These are the notes I prepared for speaking to the motion I was seconding today, at a Special General Meeting of the UBC Faculty Association. The main body of text below is the raw form: I may have added things when actually speaking, I removed one thing because I realised it was redundant.
… and here’s why (3a, the long version) = the notes following below with the addition of comments (demarcated from original text here): back-up development of points / arguments from post (1) in this present series; back-up evidence excerpted from post (2); and comments added with reference to today’s meeting and discussion.
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.
This present motion started with the UBClean rapid grassroots protest on 2 February calling for transparency and accountability.
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.
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.
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.
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.