unfolding, complete with rumors of back-stabbing, malfeasance, conflicts of interest, and manipulation, as well as an ongoing independent inquiry into actions of senior University officials.

It is not reasonable to move forward in a positive way until all rumours of administrative failure are dispelled, and all the facts placed on the table. The reality of the present situation is that governance structures at UBC have broken down, and it is not credible to maintain that Professor Gupta’s resignation is simply a personnel matter that can remain shrouded in secrecy. The University’s reputation is seriously compromised, and further secrecy and obfuscation will compound the damage.

In conclusion, we refer you to the words of our interim President, Dr. Martha Piper, in her introductory message to the University community: “Consider the people and influences that enabled UBC to earn recognition as one of the top 40 research universities in the world. We have built this success on a century of effort, on the brilliance of people like the Nobel Prize winning Dr. Michael Smith, like geographer Derek Gregory, and like zoologist and biodiversity researcher Sally Otto….. The people who judge universities … count alumni and faculty winning Nobel Prizes. They look for the number of articles published, especially in prestigious journals like Nature and Science. They ask how our graduates perform and they notice that UBC produces seven of every 10 B.C. Rhodes Scholars.”

The point we take from Dr. Piper’s words is that the University is only as good as its faculty, staff, and students, and that UBC is bigger than the Board, and bigger than Professor Gupta. We urge the Board of Governors in the strongest possible terms to work with Professor Gupta to negotiate terms permitting all parties to speak freely about the events that have affected us all collectively.



With the Chair of BoG and Sauder School of Business administrators under investigation, UBC advises that now is the time to speculate about President Gupta and all University affairs, if not everything. As it should be at a research institution. As it should be with the economy in shambles.

Over the past few weeks, speculation on the sudden resignation of President Gupta has been impressive. For starters, here are some running reasons for the resignation:

  1. The University guesstimates that the resignation was a “leadership transition.”
  2. The FAUBC reports that the University also presumes that the President “wishes to return to the life of a Professor of Computer Science.”
  3. Martha is inclined to accept at face value that this was Arvind’s “decision to step down” and whatever the reason we should respect whatever the University says it is or isn’t.
  4. Jennifer suggests that in challenging Montalbano, Chair of BoG, the President lost a masculinity contest. In other words, he lost what the Romans called a ludi mingo (roughly translated as a p-ing game or contest).
  5. Wayne postulates that triskaidekaphobia finally took its toll on the President, the thirteenth in UBC’s history. The presidential hot-seat– think of the Spinal Tap drummer syndrome here.
  6. Eva fancies that the President was told by the Chair of BoG that his fountain would not spew higher than the Martha Piper Fountain, prominently configured on the highest point of campus at the centre of the Martha Piper Plaza. Alas, President Piper must be reinstalled. This reason adds missing clues and details to #4.
  7. The Ubyssey posits that the President might have found something foreboding in his “performance reports.” This may have required reading between the lines.
  8. Nassif presupposes that the President was yet another of the “victims of end runs by deans,” wherein there is a well-trodden path dating back more than a century.
  9. Charlie conjectures that Montalbano and the BoG evened the score by making Gupta’s tenure difficult after he canned or nudged out VP Ouillet.
  10. Tony has a suspicion that, post Gupta’s resignation, UBC leaders adopted PM Harper’s template of denying implication in the controversy.
  11. CUPE Locals believe that Gupta was “removed by the largely unelected Board of Governors.” Emphasis on “unelected.”
  12. Simona and Frances figure that administrators still left on campus have some answers. They gather that Gupta “didn’t treat administrators with the same care” as faculty members. Needy as they are, certain admin got anxious and jealous. “Arvind was alienating people one at a time,” one administrator confided. It was time for him to go back down to research and teaching.
  13. Andrew reckons that “there’s some kind of mutual agreement” at work. Nobody knows what this agreement is or if it was really mutual or just a fist-bump and not really an agreement in the official sense if it was just a wink wink to agree to disagree.
  14. ? [send us your reckons]

UBC says now is the time to speculate. Indeed, we’re hearing that a new motto for the next one hundred years at UBC is being bounced around in Central: Occasio Speculatio. After all, Tuum Est, the motto for the first hundred never recovered after the students in the 1960s dubbed it: Too Messed.


Following pressure to investigate the lengths taken, if any, by UBC’s Chair of the Board of Governors and administrators from the Sauder School of Business to put a muzzle on Jennifer Berdahl’s academic freedom, the Faculty Association of UBC and the University agreed to investigate the following:

Whether Mr. John S. Montalbano, Chair of the Board of Governors, and/or individuals in the Sauder School of Business identified by the Faculty Association, conducted themselves in the events following Professor Berdahl’s publication of her blog on August 8, 2015 in a manner that violated any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any applicable University policies, including whether Professor Berdahl’s academic freedom is or was interfered with in any way.

Following President Gupta’s sudden resignation on 7 August, Berdahl queried whether he lost a masulinity contest. Montalbano gave her a call about this but denies that he worked to suppress academic freedom.

The FAUBC agreed that the investigation report will be circulated on a “need to know” basis. As Sandra Mathison has said, substantive administrative information at UBC is circulated on a need to know (and you don’t need to know) basis. So we’ll see whether faculty members and students need to know…

E. Wayne Ross wrote, on this case of the President’s resignation, that UBC has taken a page from the Rumsfeld files on epistemology– known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

And we ask agin, who is the mystery dean, introduced into the proceedings by the FAUBC? Another known unknown. Who is this mystery dean that was meddling with Montalbano into academic governance?


In response to pressure from the Faculty Association of UBC and Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Chair or UBC’s Board of Governors has resigned while an investigation moves to find to what lengths he had gone to place a check on academic freedom. In the midst of President Gupta’s sudden resignation on 7 August, professor Jennifer Berdahl queried whether he lost a masulinity contest. Surprisingly, the Chair of BoG, John Montalbano, who also funds the Sauder School and her Professorship, gave her a phone call.

His purpose in calling was to tell me that my blog post from the day before was “incredibly hurtful, inaccurate, and greatly unfair to the Board” and “greatly and grossly embarrassing to the Board.” He said I had made him “look like a hypocrite.”

Her Chair and Associate Dean followed up, chastising her for potentially damaging the reputation of the School and University. Berdahl concluded, “I have never in my life felt more institutional pressure to be silent.”

She explained: “When I imagine being an assistant professor at this university, or anyone without the protection of tenure, this experience becomes unspeakable. I would be terrified, not angry. I would have retracted my post, or not have written it at all. I would avoid studying and speaking on controversial topics.”

Sauder Dean Robert Helsley tried to follow up as well but then canceled the meeting with Berdahl after she indicated she would be accompanied with FAUBC representation.

Yes, these are the same administrators that bungled their oversight over gender, diversity and the undergraduate curriculum as Sauder students chanted a rhyme about rape two years ago.

It’s time, once again, for accountability. Is it not time for the University to ask for Dean Helsley’s resignation? Is it not time to offer his resignation along with Mr. Montalbano?

Is he the ‘mystery Dean‘? Put your money down on this bet…


There are a few high profile workplaces wherein the worker pays to work: amateur athletes in sporting venues, strippers in strip clubs and students in classrooms are among the most notable. On 17 August however, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned Northwestern University’s football team’s bid to unionize as employees. This overturned a 2014 regional NLRB decision paving the way for players to unionize.

The decision hinges on whether athletes are “primarily students” and whether those with funding or paid jobs are “statutory employees.” The NLRB did not rule on these questions and researchers have yet to adequately theorize the problem of whether students per se are workers. If students are workers, what type of workers are they?

Ivan Illich offered the best analysis thus far in depicting students as shadow workers (see also NYT article). Without the shadow work or unpaid work of students, and increasingly professors, academic capitalism would come to a halt or at least be curbed. Paying students for studying and performing in classrooms would mean that colleges and universities would have to recognize all students as the workers or employees that they are. The 2004 NLRB decision that graduate student teaching assistants are “primarily students” entirely overlooks shadow work. Like the athletes at Northwestern, all students would have the prerogative to unionize.

Compensating or remunerating shadow work would mean that colleges and universities would have to recognize that most of its faculty members are doing the work of two these days.

But the counter question is why faculty members are all too willing to do the work of two? This academic shadow work buttresses and contributes to the growth of academic capitalism—it bails out the system from certain failure. As Illich says, “increasingly the unpaid self-discipline of shadow work becomes more important than wage labor for further economic growth.”

In “Threat Convergence,” we tried to work through this problem by analyzing the changing nature and definition of the academic workplace. It’s a start. Given the fragmentation, intensification, segmentation, shifting and creep of academic work, it is due time researchers attended to the problem as opposed to the continued romanticism of the intellectual.


Curiously, when the Faculty Association of UBC called for the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Governors, it came short of calling for the resignation of the Dean who is cozying up to the Chair.

Specifically, the Chair of the Board also sits on a Faculty Advisory Council, and we are advised has been in communication with a Dean over internal operational and academic issues. This arrangement circumvents the formal organizational bicameral structure of the university…

Who is this mystery Dean? Why did the FAUBC fail to request her or his resignation along with the Chair of BoG? It takes two or three to tango here, as they say. Why hasn’t this Dean stepped forward to offer a resignation, having circumvented or transgressed faculty governance to ostensibly acquire capital or resources for her or his career and Faculty?

Just as the FAUBC bemoans the “absence of an informed explanation since the August 7th resignation” of President Gupta, it clouds communication with its members by raising the spectre of a mystery Dean. Exactly who is the mystery Dean?


Over the past year, UBC instituted a series of austerity measures, including a hiring freeze, in various faculties to correct deficits. As a result, some academic units have been downsized or stagnant. For instance, the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy has had only three tenure track faculty searches in six years, a stagnation that has done serious damage to faculty renewal and in effect, academic integrity.

Comparatively, the appointment of assistant and associate deans in the Faculty outpaced tenure track appointments in this Department. With the at whim appointment of directors added to the mix, the appointment of middle managers outpaced tenure track appointments by 3:1.

It has been frustrating and troubling that the University’s hiring chills and freezes are wink wink (i.e., preferential and selective). Hence, a request made in June to the Provost, pro tem to implement a hiring freeze on middle managers to curb the administrative bloat across the University system, Okanagan and Vancouver, was rejected out of hand. A hiring freeze on these middle managers would create a form of parity that might suggest the senior administrators acknowledge the mess they’re in.

Under the old and still current regime at UBC, a hiring freeze on middle managers was a pipe dream and dismissed with no discussion. But now, with the crisis of administration exposed by the resignation of President Gupta, it’s due time President Piper to put a check and balance on these at whim admin hires.

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The University of British Columbia’s current failures of academic governance may have been publicly signalled by the sudden resignation of President Gupta on 7 August, but the crisis of administration extends well back into the University’s recent past and down into the lower chain of command. In fact, the President’s resignation is just the tip of the iceberg. The failures and crises extend from the President’s Office through the deans down to the bloat of middle managers, assistant and associate deans. Most noticeably, UBC has been skirting and fumbling around Canada’s Federal Contractor’s Program to appoint its middle managers. One might conclude that favouritism, if not nepotism in cases, is common while searches bound by the Federal Program of employment equity are rare. For this rank of middle managers, appointments are made with no procedures and hence there is no input from faculty members or the wider academic community and reappointments are made with no evaluation or review.

Unlike policies governing the appointment of department heads and deans, which are regulated by searches and reviews, there is no University policy to regulate the appointment and reappointment of assistant and associate deans. UBC has 97 policies but suspiciously none to regulate the hiring of these middle managers. Why is this? And unlike other universities (e.g., Simon Fraser, Toronto), at UBC the deans have liberty to appoint middle managers at pleasure or whim. The result is a bloating of the assistant and associate dean ranks from 47 in 2000 to 72 in 2015— ostensibly all without searches or regard for policy. With no policies or searches to regulate or monitor qualifications, the result is a mixed bag and questionable levels of competence.

Faculty members were expecting President Gupta to clean up a mess. Cleaning house, he predictably ran into the resistance of status quo. The provosts and middle managers preferred to leave well enough alone. Consider this for instance:

On 19 September 2014, a few months into President Gupta’s appointment, I submitted a request to the Board of Governors to form a policy for hiring and reappointing assistant and associate deans. Basically, the request was to reign in these at whim appointments, curb the bloat of middle managers and align with fair hiring practices. Refusing to address the request, in October the BoG bounced it to University Counsel, which proceeded to ‘consult’ with the Provosts, Vancouver and Okanagan. On 12 January, I was told by University Counsel that the two Provosts, “who would be the Responsible Executives for such a policy do not consider this to be a priority.” In other words, employment equity does not apply to a large and bloated subset of management within the University. On 23 February and 30 March 2015 I followed up with renewed requests to the President’s Office. The President advised re-routing the request back to the Provost’s Office. I hesitated until the announcement of the Provost, pro tem. Sadly, unwilling to shake up status quo, on 24 June the new Provost repeated the old: “I also do not see it as a priority at this time.”

Although the provosts, and by prerogative the deans, do not consider employment equity and fair procedures “to be a priority” in the appointment of the University’s managers, for the balance of the University faculty and staff, this remains priority.

Bounced around the President’s Office for nearly a year, this basic request to align administrative appointments with hiring guidelines and peer universities has come full circle. The middle management bloat at UBC coincidentally began with President Piper’s initial appointment. Now, looking back and wondering how we got here, requests to deal with the administrative crisis are piling up, higher and deeper. Now, with President Piper back in office, this specific request lands on her desk, regardless of how and where it has been bounced.

With the Faculty Association of UBC calling for the resignation of the Chair of the BoG, perhaps this faculty governance body will make good on its responsibility to form meaningful policy. Top down or bottom up, its time to clean up UBC’s administrative mess, failure by failure, crisis by crisis. Sorry to say provosts, this actually is a priority.

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How not to run a university (Prologue + Trilogy)

by E Wayne Ross on August 20, 2015

Here are links to E. Wayne Ross’ commentaries on the ongoing leadership crisis at the University of British Columbia. All the commentaries have appeared on his blog and several have also appeared in the Vancouver Observer:


#FAUBC calls for #UBC Chair of BoG resignation #highered

by Stephen Petrina on August 19, 2015

FAUBC, August 19, 2015– The events at UBC following the unexplained resignation of Professor Arvind Gupta as President have been exceptional. Fallout from the resignation created the unprecedented situation in which the Chair of the Board of Governors is alleged to have compromised the academic freedom of a UBC faculty member. Academic administrators are also implicated in allegations surrounding this incident. Since these allegations came to our attention last Wednesday, we have been working hard to maintain the integrity of the normal labour relations processes we use at UBC to resolve our grievances. While these processes have been working well as we investigate the roles that various academic administrators have played in this case, established procedures have been compromised as they pertain to the alleged actions of the Chair.The concerns leading to this conclusion focus on the fact that the University itself has sidestepped standard protocols for handling grievances. More specifically, the Chair of the Board of Governors, the Board’s chief spokesperson, gave public, personal testimony related to the case in a University media release. We were shocked that this happened in a formal University media release posted on a University website. (This media release seems to have been removed from late Tuesday evening. We have a downloaded copy.) Mr. Montalbano has confused personal interests with the University’s interests.

As a result of this communication, we had earlier in the day decided to call for Mr. Montalbano to step aside during an investigation of the allegations against him.

By late afternoon, we became aware Mr. Montalbano was giving a series of interviews on radio and television, entirely in contradiction to the August 17th press release signed by Provost pro tem Anji Redish and Interim President Martha Piper in which it was affirmed that: “it would entirely be inappropriate to comment further on the allegations until this process has been concluded.”

And, yet, Mr. Montalbano was doing precisely this in his capacity as Chair of UBC’s Board of Governors.Finding a sound and proper process inside the University or with the Board for investigation of the concerns around Mr. Montalbano’s behaviours no longer seemed a viable option.While the University has publicly said that a grievance involving Mr. Montalbano could be managed under our usual collective agreement processes, this no longer seemed possible. Mr. Montalbano is a government appointee, not a University employee, so establishing and implementing a fair process to investigate the Chair of the Board of Governors given that Chair’s dominating presence in and apparent mobilization of the entire system in his own interest seemed challenging, to say the least.

Indeed, even though we had initiated our usual informal processes with the University in a way that made it clear that there were serious allegations against Mr. Montalbano, Mr. Montalbano did not step aside as Chair pending the conclusion of a full investigation.

We have lost confidence that there can be an internal investigation process uninfluenced by Mr. Montalbano, either within our usual labour relations processes or through a Board-driven process.

Consequently, we are calling for Mr. Montalbano’s immediate resignation as Chair of the Board of Governors. He has shown an inability to allow proper procedures to proceed and has used his office as Chair of the Board to engage personally and publicly with the issues under investigation. This behaviour is ill judged and threatens the integrity of ongoing processes.

We did not take this decision to request Mr. Montalbano’s resignation lightly. His handling of Professor Gupta’s resignation and his mismanagement of subsequent events are now compounded by breaches of standard protocols, and lead us to believe that his resignation will be in the best interests of the University and the public.

Please read our letter carefully.

Mark Mac Lean

FAUBC, August 17, 2015: As you may know, last week the UBC Faculty Association presented a request to the Board oaf Governors asking for more details on the resignation of Professor Gupta as President. We received the Board’s response on August 14.

We are disappointed that the Board’s response provides no new information. In essence, it asks the university community — and the public at large — to take on faith, the fact that the Board has acted responsibly and in the public interest. While the Board should normally have the trust and confidence of the university community, events surrounding the resignation of Professor Gupta make this increasingly difficult.

The resignation of Professor Gupta as President of UBC is not simply a “personnel matter” for the University, as the Board claims. Rather, there is a high expectation of complete transparency and accountability around the resignation of a President of a public institution as significant and vital as UBC.

This expectation has not been met. The absence of an informed explanation since the August 7th resignation has led to ill-informed speculation taking the place of information. In our opinion, this situation makes any non-disclosure provision in Professor Gupta’s exit agreement contrary to the public interest and contrary to the best practices expected of a major public institution.

Furthermore, the handling of Professor Gupta’s resignation and its aftermath have exposed serious weaknesses in the governance of the university, due to the apparent failure to manage significant and perceived high-risk personal conflicts of interest involving Mr. Montalbano, the Chair of the Board. The concerns raised in this regard compound those already expressed about the lack of transparency in the processes surrounding the President’s resignation. In our opinion, these conflicts of interest should not have existed in the first place and must be remedied immediately.

Specifically, the Chair of the Board also sits on a Faculty Advisory Council, and we are advised has been in communication with a Dean over internal operational and academic issues. This arrangement circumvents the formal organizational bicameral structure of the university, which would require that communication between the Board and the university be routed through the President (or acting President). The role of the Board is to set general policy and to manage, administer, and control of the property, revenue, business, and affairs of the University, and not to become involved in academic governance.

The Chair of the Board should not be able to meddle directly in internal academic affairs. Yet, disregard for this organizational structure as well as interference in academic affairs, is precisely what is alleged to have happened this past week in relation to the comments made by a faculty member concerning the President’s resignation by the Chair of Board.

We are also concerned — in reference to the same faculty member — about alleged violations of academic freedom and of the university’s respectful environment statement committed by a number of individuals, including the Chair of the Board of Governors. While these allegations are still under investigation, there are sufficient facts known to lead us to question how well those involved, including the Chair of the Board himself, understand the principle of academic freedom, and whether they understand their obligations under UBC’s public commitment to providing a respectful workplace environment. Each of these principles is a fundamental tenet of a university.

Mr. Montalbano’s apparent lack of understanding of the principles of academic freedom, and the questionable judgement he is alleged to have exhibited in interfering with internal operations and with university employees, have caused the Faculty Association Executive Committee to lose confidence in Mr. Montalbano as the Chair of the Board of Governors.

Given the conflicts of interest, and the missteps that that have come to light this week, we believe it is even more imperative to have the full story behind the resignation of Professor Gupta as President of UBC. Full disclosure is the only way to restore trust in the governance of the University of British Columbia.

Read More: FAUBC

As questions go unanswered regarding the suspicious resignation of UBC President Arvind Gupta, the Faculty Association of UBC is pressing for answers. The University has been silent about the sudden resignation, writing off the past year of Gupta’s appointment as a mere “leadership transition.” Four years of  leadership transitions– the last two and the next two– sound more like an administrative crisis than merely a change.

FAUBC President Mark MacLean, August 10, 2015: 

Shortly before 1pm on Friday, I received a phone call from the University to inform me that Professor Arvind Gupta would resign as President of UBC effective at 1 p.m. that afternoon, and that a public announcement would be made at 1:15 p.m. This news came as a complete surprise to me, and I have spent the weekend trying to make sense of it.

This was a sudden and immediate resignation, and I am skeptical that the reason for it is simply that Professor Gupta wishes to return to the life of a Professor of Computer Science.  We of course, will not hear directly from Professor Gupta since such resignations typically come with a non-disclosure agreement.

The Board of Governors must explain what transpired to end Professor Gupta’s Presidency after only one year.  What caused this leadership crisis?

Over the past year, I had conversations with Professor Gupta about his desire for UBC to thrive as a place where faculty are supported and valued unconditionally.  He truly viewed us as his colleagues. Contrary to some of the public speculation since his resignation, he had a serious plan well under development to achieve the goals he set for himself and the University, and faculty were at the heart of his plan.

In support of this plan, President Gupta’s budget decisions were designed to move resources into the academic units and to mitigate the impacts that high growth rates of student numbers are having on the entire university.  As a result, significant amounts of money are set to move from non-academic operations to support research and teaching.

Does Professor Gupta’s resignation mean the Board no longer supports realigning the University’s resources to better support the research and teaching missions?

Professor Gupta saw faculty as the heart of the University and collegial governance as a fundamental principle upon which the best universities operate.  Will the Board of Governors continue to use these principles as the basis of its relationship with the faculty?

I believe Professor Gupta’s resignation represents a serious loss to UBC.  It certainly represents a failure point in the governance of the University.  We need to understand this failure and the Board must recognize that we cannot move on until we do.

I also have questions about the future leadership of the University. We have in progress searches for a Provost and VP Academic, a Vice President Research, and a Vice President External and Communications.  Those who fill these positions must ultimately hold the confidence of the President they will serve.  What will happen with these searches now?  President Emerita Martha Piper has considerable experience as a past UBC President, but should she hire three key Vice Presidents for the next President of UBC?

All of my concerns and questions aside, I am committed to working with Professors Redish and Piper under the same model of trusty and openness with which I was able to operate with President Gupta.  I have every expectation they will want to continue the positive relationship that has developed between the Administration and the Faculty Association over the past year.

I invite you to send me your responses to the President’s resignation.


Mark Mac Lean
President of the UBC Faculty Association


Stephen Petrina, Sandra Mathison & E. Wayne Ross

The convergence of the casualization, fragmentation, intensification, segmentation, shifting and creep of academic work with the post-9/11 gentrificaton of criticism and dissent is arguably one of the greatest threats to academic freedom since the Nazi elimination of the Jewish professoriate and critique in 1933, Bantu Education Act’s reinforcement of apartheid in South Africa in 1952, and McCarthyism in Canada and the US in the 1950s and 1960s. In the history of education, this would be quite the claim yet the evidence seems to speak for itself. Academic work has been fragmented into piecemeal modes and intensified as academics absorbed, through amalgamation, traditional clerical staff and counseling work. The balance of the academic workforce has been reduced and casualized or segmented to an “at whim,” insecure, unsalaried part-time labor pool, the 8-hour workday and 40-hour academic workweek collapsed to 60-80 hours, and the primary locus of academic work shifted off-campus as the workplace crept into the home and its communal establishments. Academic stress— manifested as burnout through amalgamation and creep of work, and as distress through bullying, mobbing and victimization— underwrites increases in leaves of absence. Non-tenure track faculty are hit particularly hard, indicating “contingency or the precariousness of their position” as relentless stressors.

Nowadays, it’s whimsical to reminisce about work-life balance and promises that the academic workforce will be renewed as boomers retire with baited expectations, or that the workweek and workplace for salaried full-timers could be contained within the seduction of flextime and telecommuting. In many ways, the flexible workplace is the plan for boomers by boomers with both nest eggs and limits on retirement age breaking. As currency values, retirement portfolios, and savings spiral downward while dependent children and grandchildren and inflation spiral upward, incentives to retire erode. Precariously unemployed, underemployed and part-time academics aside, boomers still in the academic system are trended to face the biggest losses. As economic incentives to retire decrease, incentives for intellectual immortality and legacy management flourish with the boomers’ political leanings moving toward the center. One can hardly blame them.

Enthusiasts of anything “flexible” (learning, space, time, work, etc.) and everything “tele” (commuting, conference, learning, phone, work, etc.), academics readily workshift with additional liability but no additional remuneration— instead is an unquestioned acceptance of the “overtime exemption”— while the employer saves about $6,500 per year per worker in the tradeoff as worksite or workspace shifts from campus to home. The academic workweek is now conservatively 60 hours with many PT and FT reporting persistent 70-80 hour weeks. Perhaps academic women can finally have it all after putting in the 120 hour workweek. One reason institutions now cope with many fewer FT hires is that academics are all too willing to do the work of two. As Gina Anderson found a decade ago, “with apparently unconscious irony, many academics reported that they particularly valued the flexibility of their working week, in terms of both time and space… in the same breath as reporting working weeks in the order of 60 hours.” For most academic workers, the cost of flexibility is effectively a salary cut as overheads of electricity, heat, water, communication and consumables are shifted to the home. Carbon footprint reductions are a net benefit and for a minority, the savings of commuting and parking offset the costs of this homework or housework. What is the nature or implications of this increasing domestication of academic work and displacement of the academic workplace? For academic couples with or without children, the dynamics of housecohabitry, househusbandry or housewifery necessarily change as the academic workplace shifts and labor creeps into the home. With temptations to procrastinate on deluges of academic deadlines, academic homes have never been cleaner and more organized. Nevermind the technocreep of remote monitoring. Over the long run, although some administrators cling to the digital punch card and time stamp with HivedeskWorksnaps or MySammy, “smashing the clock” in the name of flextime and telework is about the best thing that ever happened to academic capitalism.

This is not exactly a SWOT analysis, where Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are given due treatment. Rather, the focus is on this threat convergence as it resolves through historic displacements of the academic workplace and work. To what degree are the new policies for academic speech inscribed in academic work, regardless of where it’s done? As the academic workplace is increasingly displaced and distributed, are academic policies displaced and distributed as well? Observed at work, monitored at home and tracked in between—these are not so much choices as the cold reality of 21st century academic work.

Read More: Threat Convergence

New Workplace Issue #24

Academic Bullying & Mobbing

Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies. Please consider participating as author or reviewer. Thank you.

New Workplace Issue #25

Reforming Academic Labor, Resisting Imposition, K12 and Higher Education

Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies. Please consider participating as author or reviewer. Thank you.

CFP: Critical Theories for the 21st Century

by E Wayne Ross on June 5, 2015

Critical Education is proud to be the sponsor journal for Critical Theories in the 21st Century

4th annual:
critical theories in the twenty first century:
a conference of transformative pedagogies
november 6th & 7th


West Chester University
700 South High St, West Chester, PA 19383

2015 THEME:

Sponsored by:
Educational Foundations
The Department of Professional and Secondary Education
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Closing Conference Keynote (November 7th):
Dave Hill

Call For Papers
The 4th Annual Conference on Critical Theories in the 21st Century aims to reinvigorate the field of critical pedagogy. The primary question driving this conference is: What is to be done to make critical pedagogy an effective educational weapon in the current struggle against capitalism and imperialism?

There is no doubt that we are at a critical juncture in history in terms of the limits of nature’s vital ecosystems, the physical limits of the progressive accumulation of capital, and the deepening reactionary ideology and scapegoating that exacerbates the oppression of youth of color. If critical pedagogy is to play a significant role in intervening in the current context, then a sharpened sense of purpose and direction is needed.

Some examples of possible topics include:

  • Marxism
  • Post-structuralism/post-modernism
  • Anarchism
  • Challenging the unholy trinity of state, capital, and religion
  • Class and the capital-labor dialectic
  • Identity and economics
  • Hierarchical and vertical forms of organization (i.e., vanguards versus networks)
  • Reform versus revolution
  • Socialism, communism, & democracy
  • Affect theory and the new materialisms
  • The knowledge economy, post-Fordism, and “cognitive capitalism”
  • Critical geography

While this conference will include important presentations and debates in critical pedagogy, it will not be limited to this focus. In other words, as critical theory becomes more inclusive, global, and all encompassing, this conference welcomes more than just academics as important contributors. That is, we recognize students and youth groups as possessing authentic voices based on their unique relationship to capitalism and will therefore be open to them as presenters and discussion leaders.

While this conference will include important presentations and challenging discussions based in critical pedagogy, it will not be limited to this focus. In other words, as critical theory becomes more inclusive, global, and all encompassing, this conference welcomes more than just academics as important contributors.

Please submit abstract proposals (500-1000 words) to:
Curry Malott (

Proposal due date: September 27th, 2015

UBC faculty members, one hour left to vote on the Referendum for

 Fossil Fuel Divestment at the University of British Columbia: 

A Responsible Investment Proposal 

Go to UBC Faculty Vote (poll closes at 12:30 today, 8 February 2015)

Shirley Willihnganz, the University of Louisville provost who hired “notorious ed school dean” Robert Felner has stepped down from her $342,694 a year position and will return to the faculty after a sabbatical.

Willihnganz told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the “Felner episode” was the biggest regret of her 13 years as a top administrator at U of L.

Willihnganz hired Felner as dean of the U of L College of Education and Human Development in 2003. Felner’s deanship has been described by some as a “reign of terror” because of his abusive treatment of staff, faculty, students and alumni.

Despite dozens of grievances filed against Felner and a faculty vote of no-confidence, Willihnganz and her boss, university president James Ramsey, were dismissive of complaints and vigorously defended him. Ultimately, Willihnganz was “forced to apologize” to the faculty, saying “mostly what I think I want to say is people have been hurt and something very bad happened, and as provost I feel like I am ultimately responsible for that.”

In addition to his well documented abusive behavior, Felner was also engaged in criminal activity while working for the U of L and under Willihnganz’s supervision.

In 2010, Felner was sentenced 63 months in federal prison for a scheme that bilked $2.3 million of US Department of Education money from U of L and the University of Rhode Island.

On June 20, 2008, Federal investigators (Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service) raided Felner’s office at the U of L College of Education and Human Development (and his new office at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, where he was in the process of taking over as campus president) to seize documents and a computer.

Read more about the Felner saga and his journey from “high performer” (Willihnganz’s description) to infamous ex-con here.

Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson asked me to comment on Willihnganz response to Felner. The statement below was quoted, in part, in the C-J story.

Of course it’s hard to disagree that the hiring of Robert Felner as dean of CEHD was, in hind sight, a disastrous decision by the U of L administration and Dr. Willihnganz in particular, but it was not entirely unpredictable. As chair of the largest department in CEHD at the time, I vigorously opposed Felner’s hire and called for the administration to resist the “old boy” network within the college that backed him. The provost’s office failed to do its due diligence in the hiring, despite a plethora of signs that Felner was not a good choice for the university. At the time, I was aware that other universities had considered Felner for deanships, but excluded him based upon thorough investigations of his career. The fact that President Ramsey and Dr. Willihnganz remained in office after defending Felner’s abusive leadership style, and ultimately criminal behavior, says much about the lack of accountability for decision making at the U of L. The damage done to the university’s reputation has been significant and is not merely the result of Felner’s felonious activities and generally abusive treatment of staff and faculty, but can also be laid in some measure at the feet of Dr. Willihnganz and President Ramsey.

The Courier-Journal reports modest positive accomplishments during on Willihnganz’s years a provost, including increased graduate rates and slight improvements in the U of L’s standing in university reputational rankings.

But, these accomplishments pale in comparison to the Felner episode and a long series shameful debacles that have tarnished the reputation of Kentucky’s second largest research university. The C-J reports that,

Under [Willihnganz’s] watch … university employees have stole, misspent or mishandled at least $7.6 million in schemes at the health science campus, the law school, the business school and the athletic department’s ticket office.

Willihnganz also was criticized for approving about $1 million in buyouts for former high-ranking employees, some of which included agreements not to disparage the university or its leaders.

Academic Fraud?
As the chief academic officer of the U of L, Willihnganz allowed the university to bestow a PhD degree on one of Felner’s associates, John Deasy, after enrolling in the CEHD doctoral program for a total of four months and apparently never actually taking any courses.

As reported in the education newspaper Substance,

John Deasy earned his PhD directly under Felner, in a period of four months, earning nine UL credit hours.

Prior to coming to UL, Deasy had awarded Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant from the Santa Monica district where Deasy was head.

Before he came to UL, Felner had been dean at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Education from 1996-2003. Deasy studied there in the same period, while Deasy was also a Rhode Island school superintendent.

According to a highly placed source, formerly at UL, Deasy’s dissertation’s title page carries the date, “May, 2003,” while it is signed off, “April 9, 2004.” He entered the program in January, 2004.

A UL investigation of the Deasy PhD did not condemn the practice. James Ramsey, UL president, who had turned a blind eye to Felner’s notorious corruption (the faculty gave Felner a “no confidence vote” in 2006, but he served at least two more years at UL with Ramsey’s full support), gave his nod to the “blue ribbon” investigation.

Deasy is apparently cut from the same cloth as his mentor, having recently resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, under a cloud of allegations regarding ethics violations in relation to a $1 billion contract to supply iPads to LAUSD students.

A federal grand jury is currently investigating Deasy’s iPad scheme, which involved Apple and Pearson, the latter one of the world’s largest education publishers.

Many in LA were quite pleased by Deasy’s resignation as district boss.

In the end, it can be argued that the mistakes made by the U of L administration in hiring and protecting Felner, allowed Deasy to obtain a questionable PhD, which surely helped him land the high-paying job as superintendent of the second largest school district in the United States.

As LAUSD’s “Deasy episode” unfolds in a federal jury investigation, it could be that Willihnganz’s legacy will include the “graduation” of two federal convicts from the U of L College of Education and Human Development.

Adult Basic Education is a basic right

by E Wayne Ross on January 28, 2015

Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right is a collaboratively authored by researchers and educators in the adult education field in British Columbia. Our aim to gather and share information about how ABE tuition cuts and adult education policy in BC effects people, programs, depending inequity and socio-economic participation.

Read Lynn Horvat’s paper: “Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in British Columbia”