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.

Listening as Stephen Hawking reads the speeches of Martha Piper, it is clear that the interim President of the University of British Columbia needs to begin cleaning house by canning the top of Public Relations, along with her speech writers and handlers.

When MacLean’s calls out your Public Affairs Office as a PR “disaster,” when when the Ottawa Citizen says you’ve sunk deep into “damage-control” mode, when faculty and indie media analysts elaborate, it’s time to actually do something.

When your speech writers reduce the lot of your faculty, staff and students to “university watchers,” it’s time to act.

When the best your hired PR specialist and handler, Susan Danard, can do is assure the world that there will be no “departure costs [$]” to faculty and students from President Gupta’s resignation , it’s time to make a major shuffle.

Instead, with this legitimacy crisis of administration well into its second month at UBC, it’s business as usual. Admin are now wont to party like it’s UBC @ 99. So when UBC announces a leadership transition, it really means that just one staff member quietly walked off campus and otherwise it’s business as usual.

The crisis of legitimacy is deep at UBC from the top levels of management, including the Academic Executives and legal counsel, through its deans and down to its middle managers, the associate and assistant deans, who are appointed at whim.

But you’d never know it. It’s business as usual for UBC @ 100. Time to clean the house of PR and admin President Piper.

At the University of British Columbia, a little bit of information goes a long way! Earlier this week, the final conversation between President Gupta and BoG Chair Montalbano was leaked by agent AI to Piece of Mind. AI had Stephen Hawking audition for the screen play UBC @ 100 by reading from the script.

This really did happen and now we bring you the full recordings. In this initial recording is Stephen being be coached by AI into reading President Martha Piper’s now infamous speech to the converted, also known as UBC’s comeback speech. Like Rocky says, “if you wanna go through all the battle to get where you wanna get, who’s gotta right to stop ya?”

Ok, here it is: Stephen Hawking reads the speeches of Martha Piper.


Yes, this really did happen, and now we add Stephen’s speculation (reason #18) to the list of reasons why Gupta resigned.

This just in from [can’t say, we protect our sources + non-disclosure agreement], or let’s just say AI. In these times of high stakes at the University of British Columbia, it was inevitable that the final conversation between President Gupta and BoG Chair Montalbano would be leaked. A transcript surfaced and was given to Piece of Mind. AI reconstructed the recording– actually had Stephen Hawking audition for the screen play UBC @ 100 by reading from the script. Listen here–WOW!


That is what happened. This is exactly what happened: Piece of Mind for the full transcript of the conversation.

So this case is cracking wide open. We’re told by AI that there’s a lot more where this came from!

UBC Allard School of Law? Legal ethics at UBC? Where are you at this moment when we know full well at the University of British Columbia that (nearly all?) secret agreements are dangerous to shared governance and law?

Is it not time to question the UBC Office of the University Counsel’s professional ethics? University Legal Counsel is compromising its values in legal practice, is it not?

  • integrity;
  • independent judgment;
  • respect for people;
  • upholding the public trust and the rule of law;
  • commitment to the mission of the University; and
  • professional excellence.

So much for the laudable, now laughable, Stewardship Statement:

UBC continues to strive for transparency and accountability by implementing a strong system of internal controls, protected disclosure and investigative procedures, and identifying its stewardship mandate in various policies and procedures.

What of the ethics of the Legal Counsel or lawyers at UBC that hammered out this non-disclosure agreement between the University and President Gupta?

Confidentiality and non-disclosure are not always sacrosanct, correct? Blanket secrecy here is unhealthy, isn’t it? Privacy is not always in the public interest or the best interests of the University, agree?

Concerned? File a Complaint with the Law Society of BC.

Lots of questions…

Alice Laberge, Acting Chair of UBC, Corporate Director of RBC, time to disclose. On 1 September, the Faculty Association of UBC requested that you please

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.

On 3 September, the Graduate Student Society of UBC openly stated:

The GSS has concluded that the practices of the UBC Board of Governors are not sufficiently transparent to ensure that UBC’s values – integrity, public interest, mutual respect and equity – are maintained.

We know what you must be thinking: there is not much difference between UBC and RBC. That’s why Corporate Directors are needed on BoG and in the President’s Office.

In academia and banking, confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements are increasingly common. These agreements are increasingly used to move what would otherwise be public into a private or nonpublic arrangement, under the aegis of privacy protection.

In 2004, the Federal Information Commissioner expressed concerns that civil servants, lawyers and managers in public institutions in Canada were managing “to find ingenious ways to wiggle and squirm to avoid the full operation of the law.” Reflecting what we see nowadays at UBC, the Commissioner observed” “The attitude has truly become,’Why write it when you can speak it? Why speak it when you can nod? Why nod when you can wink?'”

In “A Love Affair with Secrecy,” Berlin writes 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.”

Increasingly, at UBC and RBC, public information becomes private.

At URBC UBC and RBC, non-disclosure agreements are increasingly common to deflect distracting things such as Freedom of Information requests.

Regarding President Gupta’s resignation, the BoG and Legal Counsel compressed and reduced an inordinate amount of public information to privacy protection. That’s unsustainable and troubling. How much is too much?

Please respond to the FAUBC that the terms of the confidentiality agreement have been renegotiated.

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