Final Report on Freedom of Information Requests Filed in September 2015

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This letter is to update you on the status of several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests filed by the UBCFA in September 2015 surrounding the resignation of President Arvind Gupta.

Our purpose in filing these complaints was to clarify the procedure and documentation surrounding the Board of Governors’ management of the resignation of President Gupta as well as ensuing events.

Our complaints were divided into several files by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The principal outcomes are as follows:

1.    Foreign Hosted Email Servers

Our concern that University administrators and members of the Board appeared to have been using personal/non-UBC/foreign-hosted email servers to conduct University business was substantiated. On March 8, 2017, the Investigator found that UBC did not take reasonable security steps to protect personal information, and was in breach of Section 30.1 of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA) (Link to Investigator’s Report).

Despite this ruling, to the best of our knowledge, non-University members of the Board have not yet been provided with UBC email addresses for the purposes of conducting University business, and the practice of using corporate, personal, or foreign-hosted email servers for University business continues to this date.

2.    Copy of the Board of Governors’ Manual from the Applicable Time Period

In September 2015, we requested a copy of the Board of Governor’s Manual in order to gain some understanding of routine Board procedures. 

The University provided us with a copy of the Manual that was dated December 2015, three months after our request was made. We asked for the Manual—as it existed—on the date of our request. However, the University’s position is that there is only one electronic copy of the Manual, and it is overwritten every time an update is made, so there is no way to provide a copy from September 2015.  It is unknown to us what sort of attempts, if any, the University made to recover the Manual as it existed in September 2015 when our request was filed.

Through the exchange of correspondence on this matter, the University has said the last printed copy of the Manual is from 2010.  On 27 March 2017, we filed a formal request for a copy. The University responded the same day advising that they had until 10 May 2017 to provide us with a copy of the record requested or to seek an extension to the time limits outlined in the Act. As we heard nothing further on the request, on 17 June 2017 the Faculty Association wrote to the Privacy Office to inquire as to when we could expect to hear from the University. We received a reply the next day advising that it may take “several more weeks” to produce the Manual. It is our view that, given the simplicity of the request, it should not take four months to produce a copy of the Manual. We have communicated our concerns to the University.

3.    Special/Ad-Hoc Committees of the Board of Governors

We asked for details of all committees, including all ad-hoc/special committees. The University denied any knowledge of such committees for almost 17 months (Link to University Counsel response), until presented with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. The evidence in question was released (apparently inadvertently) within documents disclosed by the University in response to requests made by other parties for information.

Following that disclosure, the University acknowledged the existence of two special committees, but the information provided remains incomplete. The full text of the University’s response can be found at (Link to University’s response).

The first committee had 12 members, and is recorded to have met once, on 23 July 2015. The mandate of this first committee remains undisclosed. As to when it was created, we were referred to a notice of a special meeting held on 7 August 2015, some two weeks after the special committee held its one known meeting, and one week after President Gupta resigned.

The 7 August 2015 notice, (which again, was not initially disclosed), indicates the purpose of this meeting was to pass resolutions and take action as necessary in relation to the resignation of Arvind Gupta, including but not limited to:

  • ratifying and approving the appointment and composition of the special committee that had already been convened by the Chair of the Board; 
  • ratifying and approving all directions given to and actions taken by that special committee; and
  • ratifying and approving all actions taken by any person at the direction of that special committee.

While it is not clear from the notice, we take from this that the ad hoc committee which met on 23 July 2015 acted for the Board in conjunction with the resignation of President Gupta, but at the time that it did so, it was acting without authority from the Board, and that any authority that the committee may have had was only provided retroactively.

According to the University, the second committee was struck to “deal with the Interim President’s contract moving forward”. The membership of this committee consisted of Chair John Montalbano, Chancellor Lindsay Gordon, government appointed Board Members Alice Laberge and Greg Peet. The date this committee was created and its meeting dates remain unknown. No records can be located.

Under FIPPA, the University – as a public body – has a duty to assist an individual or body seeking access to information within the University’s possession or control.  On 10 March 2017, the Investigator ruled that the University’s delay of almost 17 months in acknowledging the existence of the special committees was a breach of its “duty to assist” the Faculty Association, and that the University did not conduct an adequate search for records as required under Section 6 of the legislation. 

However, the Investigator was satisfied that the University had, as of March 10, 2017, adequately responded to our request for records about the special committees.  We take strong issue with that latter finding, as the only document that has been disclosed to date regarding these two committees is the 7 August 2015 notice.  In our view, it is not plausible that between all of the members of these two committees, no other records were kept related to the establishment of the committees or the conduct of their meetings. We note that both the Chair of the Board and the Chancellor were members of these committees. The University’s steps to locate the requested records are unknown to us. Surely the University could have asked the committee members, some of whom are still members of the University community, what sort of records were retained. It is not clear whether the University did so.