Below is my letter to the faculty of the University of British Columbia. It was emailed to my colleagues this morning.
I will be having a phone conversation with John Montalbano, Chair of the Board of Governors, shortly.
10 August 2015
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday, I received a phone call from the University to inform me Professor Arvind Gupta would resign as President of UBC effective at 1 p.m. that afternoon, and that a public announcement would be made at 1:15 p.m. This news came as a complete surprise to me, and I have spent the weekend trying to make sense of it.
This was a sudden and immediate resignation, and I am skeptical that the reason for it is simply that Professor Gupta wishes to return to the life of a Professor of Computer Science. We, of course, will not hear directly from Professor Gupta since such resignations typically come with a non-disclosure agreement.
The Board of Governors must explain what transpired to end Professor Gupta’s Presidency after only one year. What caused this leadership crisis?
Over the past year, I had conversations with Professor Gupta about his desire for UBC to thrive as a place where faculty are supported and valued unconditionally. He truly viewed us as his colleagues. Contrary to some of the public speculation since his resignation, he had a serious plan well under development to achieve the goals he set for himself and the University, and faculty were at the heart of his plan.
In support of this plan, President Gupta’s budget decisions were designed to move resources into the academic units, and to mitigate the impacts that high growth rates of student numbers are having on the entire university. As a result, significant amounts of money are set to move from non-academic operations to support research and teaching.
Does Professor Gupta’s resignation mean the Board no longer supports realigning the University’s resources to better support the research and teaching missions?
Professor Gupta saw faculty as the heart of the University and collegial governance as a fundamental principle upon which the best universities operate. Will the Board of Governors continue to use these principles as the basis of its relationship with the faculty?
I believe Professor Gupta’s resignation represents a serious loss to UBC. It certainly represents a failure point in the governance of the University. We need to understand this failure and the Board must recognize that we cannot move on until we do.
I also have questions about the future leadership for the University. We have in progress searches for a Provost and VP Academic, a Vice President Research, and a Vice President External and Communications. Those who fill these positions must ultimately hold the confidence of the President they will serve. What will happen with these searches now? President Emerita Martha Piper has considerable experience as a past UBC President, but should she hire three key Vice Presidents for the next President of UBC?
All of my concerns and questions aside, I am committed to working with Professors Redish and Piper under the same model of trust and openness with which I was able to operate with Professor Gupta. I have every expectation they will want to continue the positive relationship that has developed between the Administration and the Faculty Association over the past year.
I invite you to send me your responses to the President’s resignation. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Mac Lean
President of the UBC Faculty Association