I’m voting NO CONFIDENCE in the UBC Board of Governors (3a, the long version)

Here are the notes I prepared for speaking to the motion I was seconding today, at a Special General Meeting of the UBC Faculty Association, with the addition of comments: mostly back-up development of points / arguments from post (1) in this present series, and back-up evidence excerpted from post (2).

Comments added with reference to today’s meeting and discussion are in [square brackets]. The original text in post (3) is in italics.

I should add in preface that these remarks are simply a statement of how I came to this position. If they help others in making a decision—whatever that decision might be—that is all to the good and they will have served their purpose.

1.

I would have been neutral about the Board and confidence in them at this time last year.

I became increasingly concerned by events from August onwards. The January revelations were shocking: UBC documents were leaked to the media revealing the existence of secret undocumented meetings (to which others on the Board were not party), including meetings about the then President. Other meetings weren’t fully documented or minuted.

[ADDING:]

AUGUST 2015

  • UBC’s President, Arvind Gupta, resigns in mysterious circumstances. There is media coverage, commentary, and speculation; fueled by an absence of information.
  • Martha Piper is appointed as interim President.
  • The then Chair of UBC’s Board of Governors comments on the resignation and on speculation thereon, speaking through the official communications-channel of UBC; this is already an inappropriate abuse of Public Affairs / News and an overstepping of authority. The Chair of the Board—half of our bicameral system, each chamber of which has an advisory function with respect to the President, the other chamber being the Senate—cannot speak as the University: only the President can do so. Rather like a head of state.
  • Jennifer Berdahl, a member of the faculty in UBC’s Sauder School of Business whose academic work deals with leadership, comments on the President’s resignation and is subjected to harassment and other mistreatment, including by superiors (the managerial ranks in the university) and by the then Chair of the Board of Governors. These actions result in matters being brought to the Faculty Association (the UBC union that represents academic faculty—“academic staff” in other parlance—of all ranks, from sessionals—“adjunct faculty” elsewhere (not here, adjuncts are something else here)—to full professors).

OCTOBER 2015

  • An external enquiry by former judge Lynn Smith concludes that “UBC failed in its obligation to protect and support Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom…through the combined acts and omissions of Mr. Montalbano [the then Chair of the Board of Governors], the named individuals in the Sauder School, and others.”
  • The Chair of the Board of Governors resigns.
  • A Presidential Search Committee is struck, chaired by Chancellor Lindsay Gordon and four other members of the Board of Governors (including Darrin Lehman, also serving as a faculty representative), three deans, three senators, three faculty representatives (including Jennifer Berdahl), three staff, and three students.

JANUARY 2016

  • UBC documents are leaked to the media (including independent media and individual bloggers) revealing emails between the former Board Chair and President and revealing that certain members of the Board of Governors held secret meetings (to which others on the Board were not party), undocumented, including meetings about the then President. Other meetings would appear not to be fully documented or minuted. The members of the Board of Governors involved in the secret meetings include those running the search for a new president.
  • The UBC Faculty Association issues a statement outlining concerns that the Board of Governors and its Secretary had violated FIPPA laws, Provincial guidelines and best practices, and questioning whether the search for a new President should continue under the leadership of the current Board of Governors given these concerns.

FEBRUARY 2016

  • Over 200 faculty and community members protest the Board of Governors meeting on 2 February calling for transparency, accountability, an end to secret committees and meetings, and divestment.
  • The student Alma Mater Society (AMS) issues a statement outlining concerns with Board processes leading up to Dr. Gupta’s resignation and calling for an external review of the Board of Governors and a delay in approving any candidate proposed by the Presidential Search Committee until such a review is complete and incorporated.
  • Divestment is rejected at a 15 February Board of Governors meeting in a manner that dismisses evidence, proper reasoned debate, and support for divestment that had been expressed by students and faculty
  • Statements are made by the Board of Governors, by individual members of the Board, and by others in the University in support of the Board. The lexicon of “confidence” is heavily used.
  • The Board of Governors announces that it will discuss governance issues with interested faculty, staff, and students in its (regularly-scheduled) 14 April meeting. It is not yet known what shape this discussion will take, who is invited (it’s unclear whether this is just “spinning” the fact that elected representatives of faculty and students would be there anyway), and whether it would be free and open (or indeed a discussion, by any common-sense definition).
    [Adding in comment: while this invitation has been “spun” by the Board of Governors in the media—for example to deploy ambiguity in order to suggest that this is a new event and an invitation extended to everyone—that very ambiguity give us all room to make 14 April a day for change and conversation, and an opportunity for a first public move towards genuine rapprochement, relationship, mutual respect, trust, and true—reciprocal and communal—confidence. Consider this a friendly suggestion to the Board of Governors.]
  • The results are released of a Faculty Association survey asking faculty if they had confidence in the Presidential Search Committee. The majority (72.5%) of 885 respondents expressed a lack of such confidence.

MARCH 2016

  • Jennifer Berdahl resigns from the Presidential Search Committee, stating she has “lost confidence in the willingness of the committee to hear the concerns of the faculty and to learn from mistakes of the recent past to improve the future of UBC.”
  • Greg Peet resigns from the Board of Governors and as Chair of the Finance Committee following revelations of tax dodging

CONTINUING THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD (AUGUST 2015-MARCH 2016)

  • our Board of Governors has used the UBC website for its own public information and publicity purposes; as well as external PR, strategy, and legal consultants; and placed op-ed pieces in the local and national press (Vancouver Sun, Globe & Mail, etc.); in a manner that placed any dissenting voices at a disadvantage not least as individuals, groups, and even the FA did not have access to the same internal resources (ex. UBC Public Affairs) nor to the financial means to access similar external ones.
  • PR has been used as much for manipulation, strategic games, and disinformation as it has for information.
  • a number of Freedom of Information requests had been made (also on other University affairs). These had been met with delays and resulted, when results there were, in heavily redacted documents. It appeared that much of the Board of Governors’ activity was undocumented. Governors did not all systematically use UBC email addresses for conducting all UBC correspondence. Given the provenance of many members of the Board—especially the majority who are unelected, appointed by the Province—their interests, interpretation of “acting in the University’s interest,” and possible conflicts of interest have been called into question.
  • Whatever did or did not occur, the end result is a lack of information. In the absence of facts, of material evidence, members of the university community have been asked to believe or disbelieve the Board (and believe in the Board) on the basis of their word alone (in the case of those individuals who have made statements to the press) or on the basis of their silence.

[END OF ADDITION]

This present motion started with the UBClean rapid grassroots protest on 2 February calling for transparency and accountability.

[ADDING:]

The UBClean grassroots protest on 2 February: not a faction competing for power, nor a Grand Movement with a Leader or Leaders, but a collective of members of the UBC community who care about their university—as a whole and in its constituent parts, including individual persons—and are concerned about its good governance. The collective isn’t just faculty although the petition brought to the Faculty Association had, obviously, to be brought and signed by faculty; it also includes students, alumni, staff, emeritus and emerita faculty, and intersects with a number of other groups around UBC (and beyond) who are interested in issues such as divestment and sustainability, women’s rights, LGBTQ2S / LGBTTQQIAAP, First Nations, anti-racism, human rights, and transparency.

A petition came into being as a natural next step: composed a few days later, posted publicly online, and circulating by word of mouth and social network over the next few days.

= RESOLUTION FOR PRESENTATION TO THE UBC FACULTY ASSOCIATION

Whereas the UBC Board of Governors is required by law to act in the best interests of the University (BC University Act 19.2);

and whereas it has come to light that the Board has held secret, unannounced meetings of the Board, leaving no documentation of its activities;

and whereas Board members have formed secret ad hoc committees in which governance activities have been pursued without oversight and contrary to policy and procedural norms;

and whereas these committees and the Board have taken decisions or engaged in actions—such as declaring no confidence in the President with no formal review or input from faculty, declaring full confidence in the Chair after his role in interfering with a faculty member’s academic freedom, interpreting fiduciary duty to the university as pertaining to donors rather than its faculty, students, and staff—that are not obviously in the best interests of the University;

and whereas the Board has declined to explain such actions to the University community;

and whereas, consequently, we faculty members in good standing at UBC find that we cannot know—indeed, we have strong reason to doubt—that the Board has been operating in accordance with its legal obligations to the people of British Columbia;

therefore be it resolved that the Executive of the UBC Faculty Association, as soon as possible, bring a motion to its membership expressing no confidence in the UBC Board of Governors.

Submitted to the UBC Faculty Association Executive 11 February, 2016.

Signed by 457 members of the faculty, with the added support of 62 emeriti.

[END OF ADDITION]

Board members could be forgiven—perhaps misled, uninformed, misinformed, at any rate innocent—for what they did, didn’t do, said, and didn’t say up to that time. But after the January revelations, there could be no reason or excuse for continuing in this way. And no excuse for individual governors not to be at least asking questions. Yet we have no evidence for questions being asked. This I find surprising beyond reasonable comprehension. Dubious. I see no reason for a reasonable person to trust the Board. So I have no confidence in the board as a whole.

[ADDING—A POINT OUTLINED IN THE MEETING TODAY—“WHAT CONFIDENCE ACTUALLY MEANS”:]

There are several reasons for my lack of confidence in the Board of Governors. Many of them are already in the petition above. My most serious one is a moral reason, as a matter of principle and conscience: because confidence shouldn’t even be an issue and there’s something deeply wrong about the way “confidence,” “faith,” and “belief” are being brought into play.

I find myself faced with the following problem:

With respect especially to the specific items outlined in the original petition, I do not know enough about what the Board has done, and what it has not done, and how, and why. This information simply isn’t available. Worse, it’s very much emphatically unavailable. I therefore have insufficient evidence from which to read, analyse, and interpret their actions; to draw conclusions; and on which to base a rational judgement on good and bad, rightness and wrongness, and thence to declare support and agreement with the Board (or the contrary).

What little I have been told—as a member of the faculty and as a member of the public—encourages me to “believe” in our Board, to “have faith” in them (as individuals and as a whole). This is what they mean by having confidence; although technically that crucial con- of “with, together” is absent: this is not a bi- or multi-lateral relationship, it is a one-way “faith in” by a believer, directed towards that in which they believe, without any necessity of any reciprocity or of anything in return. Blind faith.

[adding: faith is not the same as trust. Trust is earned in mutual and reciprocal continuing relationship. Faith is unilateral, on both sides, demanded by one party and given by the other. It may be given without any expectation of receiving anything in return, let alone entering into a relationship. Consider unanswered prayers vs a miracle. Prayers, like faith, may of course be freely given; faith and confidence do not necessarily entail unthinking or force.]

Some of the tone of this encouragement has been disrespectful or intimidating; some colleagues have had more overtly threatening comments on their support for the petition. (I have the good fortune to have a civil and civilised department and head; this is mere brute luck.) For example: if my Dean has faith in the Board, then I should. If faith is good enough for my superiors and betters, than it should be good enough for me. If I do not have faith, and express that, the implication is an insult to my Dean and my other betters. And disobedience, and insubordination. Though I never made a public oath of obedience in a ceremony of fealty to these individuals, or to their formal roles: my duty, as per my contract letter and the Collective Agreement, is to my department and to the University and its general interest (so: including students).

[adding: I checked this, just in case I had indeed signed up to what a colleague today called “total confidence”; I had not; I double-checked in case I was deluded and/or delusional; I then worried both about my own state of mind and about gaslighting as a mechanism for manipulation, a strategy for instilling fear and cowedness and for building an abusive non-relationship of control. In some parlance, and in a more troubling model of government and governance, that may well equate to “stability.” That, by the bye, is why “sophists” (a.k.a. philologists) like me, people who work with words and ideas, are a necessary evil.]

Yet I cannot, should not, and will not make a decision that should be rational on the basis of faith or blind belief. And certainly not if threat, fear, or manipulation are added. That would not be a proper moral choice by a free agent: sceptical, in good faith, true to myself. It would also be an absurd way for an intellectual at a university to make a decision; as invalid as not thinking at all. We are, you may recall, in the thinking business.

[END OF ADDITION]

2.

The Board has, in their actions and inactions, damaged not only the reputation of UBC but destabilised the university itself. They have also acted contrary to their own obligations: to act with integrity, honestly, to the highest ethical and moral standards; to instil, enhance, and maintain public confidence in their actions and decisions. The fundamental relationship should be one of trust; essential to trust is a commitment to honesty and integrity.

The onus, the obligation to work towards creating trust, is on the side of the Board.

[ADDING:]

Legal compliance is only one element of the Board’s obligations, and this is writ in law. Ethics, trust, honesty, integrity, courtesy, respect, and dignity feature in the overarching frame to appropriate behaviour. There is no mention of “faith” except in an obligation to Governors to “act in good faith” themselves.

The University Act:

19.1 The members of the board of a university must act in the best interests of the university.

Conflict of interest:

The UBC Board of Governors code of conduct & ethics:

The Code of Conduct for Members of the UBC Board of Governors defines standards and makes related provisions for the conduct of Governors, with a view to affirming the integrity of the Governors and the Board in discharging their responsibilities to the University. […]

Governors act honestly and in good faith and in the best interests of the University and exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person.Each Governor takes all reasonable steps to avoid conflicts of interest and uses their best personal judgment in assessing whether or not any transaction, relationship or opportunity […] gives rise to a conflict of interest. […]

It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors to:

1. Approve and monitor, through the Administration, compliance with the policies, bylaws and procedures that govern the University operations.

2. Approve and act as a guardian of the University’s values.

3. Direct the Administration to ensure that the University operates at all times within applicable laws and regulations, and to the highest ethical and moral standards.

The Board of Governors shall promote a culture of integrity at the University through its own actions, its interaction with senior executives and external parties, and through selection and review of the President.

Each Governor shall act in the highest ethical manner and with integrity in all professional dealings.

Governors are also bound by provincial General Conduct Principles for Public Appointees.

From the aforementioned General Conduct Principles for Public Appointees:

Government appointees are expected to meet high standards of conduct which enhance and maintain public confidence in the operation of BC’s public agencies, boards and commissions. They must act to instil public confidence in their actions and decisions. […]

Appointees are expected to act at all times in good faith and with honesty and due diligence, for the public interest. […]

The conduct and language of appointees must be free from any discrimination or harassment prohibited by the Human Rights Code. Appointees’ conduct should reflect social standards of courtesy, respect and dignity.

From Standards of ethical conduct for directors of public sector organizations:

The fundamental relationship between a director and the public sector organization on which the director serves should be one of trust; essential to trust is a commitment to honesty and integrity. Ethical conduct within this relationship imposes certain obligations. […]

1. COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW

1.1 Directors should act at all times in full compliance with both the letter and the spirit of all applicable laws.

1.2 In his/her relationship with the organization, no director should commit or condone an unethical or illegal act or instruct another director, employee, or supplier to do so. […]

1.5 Directors should not only comply fully with the law, but should also avoid any situation which could be perceived as improper or indicate a casual attitude towards compliance. […]

10. RESPONSIBILITY

10.1 The organization should behave, and be perceived, as an ethical organization.

10.2 Each director should adhere to the minimum standards described herein and in the organization’s code of conduct, and to the standards set out in applicable policies, guidelines or legislation.

10.3 Integrity, honesty, and trust are essential elements of the organization’s success. Any director who knows or suspects a breach of the organization’s code of conduct and ethics has a responsibility to report it to the board chair.

10.4 To demonstrate determination and commitment, each director should review and declare compliance with the organization’s code of conduct and ethics annually.

[END OF ADDITION]

3.

Our Board’s damage to the University is serious but salvageable: by rebuilding trust. The Board are, I assume, intelligent reasonable caring human beings, capable of learning and growth. Here are some sustainable stability suggestions:

  • An independent external review of the Board of Governors, their recent history, and their practices
  • The removal from the Board of those Governors who were involved in recent malpractices
  • Joining the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges or at the very least, as a compromise, adopting their Statement on Board Accountability
  • Fully open documentation of all activities (with confidential ones under seal)
  • Working, thinking, talking about what an interim caretaker Board of Governors should look like
  • Forming a new, clean, fresh Board who are properly educated in governance

We have experts right here: faculty in all the relevant areas: history and histories local, national, international; political history and theory; international relations; anthropology; educational policy; government and leadership. Faculty in the arts, humanities, and social sciences can help. All faculty can help. Anyone who is an intelligent adult citizen with experience of living in the world can help. That includes our students, alumni, and staff: we can rebuilt trust together, stabilise and rebuild UBC in this its centenial year, and make UBC a radical new kind of institution, lighting the way for others in the next hundred years.

[ADDING:]

[from today: I would like to emphasise that the situation that UBC is in now is one of destabilisation, and aside from the fact that it is of the Board’s creation, this should not be an excuse for sweeping “trouble” under the carpet and trying to stabilise matters by reaffirming and returning to a prior status quo. The clock can’t be turned back to 22 March 2015. Stagnation and stasis are not stability. Similarly, not all change is progress; and not all change or instability need be negative. We are living what could be a pivotal moment for bona fide stabilisation as innovative sustainable development.]

WHAT WOULD I LIKE TO HAPPEN NEXT?

First:

I would like faculty to have the opportunity to vote on this motion freely and fairly, protected by their union. I stuck my neck out in participating in this grassroots collective, in signing the petition, and in sponsoring its presentation to the Faculty Association. I didn’t actually feel afraid: blame my department and head for that sense of security; [I know what trust is, and a good relationship, because that is what I have with my head, colleagues, and department as a whole.] But other colleagues have expressed fear, and have worried about me. Their worry is already a good healthy thing: we faculty care about each other and other people, we’re human and humane. Would that these human values and that caring were more widespread at the upper echelons of the university, and demonstrated (and their understanding clearly shown) by the Board.

This grassroots thing that a collection of individuals has created is already changing UBC for the better. Moving  away from a vertical hierarchy of competition and command; into a caring, compassionate, consensual network of horizontal relationships. It is of course early days yet before paradigm shifts or revolutionary intersectional social justice can be declared…

The more people come to the Special General Meeting on 22 March, the happier I will be: to see people coming out and expressing their care for their university.

[lots of people were there, and a range and diversity, including opposition, so I am happy]

The more debate there is, the happier I will be. Yes, it should be civil, courteous, polite, urbane; respectful, responsible, responsive; not playing silly power-politics games; in short, adult.

[well, alas, there were power-games and macho posturing; senior faculty speaking against the motion introducing their remarks with referenced to the length of time they have been at UBC and to their position; that’s an appeal to authority, and it’s a fallacy; it may also be bullying]

The greater the number of people voting, the happier I will be. Whichever way they vote. Even if this motion fails. Provided the vote is free and fair. Civil rights are precious: so easily lost, so hard to gain. Use them or lose them; and the more one uses them, the better one becomes as a moral and political being, through that exercise and practice.

Secondly, in the immediate future?

  • An independent external review of the Board of Governors, their recent history, and their practices
  • The removal from the Board of those Governors who were involved in secret committees, those who violated academic freedom, and those who failed to disclose information or delayed it or otherwise obfuscated and obscured the truth in reply to FOI requests
  • Joining the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges or at the very least, as a compromise, adopting their Statement on Board Accountability 
  • A new, clean, fresh Board who are properly educated in governance
  • A new, clean, fresh Presidential Search Committee

Thirdly, in the longer term?

Whatever the outcome of this vote, I would like to see us all—including the Board of Governors—work towards a new and renewed university that sets new standards, radically different, radiating that difference light years ahead of others, setting higher standards for all.

Some of us have already been working on this: in our immediate and larger university circles, in our teaching methods, in advising and other interactions with students. Simply starting to rehumanise what had been a dehumanising environment. Taking time out to talk to colleagues. Feeding colleagues and students chocolate. Going out together to wind down and talk after work: this is anthropologically, ethologically very important to social animals, especially when you add food. Companionship comes, literally, from breaking bread together. (That’s the same con- in confidence: Philology to the rescue of us all, once again.) This is one of the key secrets behind the greatness of universities like Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, Harvard, NYU, Princeton, CalTec, Stanford, Berkeley.

Free market competition gone silo-mad, with extremes like departments competing for classrooms every term (yes, I know: bonkers: if you think so too, go hug your department administrator), every item of university activity turned into the narrow sense of business as units of productivity. It can be resisted; and should be; and perhaps even in ways that cost little or nothing to the university and give it, in exchange, value and qualities beyond price: education, contentment, and free publicity and marketing for radical new ways of teaching.

Change can be harmonious: competition and conflict, that virile colonialist militaristic mentality, is not the only way to play nor the only kind of game. UBC has taken millions out of the regular teaching budget that used to be distributed to faculties and thence to departments and moved it into a Flexible Learning initiative. This year, faculty created a very different kind of flexible learning from scratch, for free, and made it public: teach-ins including an online virtual teach-in, through Twitter. While these were at specific times for specific reasons (constructive protests that enhanced and enriched teaching, as opposed to traditional walk-out protests that hurt students), the materials are now there in a flexible sort of public repository, and can be used by others for a variety of reasons, at any time, freely; see for example #UBCSAAM on sexual harassment and assault and #divestUBC

WHAT WOULD TRANSPARENCY LOOK LIKE?

Were the Board to see the light and convert to full transparency tomorrow; or, more realistically, over the next six months, but with at least fortnightly progress reports.

The Board has acted in a way that is at best merely barely compliant with a legal minimal standard, and has not been in accordance with the higher ethical standards that frame that minimum legal requirement (see above). (They are not alone: this ethos may be observed elsewhere in university management and procedure.)

Had the Board acted in a responsible, accountable, transparent, open way we would not be asking such questions and this motion would not even have been contemplated, let alone brought to the assembled Faculty to be voted on through our Faculty Association. The same is true of other representative bodies of the UBC community, including those who have elected members on the Board of Governors, who could also bring similar petitions to their membership: the AMS (undergraduate students), the GSS (graduate students), CUPE 2278 (graduate student teaching assistants), and the various unions representing staff. The Alumni are also represented on the board in the persons of a certain number of those members appointed by the Province. Any of these bodies could bring similar petitions and hold similar votes with their constituencies. All of us are equally interested in reform, and all of us care for our university.

Responsibility does not mean mere legal compliance. Due diligence. Or not being caught breaking the law; or enjoying the gentle art of brinkmanship by seeing just how far you can go without bending the law too far, how far you can push it. This university has higher obligations. That may be a satisfactory standard of behaviour in some business cultures: but not in all businesses; and this is not a business, it is a university; it is also a public institution, part of the public service, and as such should be setting the standards. Responsibility includes behaving in an ethical manner. Such as acknowledging when wrong has been done and harm caused and apologising for such actions.

With a duty to the higher interest of the university: as a whole, as a university, and to its long-term  benefit. This means taking a very long view: for decades and centuries, not merely until the next Board, Provincial, or Federal election.

With a duty to the special work and identity of a university: to teaching and learning, scholarship, the preservation and archiving of knowledge, and the intellectual work of questioning, discussing, analysing, and criticism; again in the longer term: even (and perhaps especially, if you recall the exemplary case of Einstein and the Institute for Advanced Study) if the end results of this university work are unpredictable and will be unknown for a long time, often for the lifetimes of those running a university. To a delicate balance of letting academics (faculty but also students and alumni) be, and supporting them.

With a  duty of care to every individual member of the university community: to make the university an exemplary model of an ideal in action, experimenting to set best practices and radical standards in this living laboratory: to be not just functional and productive but nurturing, caring, compassionate, humane; inventive and innovative through happiness and the stability and safety that give free rein to imagination. And there’s a duty of care to individuals as individual human beings: accorded due dignity, respect, and value.

Accountability means being able to make a full account of oneself and one’s actions; to tell the whole story / history; and it would necessitate full record-keeping. Meeting minutes: proper verbatim transcripts or, ideally, whole recordings. Records of all votes, including the entire voting history of every member. All correspondence. Archives. Free open public access to all archives. Live streaming of meetings.

The one exception would of course be those parts of Board activity that had in their nature to be private and confidential: but these ought to be the exception (and clearly described and distinguished as such, with strict limits) rather than the rule, and still properly fully recorded but under seal.

[See for example documents thus created—fully, meticulously—and then kept under seal for the lifetime of the individuals concerned, or 70 or 100 years (depending on the country, limits vary, these are just two examples) for sensitive government documents.

“Confidentiality” and “the protection of privacy and personal information” should not be confused or conflated with “secrecy.” That is an error. They are very different ideas. “Confidentiality” and “avoiding secrecy” are mutually compatible, not mutually exclusive.

That point needs to be made as the distinction seemed either unclear or deliberately fudged, as a false dichotomy, by some speakers against the motion. I am a charitable person: I assume no malice, but misunderstanding; consider this a friendly comment in clarification.]

Accountability and responsibility combine in a duty that elected members of the Board of Governors have to the electorate that they represent. I have seen no evidence that the Faculty representatives have considered, consulted with, or represented faculty interests let alone the general interests of the university, the greater good, the commonweal of our common res publica. 

The Board has not been accountable. I am open to persuasion. Show me proof of good behaviour, conscientious decision-making, accounts of all activities. I want to be persuaded. I would prefer to be persuaded, and content, and calmed and reassured. That would make me happier. I don’t like being unhappy!

Transparency (as discussed in an earlier blog post here, with full OED entries) entails being clear and open. Openness to questioning: be that in completely free open meetings, or—as is easily done in 2016—online in free open discussion. We have been presented with prepared statements by individual board members, either posted on the UBC website (with no possibility of reply or online discussion) or in newspapers. “Dialogue” has been offered but this seems to mean “the right for a representative of a group to make a [short] statement which won’t be interrupted.” This does not constitute dialogue, nor the more useful constructive conversation, in any dictionary or common sense of the term; nor in the terms of more specialised usage, in discourse analysis, textual criticism, and so on. The key element is the phoneme con- : “with, together.”

The Board has been neither transparent nor open: it has also often been silent. These actions and ways of working obscure. Adding a lack of clarity.

Let’s go beyond compliance and confidence.

Ethics, healthy scepticism, compassionate community, and true trust. Trust and its rebuilding are crucial: in and with faculty, other constituencies, the university community as a whole, and the public. In the public interest.

[END OF ADDITION]

4.

This is a positive and constructive moment today. UBC strategic plan slogans about “vision and values” and so on have an opportunity, right here and now, to translate into actual principles and practices, in a community of compassion and care. Many of us are here precisely because we care: about individuals, whether we know them or not; and about our university.

But that has to start here, now, with proper adult open discussion of governance. Starting with a lack of confidence in the Board of Governors, public acknowledgement of wrong, of harm done, and of a will to change. Rehabilitation, resurrection, and renewal have to start with that, and the hard work of building true trust and real relationship.

image

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s