Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Calling on #UBC to step up and support our alumna Loujain Al-Hathloul (Arts, 2014)


29 May 2018

Lindsay Gordon, Chancellor, UBC
Santa J, Ono, President and vice-Chancellor, UBC

Dear Mr Gordon and Dr Ono:

“Pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world.” – UBC’s purpose per Shaping UBC’s Next Century: Strategic Plan, 2018-2028

A UBC alumna, Loujain Al-Hathloul (Arts, 2014), has been detained without clear charges and without ability to contact her family in Saudi Arabia.  Ms Al-Hathloul is a well-known human rights activist in Saudi Arabia. The nature and timing of her detention strongly suggest that it is part of a crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

We, the undersigned, are deeply troubled by the following official response to a request that UBC comment on Ms Al-Hathloul’s detention:

“A spokesperson for UBC declined to comment on the case, saying the university has over 300,000 alumni and that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to comment on actions unrelated to their time at UBC.”


As a degree-holder from UBC, Ms Al-Hathloul is a life-long member of UBC Convocation.  In this sense her time in the UBC academic community has not ended.  We as faculty members at UBC (and thus as members of Convocation also) expect and demand that UBC show more concern for the welfare of all members of the UBC community—and certainly those whose human rights are actively being violated.

Moreover, we do not believe and would be entirely chagrined to discover that Ms Al-Hathloul’s human rights work is “unrelated to [her] time” as a UBC student.  UBC endorses human rights in many of policies and statements.  We expect that these values will be instilled in all of the members of our community.  When alumni lead in the effort to advance human rights around the world, we must actively support them.  Otherwise we cannot fulfil what our new strategic plan claims to be our university purpose—the advancement of global citizenship and justice around the world.

We, the undersigned, call upon the President, the Chancellor, and the Board of Governors to fulfil their obligations to Ms Al-Hathloul: to actively and publically demand that she be treated justly in Saudi Arabia and to work to assure that she is so treated. 

Dr Ono is quoted in Shaping UBC’s Next Century as saying “This is our time to inspire.” In this matter UBC has been anything but inspiring, anything but just.

Sincerely,
  • Alan Richardson, Professor, Philosophy
  • Nassif Ghoussoub, Professor, Mathematics
  • Charles Menzies, Professor, Anthropology
  • Sima Godfrey, Associate Professor, French Studies
  • Ayesha Chaudhry, Associate Professor, 
  • Judy Z. Segal, Professor, English
  • Anthony Paré, Language and Literacy Education
  • Jennifer Berdahl , University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business
  • John Stockie (UBC Alumnus), Simon Fraser University, Mathematics
  • Carla Nappi , University of British Columbia, Department of History
  • Don Baker, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies
  • Siobhan McElduff, University of British Columbia, CNERS
  • Miranda Burgess, University of British Columbia, Department of English
  • Michael Krisinger, University of British Columbia, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Tal Jarus, University of British Columbia, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Department, Faculty of Medicine
  • Brian McIlroy, University of British Columbia, Department of Theatre and Film
  • Adam Frank, University of British Columbia, Department of English Language and Literatures
  • Sheryl Adam, University of British Columbia, Koerner Library
  • Stephen Guy-Bray, University of British Columbia, Department of English
  • Sebastian Prange, University of British Columbia, Department of History
  • Juliet O’Brien, University of British Columbia, Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies
  • Alfred Hermida, University of British Columbia, School of Journalism
  • Stephanie van Willigenburg, University of British Columbia, Mathematics
  • S Dollinger, University of British Columbia, Department of English Language and Literatures
  • Miguel Mota, University of British Columbia, Department of English Language and Literatures
  • Maureen Ryan, University of British Columbia, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory
  • T’ai Smith, University of British Columbia, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory
  • Bruce Rusk, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies
  • Thibault Mayor, University of British Columbia, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Michael Smith Laboratories
  • Elyse Yeager, University of British Columbia, Mathematics
  • Hotze Rullmann, University of British Columbia, Department of Linguistics
  • ND Ruse, University of British Columbia, Dentistry
  • Patricia Badir, University of British Columbia, Department of English
  • Tai-Peng Tsai, University of British Columbia, Mathematics
  • Carolyn Gotay, University of British Columbia, School of Population and Public Health
  • Alan Mackworth, University of British Columbia, Department of Computer Science
  • Joshua S. Mostow, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies
  • Sam Rocha, University of British Columbia, Department of Educational Studies
  • Ross King, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies
  • Joseph Stemberger, University of British Columbia, Department of Linguistics
  • Christian Schoof, University of British Columbia, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Michael Zeitlin, University of British Columbia, Department of English Language and Literatures
  • Ignacio Adriasola, University of British Columbia, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory
  • Judith Paltin, University of British Columbia, Department of English
  • Kellogg Booth, University of British Columbia, Department of Comupter Science
  • Thomas Kemple, University of British Columbia, Department of Sociology
  • Alla Sheffer, University of British Columbia, Computer Science
  • Richard Froese, University of British Columbia, Mathematics
  • Gordon Slade, University of British Columbia, Department of Mathematics
  • Sunera Thobani, University of British Columbia, Department of Asian Studies & Social Justice Institute
  • Joy Dixon, University of British Columbia, Department of History
  • Nathan Hesselink, University of British Columbia, UBC School of Music
  • David Kirkpatrick, University of British Columbia, Computer Science
  • E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Kurt Huebner, University of British Columbia, Institute for European Studies
  • Tina Loo, Department of History
  • Jessica Wang, Department of History
  • Andrew Rechnitzer, Professor, Mathematics
  • Michael Tenzer, Professor of Music
  • Suzana K. Straus, University of British Columbia, Professor of Chemistry
  • Susanna Braund, CNERS, UBC
  • Bill Winder, French, Hispanic and Italian Studies, UBC
  • Stephen Petrina, Professor, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, UBC
  • John Roosa, Department of History, UBC
  • Bruno D. Zumbo, Professor & Distinguished University Scholar, Department of ECPS, UBC
  • Stefan Taubert, Medical Genetics, UBC
  • Anne Gorsuch, Professor, Dept of History, UBC
  • Gunnar Ólafur Hansson, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics, UBC
  • Jennifer Love, Professor, Chemistry, UBC
  • Sven Bachmann, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
  • Alexei Kojevnikov, Associate Professor, Department of History, UBC
  • Cristina Conati, Professor, Department of Computer Science, UBC
  • Scott Anderson, Associate Professor, UBC Department of Philosophy
  • Mark Mac Lean, Department of Mathematics, UBC
  • Rik Blok, Lecturer, Integrated Sciences, UBC
  • Lisa Matthewson, Professor, Department of Linguistics, UBC
  • Jude Walker, Assistant Professor, Educational Studies, UBC
  • Ed Perkins, Department of Mathematics, UBC
  • Katherine Bowers, CENES, UBC


We have this letter on two blogs and there are signers adding their name here.  I will add names to this copy as well, as time permits. 


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Colleagues are invited to send me their names if they wish to be included as signatories to this letter.
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Friday, May 11, 2018

Faculty Governor By-election

Voting will begin for the position of a replacement faculty governor on May 14, 2018. UBC-V faculty will have an opportunity to select one person out of the field of however many candidates there might be.

UBC is at a critical juncture.  We are emerging from a series of governance related missteps: the forced resignation of President Gupta, mishandling of a series of sexual harassment allegations (including the public dismissal of a faculty member), an egregious interference into a business faculty's academic freedom, and the list seems to go on.  We seem to have reached a turning point with important advances, such as President Ono's apology for UBC's complicity in residential schools and the Board of Governor's setting up a special committee to advance aboriginal engagement on campus. We also see potential improvements in the internal governance of the board emerging. As with all critical junctures the path forward is not preordained.

Faculty governors can play a significant role in shaping the outcomes of such moments. During the Gupta affair our faculty colleagues on the board appeared to sit back and do nothing but go along. Becuase they operated under a veil of silence we may never know if they acted appropriately, but clearly it is widely believed they, and the entire inner circle of the board, did not.

We are at a juncture point where we need a colleague widely know for the courage of their convictions. We need a senior colleague who has local, national, and international standing to be elected to the board. We need a colleague who understands, through their own experience of life, that respecting diversity means action in practice, not tokenism.  We need a colleague who has done more than simply grow their own 'leadership' skills in dean's offices or highly ranked labs. We need a genuine, hard working, experienced colleague filled with compassion and motivated by passion.

I know there is at least one such person who has put their name forward. I will be voting for them and I urge that colleagues do the same.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Departure of Dr. Chaudhry from the #UBCBoG

The seat for an elected Vancouver faculty member on the Board of Governors that is currently held by Ayesha Chaudhry will become vacant as of June 30th, 2018.  To fill this vacancy, this is a by-election for one (1) eligible faculty member from the Vancouver campus to serve for the remainder of the 2017-2020 triennium, for a term beginning July 1, 2018 and ending on February 29, 2020.
It is a disappointment to lose a scholar and public intellectual like Ayesha Chaudhry from the Board of Governors at UBC.   Over the year that I have served with her on the Board at UBC I have found my own understanding of our world broadened. Not a scholar of religious studies or classics I will confess to having been unfamiliar with her research prior to meeting her on the board. What a revelation, what a privilege to get to learn from her through her engagements on the board and through exploring her publications.  When the university publicity people talk about excellence at UBC it is colleagues like Dr. Chaudhry who give actual meaning to that often empty term.

In the discussion of her departure colleagues have speculated as to why she has left.


Dr. Chaudry has pointed to her coming sabbatical as the primary reason for her departure. 

Sabbaticals of course are not guaranteed. At the start of the year we might apply and not know the answer for some time.  Sabbaticals take time and require our focus on research.  When we are provided with a sabbatical opportunity it's important we follow up on it and make it productive. In addition, when we take leave for a sabbatical we are supposed to step aside from our various administrative commitments.

We do get a hint at Dr. Chaudhry's impression of work on the board when she tells The Ubyssey that
she plans to apply what she has learned at the Board to her research “turn[ing] historically white, heteronormative institutions into spaces that celebrate diversity in a way that is equitable and sustainable, without tokenizing and exploiting the very people who are brought in to diversify a space.”
I can't help but wonder had the Board acted differently might Dr. Chaudhry still be a governor.

Dr. Jennifer Berdahl posted a comment to her blog earlier today that compares her own experience on the Presidential Search Committee to what she imagines Chaudhry experienced on the Board.  At the heart is the way the current power structures create a sense of futility for those of us intersted in effecting real, meaningful change.  As Berdahl notes: "If Prof. Chaudhry’s experience was anything like mine on the UBC Presidential Search Committee, she quickly realized how alienating it is to be one of only three faculty members on a 21-person corporate-controlled Board. It was likely even worse for Chaudhry as a woman of colour. Combining this with the Board's shenanigans that are designed to manipulate information and process to achieve desired decisions and minimize academic voices, a sense of helpless futility can set in."

It is too soon to say whether anything will change with the new board chair, but the experience over the past year (from my perspective) has been fatiguing.  For Dr. Chaudhry and myself, who were elected on a platform of change it takes a lot of emotional energy to engage in an environment where what we say is either ignored,  dismissed, greeted with an obfuscational answer, or we are explicitly told we are wrong.

Reviewing governance, tinkering with procedures and rules of order for meetings, are all well and fine.  However, if the cultural practices of racialized discourse, gendered power, and inherent valourization of wealth over intellect remain unchallenged no amount of tinkering with rules and procedures will create a better outcome. If the board is serious about engaging honestly with all faculty (not just those that agree with them) and sincerely wants to create the capacity for real diversity, then they will need to address the cultural practices that fundamentally exclude and demean those of us who are not members of the corporate elite.