Open Letter to UBC President Piper:
Time to Lay Down the Mace

It has been an emotional year for the University of British Columbia. As budgets moved from Central, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada launched Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. The residential university and college take on new meaning. As we launched the celebration of our Centennial at UBC 100, our President resigned under a cloak of secrecy. As we began to party, we launched an investigation to discover the lengths to which a Chair of the Board of Governors and administrators might go to suppress academic freedom. Now, as we march to Convocation, students and alumni launch evidence that UBC is failing to properly respond to sexual assaults on campus.

In the meantime, terrorists and terror struck Sharm el-Sheikh, Beirut and Paris while the dogs of war howl for bombers and drones to command from the skies above. Increasingly larger regions of the world live in a state of emergency.

It’s difficult to know where this University now stands or what it stands for.

To take a stand symbolic of peace and reconciliation, please lay down the mace for ceremonies and Convocation. Please put away the coat of arms and lay down the mace. If not for good, then how about for peace?

It is time to retire this symbol of aggression, authority and war. It’s time to march to graduation ceremonies this week with open and empty hands as symbolic of peace and reconciliation of controversies and roles of the President’s Office.

UBC’s mace is a relic but a relic of what? The mace is symbolic speech but what is it saying about us now?

From ancient times, this club, this weapon of assault and offence, the mace was gradually adorned until the late twelfth century when it doubled as a symbol of civil office. Queen Elizabeth I granted her royal mace to Oxford in 1589. From military and civil power derives academic authority. The rest is history and it is not all good.

Dr. Thomas Lemieux, School of Economics with UBC’s Mace at the May 2015 Convocation.

Dr. Thomas Lemieux, School of Economics, with UBC’s Mace at the May 2015 Convocation.

It is time to retire the macebearer, whose importance is inflated every year by the image’s presence on UBC’s graduation pages leading to Convocation. In pragmatic terms, if the mace falls into the hands of the wrong macebearer or manager at this point, someone’s liable to get clocked with it.

Is UBC’s mace still a respectable appendage to Convocation?

Remember, since that fateful November day in 1997, just five months into your Presidency, when student activists put their bodies and minds on the line at the APEC protest, Tuum Est adorns both the can of mace sprayed in their eyes and the ceremonial mace that the President’s Office is eager to carry across campus every November and May. That’s “too messed,” as the students say.

Is it not time to retire both?


Laura Kane & Geordon Omand, Canadian Press, November 24, 2015–The University of British Columbia seems more concerned about handling a public relations crisis than taking meaningful action to help women feel safe after multiple allegations of sexual assault, says a complainant.

Glynnis Kirchmeier, who is planning to launch a human-rights case against UBC, published an open letter to the university’s interim president on Tuesday.

In the letter, the former student questions why Martha Piper issued a public apology but didn’t directly contact her or other students who made complaints.

“I was surprised to learn on Sunday that you had issued an apology to ‘the women in these cases who feel they have been let down by our university,”‘ she wrote.

“Did you mean to include me? I did not receive a personal communication from you, though you could have asked associate VP Dr. Sara-Jane Finlay for my email and phone number.”

She and other former and current students held a news conference Sunday, when Kirchmeier announced her plans to file a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The women said the university lacks a clear policy for handling sexual assault reports and that it took a year and a half to act on six complaints about a PhD student.

Kirchmeier was not assaulted by the student but said she witnessed his behaviour and reported it to the university in January 2014. She said UBC failed to act on complaints by her and others until last week, when it said the student was no longer at the university.

Read More: Vancouver Sun


Emma Partridge, Ubyssey, November 20, 2015–A much anticipated documentary by the fifth estate has made some startling discoveries that ultimately cast an unflattering spotlight on how UBC handles sexual assault and the university’s lack of an overarching sexual assault policy.

According to CBC, Dmitry Mordvinov, who was working towards his PhD in history, was accused of multiple sexual offences that were committed two years ago. However, Mordvinov was only expelled from the university last week.

UBC spokesperson Susan Danard issued an emailed statement Friday evening responding to the story.

“It is important to understand that BC privacy law prevents us from disclosing information about or responding to specific cases mentioned in the media. What we can say is we continuously strive to improve our collective response to sexual violence through education. We can do better and we will do better,” read part of the statement.

Several women came forward to the fifth estate to tell stories of assaults committed by Mordvinov. One preferred to remain anonymous, but another, Caitlin Cunningham, went on record. She told the CBC that after reporting her attack to the university, UBC encouraged mediation between herself and Mordvinov.

According to the CBC’s reporting, Monica Kay, director of conflict management, perpetuated a sense that the survivors should keep their experiences to themselves. At this time, Kay has not responded to requests for comment.

When The Ubyssey spoke with Clark Lundeen, assistant principal of Green College — the residence in which Mordvinov was staying while studying for his PhD — he said that reports of sexual assaults would be taken very seriously. Based on the findings of an investigation, the survivor would be referred to on-campus resources for support.

“Confirming is a difficult thing. If we receive a complaint from somebody at the college who alleged that they’re a survivor of sexual assault by somebody, then we take it very seriously and make sure that their safety will be made a priority and that includes … not sharing information that might compromise their privacy,” said Lundeen in that interview.

Although Lundeen would not reveal anything that could have potentially comprised the privacy of the survivor and the alleged assault victim, he could confirm that a report of sexual assault had been filed at the college within the last two years. According to Lundeen, the response by Green College “would be very similar to how it would be handled in any other residence managed by Student Housing and Hospitality Services.”

According to Janice Robinson, director of Residence Life and Administration in Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS), should a survivor disclose their experience the response would be that the residence advisor offers peer support and focuses on getting the survivor the resources and help they need.

“At that point, a residence advisor would also share with the Residence Life manager that a resident has disclosed,” said Robinson. “From there, the Residence Life manager would coach [the] residence advisor on how to be the most supportive that they could, and that would include making sure that the student knows about resources on campus and off campus.”

When asked to address the issues raised by the fifth estate documentary, SHHS, Green College and Piper all insist that UBC takes the issue of sexual assault seriously. However, if CBC is correct in their findings, it took the university almost a year to expel the graduate student who they were officially aware to have assaulted a woman in the spring of 2014.

All of this is ultimately complicated by the fact that UBC does not have a single overarching policy on what to do in the event of a sexual assault. When asked about the progress of such a policy in Senate, both Piper and interim Provost Angela Redish said the question ought to be directed to the VP students, Louise Cowin, who was not present.

According to Ashley Bentley of the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), it is problematic that UBC lacks such a policy to deal with assaults and instead relies more on Policy 3 — dealing with harassment and discrimination in general.

“My experiences from talking to clients, to survivors of violence and to members of this community is that the lack of a policy by UBC makes it seem like they aren’t supporting survivors — that they’re not caring,” said Bentley. “It’s not necessarily to say that a policy solves everything, but what I do think it does is it has clear set guidelines and processes in place which at least make survivors feel like they have options.”

Many other universities have an overarching policy on sexual assault, such as Queen’s and University of Toronto to name a few. According to Bentley, UBC is “quite behind, honestly.”


Read More: Ubyssey


On 27 October, UBC Insiders broke the story of the collusion between the UBC School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Education, and the School’s Undergraduate Society (KUS). In March 2015, the students held a referendum on a $250 fee to help pay for a new building for the School and Faculty. UBC Insiders obtained files through FoI that suggest about 16 months’ worth of influence of the School and Faculty on the students to secure a “YES” majority on the referendum.

UBC Insiders found top down influence (i.e., top of admin down) that adds up to minimally $41,624 and a curious “Make Your Mark” campaign.

Asking for an explanation of why a School or Faculty would go to these lengths to influence a student referendum, E. Wayne Ross called for a Fact-Finding investigation. Short of an investigation, Faculty administrators offered a consultation report this week (see full report below).

It’s probably just as well that there is just consultation with the School and students in lieu of a fact-finding investigation, as when the University contracts out to fact-finding, mysteriously, there are never any facts to find concerning administrators.

In this most recent report, it’s all just written off as administrative pluck, exuberance and “an excess of enthusiasm.”

Funny that, as we say the same of faculty, staff, students and their academic freedom: exuberance with surplus enthusiasm!

By way of a series of consultations, the Faculty of Education reports:

To provide a follow-up report on the Faculty Meeting item regarding, “the alleged conflicts of interest and potential ethical breaches in the School of Kinesiology’s April 2015 student referendum.”

We have consulted with various offices at the University, to determine at the most fundamental level, the evidentiary foundation that would warrant designing and arranging to be carried out, a “fact-finding” investigation. Such an investigation would be very expensive and would need a clear warrant in terms of evidence of basic problems of procedure, relationship management, finance, and/or policy.

The UBC offices we have consulted include:

  1. UBC Office of University Counsel
  2. UBC Faculty Relations
  3. UBC Office of the Vice President, Students
  4. School of Kinesiology

Regarding the School of Kinesiology there are a number of questions that have been raised concerning the “Make your Mark” Referendum of the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society (KUS) campaign (to add to KIN student fees to raise funds towards a new building) and distributed via media outlets.

On the basis of our investigation to-date, it appears that:

  1. Since the KUS took the Referendum off the AMS ratification agenda, the whole issue of the fees linked with the KUS Referendum is moot.
  2. Since neither the UBC nor the AMS/KUS policies regarding “conflict of interest” preclude Faculty/School and Student Society partnerships, there is no apparent ground for continued concern about the narrative of conflict of interest on the part of the School.
  3. The KUS may have erred in the design of “Make Your Mark” vis a vis the AMS policy of “impartial elections” but we – the University/School faculty members — do not work in a supervisory relationship to the student societies, which do not report to us nor are they governed by faculty/Schools.

With respect to “conflict of interest” – UBC’s policy on conflict of interest (Policy 97)  is concerned with personal conflicts of interest – not institutional conflicts of interest.  There has been no suggestion anywhere that the School of Kinesiology nor its executives benefitted from this matter personally (for example by benefitting financially).

There is no policy or rule that we are aware of that would preclude UBC units from partnering with student unions on initiatives they both support.  There have been several examples of undergraduate student societies contributing to buildings (in return for guarantees of student amenities) through student fees and all of these initiatives involved very substantial interactions between the undergraduate student union, the AMS, the faculty and the UBC central administration.  So the fact that the School was working closely with its KUS undergraduate society would not of itself be noteworthy.

Accordingly, we see no problem at-hand nor any substantive basis for carrying out any further fact-finding or other investigation.

There are, definitely, larger issues that lurk in this scenario worthy of a broad and open discussion that pertains to the current context of post-secondary education and the dramatic withdrawal of support from the Province and Federally — increasing fiscal pressures that have caused academic units to be more creative about issues of revenues, whether this is by seeking increases in international tuition or by creating fund raising partnerships with student organizations or with alumni to build infrastructure. These are complex matters. They are not, however, the basis for a narrative of blame or fault lodged with any particular academic unit. If there is any fault at all to be lodged with particular units it could only be, on the face of the evidence, of an excess of enthusiasm to support our engagement in the project of public education.

Dr. Blye Frank
Dean, Faculty of Education

Dr. Mary K. Bryson
Senior Associate Dean, Administration & Innovation, Faculty of Education

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To the people of Europe,

In the face of the migration crisis over the last few months, Europe’s people demonstrated that they do not stand for a culture of fear, but for a culture of care. This idea now has to turn into a promise.

Now, more then ever, it is time to reach out again – responding to Friday’s violence with full-hearted, unquestioning openness, rather than with angst, distrust and anger.

On Friday, November 13, 2015, Europe was under attack. But it was not Paris, Europe, or the “West” that was under attack. What was under attack, and is under attack now, after the tragedy of Paris, is the inspiring, deeply touching care that people throughout Europe showed over the last few months – despite the shrill voices of a few.

In the very beginning of what is called the refugee crisis, a current of care and love ignited all Europe – and showed that this “crisis” was a crisis of governments, not of the people. You acted, where state action failed, and reached out in an effort of care and solidarity — with no regard to where people came from, or who they were. What mattered was reaching out a helping hand, And reaching out you did. Europeans stood up, raising their voices for those who had no standing and no voice.

Many people died on November 13, and the world was full of tears. But if we are not careful, there will be more violence and more tears.   The people of Europe now stand at the precipice of a fundamental choice, a choice that will, without exaggeration, determine the fate of countless more lives.

We cannot respond to the terror of Paris with our own terror. We can not respond by putting up fences around Europe. We must not refuse to reach out to those who seek help, fleeing the same terror that swept over Paris. We can not give in to the fear that those who terrorize spread.

We are deeply concerned about how Europe and the world will react to this terror. Putting up fences, refusing helping hands, closing down where we need to be open, resorting to distrust where we should be faithful: This is what those who attacked us want. They did not attack Paris that night. They attacked what we stand for, what we belief with our whole heart: to be open to everyone, to help those who seek help, to be together in fraterinté .

But we are faithful: We saw how Europe can be. You proved to the world that Europe indeed can be a safe harbor in a stormy sea.  When we now are faced with the painful catastrophe that happened in Paris, we cannot destroy the faith that the world, and particularly those who seek our help put in us. We are entrusted with a great responsibility: to care. This is who we are, and need to be.

Going forward, we must work together on many fronts:

  • The media must not forget their responsibility for sobriety, avoiding reporting that fuels anger and xenophobia! And they must continue to report on the suffering of those who try to cross our borders, or who already live among us but without secure standing.
  • Our governments must not respond to violence with violence. Governments must not give in to the hatred and frustration that pain so easily justifies. We must not repeat the mistakes of our history that ignited the terror in the first place. We must not become a place known for its fences, surveillance and paranoia. Europe much be a place and symbol of openness and freedom.
  • And the people of Europe must remember their power and responsibility to become a model of civility for a new age. We must remember what was achieved in the response to the so-called migration crisis. We must remember that reaching out makes a difference – to individuals, and to the whole society we share

So, yes, we have faith: We believe that Europeans will hold high the ideals their societies are built upon.
We have faith that we will continue being touched by you.
As you will inspire us by your actions.
As you will continue to care.


Sign the Open Letter

At the University of British Columbia, there are depths, and then there are new depths, in the mistreatment of PT faculty members. In the midst of a teaching term, a faculty member received this directive from UBC’s administration:

  1. Per the policy and requirements of space usage in [the academic building] for Sessional instructors, the [123] temporary office space, must be cleared of all personal belongings, borrowed library items and additional furniture installed, by December 1, 2015.  The same applies to the personal belongings being stored in the mailroom. You will be responsible for the cost for clearing and removal of items. Unwanted items may be left with E-Waste by the backside door of [the academic building].
  2. If, by Dec 1, 2015, the space is not restored to its original condition, items will be disposed of, and you shall be invoiced for the cost of clearing and removal.
  1. As requested, I attach the photos of the room in its original condition, taken prior to it being temporarily assigned to you in February 2015.  Please refer to the photos along with a list of furniture items below, confirming the items that shall remain in [123] as of December 1, 2015.
  • 1 corner desk with mobile file storage (under desk)
  • 2 task chairs
  • 1 coat rack
  • 1 Cisco phone

Yes, sad as it is, there are new lows in the mistreatment of faculty members.

For an analysis of the new academic work and workplace, see “Threat Convergence.”

Oh yea, almost forgot, happy birthday UBC!

[Cross-posted from Where the Blog has No Name]

What was he thinking? - University of Louisville president posed for photo in sombrero, poncho at the his 2015 Halloween party

University of Louisville president James Ramsey  posed for photo in sombrero, poncho at the his 2015 Halloween party

In the late 1990s, Kentucky’s legislature initiated a program to upgrade and reform the state’s postsecondary education system, it was called “Bucks for Brains.” (The state’s promotional tagline at the time was “Open for Business.”)

I was recruited to the University of Louisville in 2001 and spent two-and-a-half years on the faculty there as a department chair and distinguished university scholar, which gave me an up close and personal experience with a university administration that’s, as they say where my family’s from, sigogglin.

John W. Shumaker, a classics scholar, was UofL president when I arrived and he proved to be an incredible fund raiser, increasing the university’s endowment from under $200 million to $550 million.

Of course, the UofL has long been the recipient of corporate largesse, especially from the Louisville’s corporate giants Brown-Forman (one of America’s largest spirits and wine companies); Brown & Williamson (which chemically enhanced the addictiveness of cigarettes, remember whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand? No? Well I’m sure you remember Russell Crowe playing Wigand the blockbuster movie The Insider); Papa John’s Pizza (UofL football Cardinals play in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium); and Yum! Brands (“feeding the world” crap food via KFC, Pizza Hut, and, of course, Taco Bell, more on the Mexican connection later).

The Brown & Williamson Club at the University of Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium

The Brown & Williamson Club at the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

After Shumaker left to head up the University of Tennessee (where he resigned in disgrace after 3 years), he was replaced by James R. Ramsey, who had been Kentucky’s state budget director under Gov. Paul E. Patton (who became wealthy by exploiting Kentucky’s coal miners).

Patton’s major achievement as governor was overhauling postsecondary education in the Kentucky. But Patton’s political career was de-railed by duelling scandals: (1)  an extramarital affair and a sex-for-favors scandal; and (2) pardoning four of his political advisers who were indicted for violating Kentucky’s campaign finance laws and for allegedly abusing his patronage powers.

All of this is just everyday Kentucky politics, so Patton wasn’t distracted enough to forget he had to find a soft-landing for his budget director, thus Ramsey, with no university administration experience, became the 17th president of the University of Louisville.

Since Ramsey has been in office the UofL, in endowment has continued to grow and is now pushing the $1 billion mark, which is really the only logical explanation for why he hasn’t been bounced because Ramsey’s administration has more ethical lapses than Carter has liver pills, pretty much proving that the UofL has more bucks than brains.

Robert Felner: Former Dean, Convicted Felon

Felner arrived in Louisville with some spiffy credentials: PhD in psychology from Yale; former head of the department of psychology at the University of Illinois; a CV packed with pages upon pages listing his publications in top journals and, most importantly for the UofL administration, a staggering number of grants.

Despite several red flags about Felner’s candidacy for dean of UofL’s College of Education and Human Development, Ramsey and his long time provost, Shirley Willihnganz, couldn’t wait to get Felner on campus.

Ramsey was in such as rush to land Felner he and Willihnganz forgot to tell the interim dean (and other finalist for the position) they hired Felner, so he was left to discover the decision when Felner call his secretary and started giving her instructions. So much for that HR seminar!

Things in CEHD soon started to fall apart.

I resigned from my department chair position two weeks after Felner took over as dean and later moved to UBC.

Within a few years, there had been 30 grievances filed by faculty and students against Felner for a wide range of abusive managerial practices and a faculty vote of no-confidence in Felner’s leadership of the CEHD. Reasons given by faculty for the vote of non-confidence included:

Public humiliation of faculty, work place harassment, retaliation for voicing opinions, little or no governance, decisions that hurt College, unacceptable and unfair hiring practice; rude, offensive, unethical behavior by CEHD representatives; denial of support for research to those who differ in opinion; and extreme inequity of pay. (See CEHD meeting notes published here.)

Despite the abominable conditions in CEHD, UofL Provost Willihnganz and Ramsey both supported Felner publicly.

One year after the vote of no-confidence, Felner announced he was leaving the UofL to become president of the University of Wisconsin, Parkside.

The Chronicle of Higher Education described Felner as “riding high” a couple of years into his deanship at UofL, well-paid, and having secured a $700,000 grant from the US Department of Education. However, he “pressed his luck” during his last weeks in Louisville.

Even though only $96,000 remained in the account, he implored Louisville officials to approve a $200,000 subcontract with a nonprofit organization in Illinois that had already received $450,000 from the grant. Perhaps, he suggested, the university could draw on a special fund that had been established by the daughter of a former trustee.

The Illinois group, Mr. Felner said, had been surveying students and teachers in Kentucky. That survey would “let us give the feds something that should make them very happy about the efficiency and joint commitment of the university to doing a good job with an earmark, as I know we will want more from this agency,” he wrote in an e-mail message on June 18.

But on June 20, his last day as Dean of CEHD before he headed off to Wisconsin, those big black SUVs with government plates (like the ones you see on Criminal Minds) rolled into the CEHD parking lot. US Secret Service, US Postal Inspectors, and UofL Police questioned Felner and escorted him off campus, along with his computers and records.

There was a simultaneous raid on UW-Parkside to confiscate material Felner had shipped ahead of his arrival there.

In October 2008, a federal grand jury indicted Felner on nine counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. According to the indictment,

the Illinois nonprofit group, known as the National Center on Public Education and Prevention, was simply a shell that funneled money into the personal bank accounts of Mr. Felner and Thomas Schroeder, a former student of his and the group’s “executive director.” Prosecutors say the two men siphoned away not only the $694,000 earmarked grant, but also $1.7-million in payments from three urban school districts, money that ought to have gone to the legitimate public-education center that Mr. Felner had created in Rhode Island.

In January 2010, Felner pleaded guilty to nine Federal charges, including income tax evasion.

In May 2010, Felner was sentenced to 63 months in US Federal Prison for his role in defrauding defrauding the UofL and the University of Rhode Island, where he had been director of the School of Education, of $2.3 million of US Department of Education funds earmarked for No Child Left Behind Act research.

aka Robert Felner

10775-033 aka Robert Felner was released from US Prison in May 2014

For a a short course on the felonious Felner see the summary of events. For a full course on the Felonious Felner and the incompetence and ethical lapses of Ramsey’s UofL administration click here. (Shout out to Jake at PageOneKentucky for excellent investigative reporting on Felner and the UofL.)

For Workplace Blog coverage of Felner click here.

And here is a Louisville Courier-Journal profile of Felner that pretty much sums up the guy that Ramsey defended until he pleaded guilty: Robert Felner profile: Arrogant, outrageous, abusive and duplicitous.

Felner Footnotes: Indians, John Deasy, Non-Disclosure Agreements & Ramsey as the Frito Bandito

(1) When Felner announced his resignation, UofL president Ramsey wroted to Felner and said he was worried about “letting the Indians get back in control of the reservation.” That’s some serious respect for university faculty and the idea of shared governance, eh?

(2) Los Angeles school superintendent, John Deasy, has had his academic credentials called into question. Deasy was given a PhD by the University of Louisville after he was enrolled for four months and received a total of nine credits.

Deasy’s doctoral advisor was, surprise, Robert Felner! Deasy had previously awarded $375,000 in consulting contracts to Felner, while Deasy was Superintendent of Santa Monica schools.

Ramsey appointed a “blue-ribbon” panel to investigate Deasy’s degree. The panel found that getting a PhD in four months at the UofL was not cause for concern, thus plunging the UofL’s academic reputation down into the neighbourhood of fly-by-night for-profit “higher” education.

Deasy is now working in an unaccredited training program sponsored by educational de-formers the Broad Foundation, which teaches school leaders business methods and supports charter schools and closing public schools.

(3) Ramsey has been making double retirement payouts to UofL administrators for their silence.

Records show that the school paid a full year’s salary to outgoing vice presidents Michael Curtin ($252,350) and Larry Owsley ($248,255) and to assistant to the president Vivian Hibbs ($66,391) to induce them not to “disparage, demean or impugn the university or its senior leadership.”

In March 2014, UofL made a $346,000.00 settlement with university counsel Angela Kosawha:

The University of Louisville is paying another large settlement in connection with the retirement of a high-ranking official — this time, $346,844 to its top lawyer. University counsel Angela Koshewa is on a three-month leave of absence before she officially retires June 1. Documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act show the university is paying Koshewa — who has questioned some expenditures and proposals backed by President James Ramsey and Dr. David Dunn, the executive vice president for Health Affairs — twice her final salary.

It costs a lot for Ramsey to cover up details of his administration’s incompetence and shenanigans, but remember there are lots of bucks at UofL.

(4) Provost Shirley Willihnganz stepped down as UofL provost earlier this year. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that

Under her watch, however, 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.

She also was forced to apologize to CEHD faculty in 2008 for failing to take any common-sense action against Felner for his intimidation, harassment, humiliation and retaliation against faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Willihnganz said at the time that she tended to dismiss the early complaints against Felner — including a no-confidence vote by faculty — because he was a “high performer” and because the complaints came from professors and staff “entrenched in their ways and resistant to change.”

She later told faculty at a meeting that she was sorry. “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,” she said.

No duh! She actually is directly responsible for the Felner disaster (along with Ramsey), that’s probably why she feels that way. And speaking of resistance to change …

(5) This next item has nothing to do with Felner, except that his former boss and advocate, James Ramsey, is also the long time boss of UofL basketball coach Rick Pitino who admitted to having sex with a women in a swanky Italian restaurant in Louisville. Apparently that’s not a problem with Ramsey and the UofL because Pitino said it wasn’t rape.

And, now Pitino is using hookers and strippers to recruit high school basketball players to come to the UofL. See Dave Zirin’s pieces on the latest Ramsey supervised scandal:

(6) And I almost forgot. Remember the Taco Bell/Mexican connection. This week Ramsey had a little halloween party at the UofL. Ramsey goes racist (again). Yes, he dressed up like the Frito Bandito.

UofL President James Ramsey illustrating his knowledge of multiculturalism

UofL President James Ramsey says “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”

And you thought the HR training at UofL was bad, get that guy to the diversity office and cross your fingers that they’re better than the university’s accounting folks.

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A few weeks ago, we posted “Shared governance hits rock bottom at UBC.” Respondents noted that there was still a glimmer of hope for governance and recoiled at the suggestion that “equally futile in introducing even a modicum of accountability or insight into the non-disclosure scandal is the UBC Senate.”

At this evening’s Senate meeting, Senator Anstee moved a motion for transparency in the confidentiality agreement between UBC and past-President Arvind Gupta, but the motion was defeated. Yes there was debate but the motion for transparency was defeated.

The initial premise holds: equally futile in shared governance– when it really counts– is the UBC Board of Governors and Senate. Sure, faculty, staff and students can banter over the objectives of a new course or the fine print of a new policy. But on the meaningful decisions at this point at the University of British Columbia, governance is dominated by developers and investment bankers and confined by legalism. The two are hand in glove.

Again, the BoG’s, Senate’s and Senior Administration’s rejection of multiple requests and appeals for accountability in the President’s resignation marks the low point of shared or faculty governance at the University. Hoping to rise to the occasion of its 100th, UBC instead sunk to rock bottom.

Dear Colleagues:

The Faculty Association is disappointed with and surprised by UBC’s statements at yesterday’s press conference on the Honourable Lynn Smith’s findings.

In keeping with the language of the Collective Agreement, the terms of reference established a fact-finding process to investigate whether Dr. Berdahl’ s academic freedom was “interfered with in any way.” The Investigation concluded that it was.

The University, however, repeatedly stated that Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom was not infringed. This communication is not entirely consistent with the Summary Report.

While the Summary Report concludes that no single individual alone is responsible for the infringement, it clearly communicates that the cumulative effect of the actions as well as inactions of the University amounted to interference with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. To quote directly from the public Summary Report, Professor Smith found that:

UBC failed in its obligation to protect and support Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. The Collective Agreement Preamble creates a positive obligation to support and protect academic freedom. Through the combined acts and omissions of Mr. Montalbano, the named individuals in the Sauder School, and others, UBC as an institution failed to meet that obligation with respect to Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom.

Further, because the question of whether interference occurred was foreseeable, the University and the Faculty Association had a phone conversation with Professor Smith to clarify the matter. Professor Smith explicitly confirmed for the Parties that one of her findings was that Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom had indeed been interfered with.

It is therefore disappointing that despite such explicit clarification the University failed to acknowledge this important finding of fact in the press conference yesterday and instead simply repeated that there was no infringement of Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. In essence, the University has only acknowledged part of the problem….

Read More: FAUBC

Mark Mac Lean, President
On behalf of the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee

The University of British Columbia is 0 / 2 in its ability to find facts in its most recent “fact-finding processes.” The first was the Fact Finding Report: Commerce Undergraduate Society (CUS) FROSH CHANTS. The second was the Summary of the fact-finding process and conclusions regarding alleged breaches of academic freedom and other university policies at the University of British Columbia.

How or why is it that fact-finders appointed to find facts cannot find any facts of administration? Or of specific administrators?

Is it that the the facts are so tiny, so microscopic that they are there but cannot be found? Is it that facts of administration are so taken-for-granted that they are too big to be found?

Is it that facts of the administration of UBC cannot be found because they need not be found?

Is it that secrecy prevails and the evidence put in front of the fact-finders has no bearing whatsoever on the facts of administration?

Is it that legalism at UBC is in itself culpable and invariably can find neither fact nor fault with specific administrators at UBC? Is this sort of a legal fox guarding managerial hen-houses story at UBC?

We have to say, the comedy of errors continues in the administration of the Sauder School of Business while nothing sticks to the teflon Dean.

“As it happened,” the Honourable Lynn Smith reports, there was a flurry of suppressions of academic freedom in the building but “the Dean of the Sauder School of Business was away and only intermittently in touch.”

When the Sauder students chanted a rhyme about rape two years ago, again no administrators were home. In that fact-finding report, again there was no accountability. Curiously, the words “administration” and “administrator” do not appear while “student/s” appears 46 times. Then and now, there were no facts to find on administrators or administration in Sauder.

With this new non-finding in the Smith Report, Sauder Dean Robert Helsley has to be laughing.

Is this not a pattern and a failure of legalism here at UBC?

Faculty members at the University of British Columbia are now left in the dark of legalism. On one hand is the overuse and abuse of legalistic non-disclosure agreements, such as that between the Board of Governors and ex-President Gupta. This form of legalism prevents us from knowing why our President resigned and who was behind the resignation.

Now, on the other hand is the Honourable Lynn Smith’s Report on interference with academic freedom, specifically on whether BoG Chair Montalbano and Sauder School of Business administrators acted to suppress Jennifer Berdahl’s inquiry into the resignation. Smith delivered one of the most legalistic fact-finding Reports one could write on the case. This form of legalism prevents us from knowing why a faculty member was submitted to forces of suppression and who is accountable.

In a masterful crafting, Smith found that

UBC failed in its obligation to protect and support Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom… UBC as an institution failed [however] Mr. Montalbano, on his own, did not infringe any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any of the applicable university policies. No individual in the Sauder School of Business identified by the Faculty Association, on his or her own, infringed any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any of the applicable university policies. (pp. 3-4)

“UBC failed…” UBC the corporate person contravened the Collective Agreement and interfered with academic freedom. But no human person contravened or interfered.

If Lynn Smith finds the corporation of UBC liable for violating an article of the Collective Agreement and a faculty member’s academic freedom, then which of its administrators or officials are responsible? Through which administrators or officials was the University acting in this case?

It’s a basic question of corporate liability that first year law students confront. But it’s also an advanced question that tests legal scholars. One retributivist option is to acknowledge UBC corporate personhood and responsibility while at the same time holding to account senior officials, whether or not they participated in the transgressions, tolerated the actions taken, in this case by Montalbano and Sauder administrators, or just looked the other way.

“UBC failed,” and legalism is failing UBC. Jennifer Berdahl’s response takes the next step, noting she’s “disappointed that university leaders” lost sight of academic freedom. The Faculty Association’s response takes the next step in this process, noting that “Senior academic leaders were conspicuously absent and silent.”

Who then were the senior administrators that tolerated the breaches or looked the other way? Provost and VP Academic pro tem? VP Human Resources? University Counsel? Dean of Sauder School of Business?

Through which administrators or officials was UBC acting in this case?

Once again, now is the time to speculate.

15 October 2015

Dear Colleagues:

The Honourable Lynn Smith, Q. C., completed her fact-finding process last week and presented the parties with her report. We thank Professor Smith for her fair and impartial process and for producing a high quality, nuanced report, a public summary of which is available on our website (Please follow this link).

The key finding of the Smith Report is that the University of British Columbia failed in its duty to support and protect Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom and that it interfered with her academic freedom. The finding thus has two clear implications. First, the University itself actively impinged Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom by the cumulative effects of various University actors’ behaviour. And, secondly, because the duty is a positive one, requiring affirmative and proactive support for academic freedom in situations such as Dr. Berdahl’s, the University’s silence in relation to the attack by others on Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom was an additional failure.

More specifically, the conclusions to be drawn from the Report are as follows. The Report finds that the University acted without regard for the well-being and interests of Dr. Berdahl. Following her online posting of a blog, Dr. Berdahl became the target of attacks by email, by social media, and in columns appearing in the national press. At no time did any university official speak out in defense of her right to academic freedom or issue any other statement of support for her or scholarship. The Smith Report, consequently, concludes that, as a result of the combined acts and omissions of Mr. Montalbano and others, Dr. Berdahl “reasonably felt reprimanded, silenced and isolated.” The events initiated by the University following the publication of Dr. Berdahl’s blog post have had, the Report continues, a “significant negative impact” on Dr. Berdahl.

The main agents involved in the University’s response to the blog post were the Chair of the Board of Governors, Mr. John Montalbano, the Chancellor of the University, Mr. Lindsay Gordon, the Sauder Dean’s Office, as well as UBC staff and others advising the Board on how to handle the aftermath of President Gupta’s resignation. Senior academic leaders were conspicuously absent and silent.

While Dr. Berdahl received support from international scholars and experts in her field, and from faculty throughout UBC and other universities, we are troubled that neither the Administration nor the Board spoke fully and publicly in defense of Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. The silence with respect to Dr. Berdahl on this issue from these two central sites of university leadership is extraordinary. Senior administrators and board members bear responsibility for this failure.

These mistakes and missteps in the case of Dr. Berdahl have occurred under Mr. Montalbano’s leadership, often as a result of his direct personal involvement.

We await the responses from the Administration and the Board of Governors.


Mark Mac Lean, President
On behalf of the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee

The Board of Governors’ rejection this week of the Faculty Association’s request for accountability in President Gupta’s resignation marks the low point of shared or faculty governance at the University of British Columbia. It’s a shame that UBC sunk to rock bottom as it intended to rise to the occasion of its 100th birthday.

Although among the 21 members of BoG there are 8 elected by faculty, staff and students, which gives a facade of shared governance, the reality driven home in the non-disclosure scandal is that governance at UBC is dominated by developers and investment bankers. Silenced or muzzled, the elected faculty, staff and students have been irrelevant if not useless in protecting the best interests and being honest with the members of the University.

Equally futile in introducing even a modicum of accountability or insight into the non-disclosure scandal is the UBC Senate. At the moment when we needed shared or faculty governance most, when it really counted, the UBC Senate accepted its Nominating Committees’ recommendation to stick with status quo practice in the search for a successor President “instead of attempting to make significant changes at this time.”

The public requests for accountability from faculty and librarians (FAUBC), from staff (CUPE) from graduate students (GSS) and undergraduate students (AMS), are symbolic of appeals for shared governance. And each appeal or request has been rejected out of hand by the University. In the words of the BoG, “personal privacy” trumps accountability and access to information of a public body. Irrelevant is its duty under the University Act to protect the best interests of the University and be honest with the members of UBC.

In 2004, the Federal Information Commissioner expressed concerns that civil servants, lawyers and managers of public bodies in Canada were managing “to find ingenious ways to wiggle and squirm to avoid the full operation of the law.”

Two recent books, The Rise and Decline of Faculty Governance and The Fall of the Faculty, document this descent to the rock bottom of shared or faculty governance. UBC is not alone at the bottom and there were never expectations that it would be any different.

But the explicit rejection by the BoG this week of requests for shared governance in accounting for the resignation of a President paves that rock bottom for a long stay.

There is much more to say, as shared or faculty governance is by no means limited to BoG or Senate at UBC. At the lower levels of Faculties, Schools and Departments, there is an atrophy of shared or faculty governance. Budgets, for example, have been made sacred and secret at UBC, with Deans and Associate Deans (appointed at whim) making the budgets and centralizing more and more budget decisions while reporting less and less.

In “A Love Affair with Secrecy,” we are reminded that the “Access to Information Act was supposed to get government documents into the hands of Canadians. Instead, it has created a state in which there are often no documents to get.”

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Well, there it is University of British Columbia. Game over. The advantage was President Arvind Gupta’s, who now checkmates you in just 3 moves.

First move: resigns. Second move: ties UBC up in its knots of non-disclosure. Third move: walks out the door to U of T, which is #1 while UBC battles for its comeback to #2.


Arvind then sends this message back to UBC, which is still staring at the chessboard, stunned: At U of T “there’ll be lots of opportunities to build new kinds of links.”

Lots of opportunities, new kinds of links, to say the least.


September 21, 2015

Dr. Mark Mac Lean, President
Faculty Association
112 – 1924 West Mall Vancouver, BC V6T 122

Dear Dr. Mac Lean:

I am writing in response to your letter dated September 1, 2015 in which you reiterate your desire for more information about Professor Gupta’s decision to resign his appointment as President.

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act strikes a balance between the desire for citizens to access information about public bodies and the need to protect the personal privacy of individuals. UBC proactively publishes large amounts of information about its operations, including the amounts that it pays to all senior employees. Recognizing how access to financial information contributes to public accountability, the legislation explicitly permits this. However, the legislation also recognizes the exceptionally sensitive nature of certain types of personal information such as personal employment history (including information about employees’ reasons for resigning their positions) and therefore explicitly provides that the disclosure of such information is presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.

Regarding the search for a new President, I assure you that the Presidential Search Committee will work to include the viewpoints of all stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, and alumni. We will be in touch with the Executive of the Faculty Association in the near future to invite your input as we begin this process. I look forward to working with you and your colleagues as we embark on the important work ahead.

Ms. Alice Laberge, Acting Board Chair
UBC Board of Governors

Kelly v UBC, a discrimination case against the University of British Columbia is now entering its 9th year and will continue into the foreseeable future. From 2005-2007, Dr. Carl Kelly was enrolled in the Family Practice Residency Program administered by the Faculty of Medicine. Kelly has ADHD and a Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD). On 29 August 2007, Kelly was terminated from the program for unsuitability. He then filed a grievance and human rights complaint against UBC for its failure to accommodate.

In December 2013, the BC Human Rights Tribunal awarded Kelly $385,194 for lost wages due to discrimination and $75,000 for injury to dignity. The HRT concluded: “the gravity of the effects of the discrimination in this case warrants a substantial award for damages for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect which is beyond the highest award that has yet been made by this Tribunal.”

UBC appealed and sought judicial review.

Last week, on 24 September, the BC Supreme Court’s Justice Silverman wrote: “The Tribunal’s Decision to award $75,000 is not based on principle and cannot be supported by the evidence. In my view, the discretionary decision which resulted in that award was ‘exercised arbitrarily’ as those words have been interpreted in s. 59(4) of the ATA.  That section also denotes that such a decision is patently unreasonable. Therefore, I find that this portion of the Decision was patently unreasonable and must be set aside.”

So it’s back to the HRT.

Simon Fraser University is rockin its 50th birthday while the University of British Columbia is trying desperately to throw a 100th, but unable to send out invitations on account of a secret agreement to not disclose the time or location.

Think of the loud, talkin bout my generation frenzied crazy house party of 1965 versus the slow, quiet waltz where no one makes it to the gymnasium in 1915. Think of the all night surfin barefoot beach party of 1965 versus the reserved colonial cricket club afternoon meet-n-greet of 1915. Think of James Brown I feel good blowin the roof off campus in 1965 versus the somber timbre of the barbershop boys crooning at the Great Trek tea sandwich lunch break in 1915.

Jealous? Yes we are!

Yes, you bet, SFU is partyin down while threatening to lockout its Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) from the gig. If TSSU’s Teaching Assistants (TAs), Tutor Markers (TMs), and English Language & Culture and Interpretation & Translation Instructors can’t even get to the keg in the kitchen, they might as well just picket the party again.

Sounds like fun inside and out, in 1965 and 2015, partying and picketing at SFU!

At UBC, we’re still wondering if President Gupta said he would open the doors to the gym and give a toast at the waltz. Non-disclosure. Guess we may never know what he planned for the big event.

Please SFU, dear Mr. Fantasy, take us out of this gloom, get UBC out of this funk. Merge with us! If we were SFUBC we could rock a 150 years total party and have a blowout mixer with with Cornell, gangnam style, or a rave!

Think About It (remember when President Piper rocked that brand?) if we were SFUBC we could share executives. One President presiding over SFUBC, throwin down raucous, all nighters on both campuses, at the same time. 150 is way better than 50 and you bet better than 100.

With the University of British Columbia wallowing in the depths of a legitimacy crisis of administration, the longtime Ontario and BC Liberals deputy Philip Steenkamp was appointed the University’s new Vice-President, External Relations and Communications. Obviously, his communication with the BC Liberals will be easy.

VP Steencamp’s real test is communication and PR with the community, including, most locally, faculty, staff and students, and media who have lost confidence in UBC’s senior and middle executives and managers. That’s a tall order.

So we shall now see what a $300k+ salary buys an administration in crisis. We shall now see if the new VP can rescue UBC, basically his Office of Communications and Community Partnership and the Public Affairs Office, from its PR bloopers and blunders, including the handling of Chair Montalbano and BoG in the press.

MacLean’s called out the Public Affairs Office as a PR “disaster” while the Ottawa Citizen says UBC’s sunk deep into “damage-control.”

The previous VP Communications, Pascal Spothelfer, came and went in two years.

In the meantime, interim President Piper has yet to shake up PR and the senior admin. Something has to give…


If you are among the “university watchers” identified as such in President Martha Piper’s now infamous speech to the converted, also known as UBC’s comeback speech, as read by Stephen Hawking, you are advised to watch the University from the ivory tower webcam.

Note that this cam is pointed directly at the Academic Executives’ Office, where you will not see any admin changes. As you can see, there is really nothing to see here.

Yes, an admin office is bustling with activity inside. But university watchers will not see this. University watchers are also advised to revert to google office view and the watching paint dry cam installed in the UBC Board of Governors.