British Columbia

UBC invites open dialogue following resignation controversy

The University of British Columbia wants to hear from faculty, students and staff about how they think the post-secondary institution is being run.

Invitation made as controversy continues to swirl around sudden resignation last summer of former president

Young men walk past large letters spelling out UBC at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., on November 22, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The University of British Columbia wants to hear from faculty, students and staff about how they think the post- secondary institution is being run. 

The invitation comes as controversy continues to swirl around the sudden resignation last summer of former president Arvind Gupta.

A publicly released letter from interim president Martha Piper and new board chairman Stuart Belkin says the university is committed to an "open dialogue" about how the university is governed and has invited faculty, staff and students to a board of governors meeting in April.

"We take seriously the concerns expressed about board governance at the university and we are committed to an ongoing evaluation of board processes and the adoption of best practices," says the letter, signed by Piper and Belkin.

The university's faculty association, which has pressed for more information about Gupta's resignation, has circulated a petition calling for a non-confidence vote against the board of governors.

The faculty association is also calling for an external review of the university's board of governors.

Meanwhile, the university's new vice president of external relations, is admitting mistakes were made in how Gupta's departure was publicized. Philip Steenkamp, who took over the position last December, said Gupta's sudden departure demanded a public explanation. When that didn't happen, various parties weighed in, he said, filling the information vacuum.

"At the time of the resignation … you actually needed a bit of a story about what happened because everybody is filling in that vacuum with their own interpretations."

UBC must be transparent, new VP says

However, at the same time, Steenkamp said UBC officials were legally constrained by how much they could divulge because Gupta had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

"But the problem was, there was no explanation at all," he said. "I don't think there could have been a full explanation because there are privacy issues."

In the future, Steenkamp said the university should be mindful that the public "will be looking for explanations around these things."

Last month, the Gupta controversy re-emerged following the mistaken release of un-redacted documents related to his departure from the university. Those documents revealed that, prior to Gupta's departure, there was a growing rift between him and UBC's board of governors.

The release of those documents prompted Gupta to speak out about his resignation for the first time. He said he regretted resigning and wished he had pushed back harder with the board of governors, who were raising complaints about his performance.


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