#UBC Committee of Deans making decisions, covering tracks #ubcnews #ubc100 #bced #highered

by Stephen Petrina on June 16, 2016

Since the announcement of University of British Columbia President Arvind Gupta’s resignation on 7 August 2015 and subsequent disclosure and leak of records on 25 January 2016 via Freedom of Information requests, one of the most pressing questions has been the role or seeming conspiracy of Deans. Upon public circulation of the records, on 9 February the Deans quickly circled the wagons in defence, ostensibly a sign of patronage.

The records still in question involve a series of meetings and exchanges between Gupta and the Deans beginning around 1 May and extending through June 2015, e.g.:

1 May 2015 (FoI Record 439)

Hi John [Montalbano, Chair of the BoG], Things seem to be going well with the Deans now (or at least I think so). Thanks again for coming over today and hope you weren’t too late in [redacted]. Talk soon. (Gupta)

What exactly happened wherein the President hesitates in resolving that “things seem to be going well with the Deans”? What was going on wherein problems escalated and the Deans apparently made an offensive to play a role in seeing through the President’s resignation or ousting him?

Perhaps the meetings and exchanges of the Committee of Deans would provide insight.

At UBC, there are two decanal governing bodies: UBC-V’s Committee of Deans and UBC-O’s Deans’ Council. Concern here is with the Committee of Deans’ records.

A Freedom of Information request was made on 8 February 2016 for disclosure of records of the Committee of Deans, which meets twice per month for 2 hours each meeting.

Lo and behold, it turns out that this decision-making and governing body does not keep any records and claims it has no obligation or intention to do so. Upon a series of requests over the last four months, Access and Privacy in UBC’s Office of the University Counsel shockingly confirmed:

There is no UBC record-keeping mandate for these committees [of Deans]. Therefore the records kept are at the discretion of the Provost offices. In terms of UBCV material – no minutes are taken at the Deans meetings, therefore no minutes exist to provide to you. UBCV 2016 agendas were included [or reconstructed] in the records released to you.

There were no 2015 records in the disclosure

So, this decision-making body– all the Deans and the Provost, etc.– meets twice per month for 2 hours each and keeps no records. The Committee of Deans met multiple times with President Gupta and prepared or kept no records. Nada. Nothing.

On 28 January 2016, the Faculty Association levelled an extensive critique of senior management and governance of UBC for shoddy record-keeping or lack thereof.

Guaranteed, there is something to hide. Too much, in fact.

Wary of corruption, cronyism, and patronage, on 22 October 2015, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC released a scathing report of the practice of withdrawing decision-making to shadow systems.

Similarly 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 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… 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?'”

UBC hired a new President and we are wont to look forward. UBC set a new precedent and we are now bound to look backward.

Left with no confidence in the Board of Governors (see chronology) and now no confidence in the Committee of Deans, things are much worse than we thought at UBC.