Former University of British Columbia president Arvind Gupta said he regrets his sudden resignation last summer and wishes he had pushed back harder against complaints about his performance.
"I now regret … resigning from the presidency and not pushing back harder from the board," Gupta told CBC Radio The Early Edition's Rick Cluff Thursday morning. It was his first broadcast interview since his resignation.
"I often wonder if I had not resigned whether wonderful scholars we have like Jennifer Berdahl wouldn't have had to go through what they went through," he said.
Berdahl, a UBC professor, spoke out last summer about Gupta's resignation in a blog, writing that he had lost a "masculinity contest" with the school leadership. Later, she said UBC's chair of the board of governors, John Montalbano attempted to gag her by calling to complain about the post.
Montalbano later resigned after an internal report concluded the university failed in its obligations to protect Berdahl's academic freedom.
Gupta said that he supports the academic freedom of professors. In fact, he wanted them to "stand up and take control, to run the university."
"They are on the ground. They're talking with the students. They're talking to other stakeholders. They know the reality of the situation."
'I did not have their confidence'
Gupta said that he wondered in hindsight if it would have been better "to take on these issues at the front end and not let things devolve the way they did."
He said the decision to resign was painful, adding he had hoped to transform UBC into a "truly 21st century university" when he took on the job.
He said he was never a "career administrator" and had hoped to create a university that was "well connected to the community, that is part of the community, that our students' education is going to be a partnership with the wonderful things that are happening in our society."
He was surprised to learn the board did not support him, saying he had positive feedback from professors. Instead, he said he learned late last summer that an ad hoc committee of the board had met and decided that "I did not have their confidence."
"I felt I was being put between a rock and a hard place. How do you manoeuvre when what you are hearing is so different from what I am being told?"
Gupta said there was no opportunity for him to speak to the board about their concerns.
'No choice but to resign'
"It was a very painful decision, but at that point I decided that I had no choice but to resign."
Gupta's interview follows the mistaken release of unredacted documents related to his departure from the university.
Those documents revealed a growing rift between UBC's board of governors and Gupta in the months ahead of the then-president's sudden resignation.
UBC faculty call for review of board
The UBC Faculty Association released a statement Thursday afternoon lambasting the board of governors for its lack of transparency and accountability in the affair, and calling for an independent investigation.
"Given the events that have unfolded thus far and the information that has been revealed, we believe it is time for an external review of the UBC Board and its practices," the statement read.
"Such a review should be an open process that engages fully the faculty, students, staff, and alumni."
To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Arvind Gupta speaks out about UBC resignation.