4 February 2016
This link will take you to our open letter to the new Chair of the Board of Governors, Mr. Stuart Belkin. The letter has also been copied to Premier Clark and Minister Wilkinson.
We are asking for an external review of the Board and its operations. This request is prompted by our experiences with Board processes over the past six months, and by the revelations of documents and emails leaked last week.
This communication has two purposes.
First, we want input from our members on this governance crisis to help us respond appropriately to the University as things unfold. To this purpose, we are doing two things:
We will be sending out an opinion survey to all of you within the next week, asking for input to specific issues and concerns. We urge you to respond fully;
We will also be holding a town hall on each of UBC’s campuses to facilitate community discussion and, again, get input from our members.
You will hear more information about each of these in the next week or so.
Our second purpose in writing this letter is to review some of the questions we have about Board practices.
- In the leaked documents from last week, we have seen several examples of secret meetings without any subsequent public documentation of these meetings. Does the Board’s current practice of holding some full Board and committee meetings without published meeting dates, agendas, and motions passed (and hence of decisions taken) meet the expectations for accountability and transparency for BC public bodies, and the obligations placed on the Board under the law?
- Has the Board been properly constituting and documenting all of its committees and their work? For example, a previously unknown ad hoc committee appears to have been created to manage the Board’s interactions with Dr. Gupta in the time leading to his resignation. Where is the documentation for the motions that created this committee? What processes were used, and what records kept of these processes? How many other such committees are there? Why is it necessary to keep the existence of any committee secret? Do all Board members know about each of the ad hoc committees? Is the Board operating in a way that meets all of its obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the general guidelines for public bodies? Is it lawful for secret committees to take actions that are not publicly recorded and not available for public scrutiny?
- Two related concerns pertain to patterns of email business conducted by Board members. First, why are all Board members not using a UBC email address for all of their Board work? Second, how does that Board ensure that the work of the Board is properly recorded and archived? For example, the University’s response to one of the Faculty Association’s Freedom of Information requests for the Chancellor’s email correspondence around a critical event claims that Mr. Gordon had no emails that were captured by this request. However, other individuals covered under this same request provided several email chains relating to the event that included multiple emails to and from Mr. Gordon. Why were Mr. Gordon’s emails, which were clearly about University business, not provided by Mr. Gordon as the law provides? How are Mr. Gordon’s emails about university business thus archived? More generally, do the email processes of the Board meet all legal obligations applicable to the Board and to UBC as a public institution?
In sum, to our minds, the Board of Governors is operating in the “shadows,” purposively orchestrating its activities in such a way as to deny public access, accountability, and proper scrutiny. Secret agendas, clandestine ad hoc committees, and chains of emails that disappear or are conducted on private email addresses, are not what one expects from the governing board of a significant public institution.
Moreover, freedom of information law in British Columbia is intended to provide any interested member of the public access to the basic documentation related to the business of a public body such as the University of British Columbia. Such law provides for appropriate confidentiality, but it does not intend that the business of the University should be completely beyond the reach of the public.
Mark Mac Lean, President
On behalf of the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee