#UBC shadow systems of admin and FoI #ubc100 #ubcnews #bced #caut #highered

by Stephen Petrina on January 30, 2016

As the economy tanks with questions of whether governments, banks, manufacturers, and universities are “too big to fail,” the concept of “shadow systems” takes definition.

it was riddled with contradictions: ubiquitous negotiations on all levels, informality, and a huge shadow system. (Kisser & Kalb, 2010, p. 173)

Sound familiar? Zola suggests in the exhilaration, like gambling, of governing through a “shadow system– a place where free from outside scrutiny and evaluation a miniature version of the game of life can be played”– “the demands of the outside world seem distant” (1974, p. 61).

That’s the point– shadow systems provide a sense of control… but within the systems “too big to fail” when you get caught, what happens? When that outside world sees what’s going on, what happens?

In an extensive analysis and critique of management and governance models at UBC, the Faculty Association Executive expresses our

concern about how much UBC business is conducted in such a manner (i.e., “secret, in camera processes” or shadow systems) and hence not captured by FOI requests….

We are deeply concerned by the evidence that a culture exists in UBC whereby the Chair of the Board is personally involved with managing university personnel and their concerns, and whereby back-channels exist between the Board and the University which bypass formal governance structures.

Shadow systems wherein business is conducted that cannot be “captured by FoI requests” have become business as usual, at UBC and the provincial government. In April, we found that  “the British Columbia government is routinely blocking access to documents that should be made public by claiming that the records don’t exist.”

Wary of corruption and cronyism, on 22 October, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC released a scathing report of the practice of withdrawing decision-making to shadow systems. In Access Denied, Denham begins:

Democracy depends on accountable government. Citizens have the right to know how their government works and how decisions are made.

This holds for UBC, by the University Act a corporation bound to accountability to its members: faculty, staff, students.

UBC Management, from top to middle (Deans, ADS & Directors) has lost a sense of how to govern faculty, staff, and students. It has also lost a sense of judgment of what is important and what is not.

UBC’s shadow systems have now come back to haunt a university “too big to fail.”