The VP Carousel

Posted by: | March 23, 2007 | 2 Comments

Stephen Toope was hired almost exactly one year ago. Since then two VPs have resigned, and a third will be gone in a few years (BSull). We’ve also hired a new DVC (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, or the person in charge of UBC Okanagan). UBC’s undergoing a serious period of internal change.

Before I look at it, though, let’s compare the “resignation” letters sent to the campus community, both written by Prof. Toope:
Whitehead: “Dr. Lorne Whitehead, who has served UBC with great distinction since July 2004 as Vice President Academic and Provost, and I have agreed that he will resign from his current administrative duties…effective immediately”
Pavlich: “With regret, I have to inform you that Professor Dennis Pavlich, Vice President External and Legal Affairs, has advised me of his intention to resign his administrative appointment effective this spring”

Fun, huh?

I have a feeling UBC will see a moderate executive re-organization. Particularly, look for the VP External portfolio to be re-distributed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the development of a VP Advancement or VP Development portfolio, designed to handle all the University’s truly external affairs. These include fundraising, public affairs, government relations, and alumni. UBC also has a centennial (or three) to prepare for in the coming years, which will probably coupled with a massive cash campaign.

It’s a re-organization that’s designed to leverage our alumni and community connections in every way. That means better advocacy and, more importantly, more money. I’m of the opinion that this is the exact wrong time to be going out, cap in hand. Our reputation in the community isn’t stellar – it’s of a property developer going building-happy. Every year we raise $110-120 million. You’d think that’s a lot, but well over 98% of that comes from big-ticket donors. The Ike Barbers of the world. How much comes from rank and file alumni? Just over $2.5M. How do they get that cash? 77,000 phone calls. That’s a crappy yield rate, no?

Why is that? Probably because people are sick of “the ask” they get at the dinner table. But I have a gut feeling it’s only going to get worse. We’re a generation that takes a University degree for granted, that sees it as something we get in return for our four years of tuition payments. Moreover, it’s a University that, to its members, seems not to take a great stock in their individual needs. “I’m just a number” is felt nowhere among the BC student class more acutely than at UBC.

So that’s why I’m disheartened by the changes I see coming down the pipeline. UBC has troubles already engaging its students, its future alumni – why re-emphasize the perception that we’re more useful for our cash than for anything else? A truly inspiring University will use alumni and its communications shops not for fundraising, but to enrich the University experience. A donation of time to mentor students in a field can be far more valuable than any money an alum wants to give. But right now our University is setting up to handle the latter, which generally comes at the expense of the former.


2 Comments so far

  1. Maayan Kreitzman on March 26, 2007 6:32 pm

    Hey Tim,
    I don’t quite see how the VP resignations/restructuring are related to the capital campaign. Or how the capital campaign is related to…well I just don’t really get the point. Mentorship programs are nice, but unless alumni work at UBC, or live at UBC, their biggest contributions will always be monetary. And that’s fine – if the money is used wisely for the students of today.

  2. Tim Louman-Gardiner on March 27, 2007 6:29 pm

    You probably won’t even read this. But I disagree, fundamentally.

    (First, the VP re-org is related to a capital campaign because they’re going to have a VP responsible for heading it up. That’s part of what’s driving the whole process.)

    And fuck mentorship programs. I’m talking about the more informal kind. There are literally thousands of opportunities for alumni and members of the UBC community to volunteer, to teach, and to mentor, either formall or informally.

    Hell, I’m an alum who hasn’t given a dime in donations, and I feel I’ve contributed to the University. And I’m going to for a while to come, even when I stop being a student. And they’re not getting a red dime until it’s worth it for me, tax-wise.

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