Wrestling with Duality

{This post is the first article I have written for the newly revived Okanagan Bulletin, a publication of the Okanagan Faculty Committee of the UBC Faculty Association.  The article is addressed to the UBCFA members at UBCO, but it is relevant for any UBC person who wants to think about what it means for UBC to be a multi-campus university.}

One great university – two great campuses. Google this phrase and the top hit is UBC’s 2006 Annual Report. This vision of UBC has influenced the development of the Okanagan campus since that time. But what does this phrase really mean?

Even before I took office as President of the Faculty Association last July, I knew that I would have to understand the Okanagan campus and its place in the bigger university. More importantly, I knew that I would need to learn how to be the president of a faculty association that represents members on both campuses (and, as it turns out, in many other locations spread around the province) who are covered by a single collective agreement, but whose work contexts are very different. While geography and campus culture are important factors that affect the working lives of UBCFA members, I believe that the way the relationships between our two campuses are defined impacts tremendously how members at the Okanagan campus experience UBC, and also how they experience the Faculty Association.

The Vancouver campus is the larger of the two campuses: more than 85% of the Faculty Association members are in Vancouver, the main Faculty Association offices are in Vancouver, and all but one of the Faculty Association Executive Committee members is from Vancouver. The President of UBC and most of the UBC Executive are also located in Vancouver. It would be very easy in this situation for the Okanagan campus to become an afterthought, even if that were not the intention. After all, UBCO has its own local administration, led by the DVC and Principal, and the Faculty Association has its own local Okanagan Faculty Committee (OFC), led by a Chair who is a UBCO faculty member.   It would be very easy to fall into behaviours on both campuses that make it seem that the Okanagan administration and the OFC were the only ones really responsible for the Okanagan campus. So easy, in fact, that most of us see the campuses as two solitudes.  The reality is, however, that the Faculty Association’s Okanagan members are strongly affected by decisions taken in Vancouver by both UBC and the UBCFA, and so neither UBC nor the UBCFA can afford to ignore its dual identity.

As President of the Faculty Association, it is my job to understand the experiences of our Okanagan members so that I can honestly represent your views when I meet with members of the administration, both in the Okanagan and in Vancouver, and when I am chairing the UBCFA Executive Committee. I also have a responsibility to make sure that the Faculty Association itself serves our members well on the Okanagan campus. This means that I need to hear more from you.

Throughout the rest of this term, I will be coming up regularly to the Okanagan campus and I will be sending out invitations to lunch discussions on various topics and themes.  This will be an opportunity for me to listen to you on issues that you think are important in your lives as UBC faculty members. It will also be an opportunity for me to share with you some of the work we are doing on behalf of all our members.

I look forward to meeting more of you over the next months. Please email me (fa.pres@ubc.ca) if you have any questions or comments.

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