Friday, August 7, 2020

Lessons Learned in Online Summer School

 This May & June I taught three summer session courses: Intro to Cultural Anthropology [ANTH 100, 120 students], Contemporary First Nations Issues Canada [ANTH 329, 145 students], and Ethnographic Film Methods [ANTH 478, 18 students].  Each course had its own unique attributes and requirements.

I used the UBC provided learning management system (Canvas) for all assignments, course readings, discussion forums,  and course communication. For the two large enrolment classes (ANTH 100 7 329) I used collaborate ultra (through the canvas interface) for synchronous lectures and to record these sessions for students to view later. Throughout the course 40-60% of the students participated live. For the small project-based course (ANTH 478) I used zoom for lectures and discussions. I recorded audio from those sessions and made them available for students to review later at their leisure.

These courses were scheduled in the fall of 2019 long before we had any inkling of the coming pandemic and thus were originally planned as face to face in person courses. ANTH 100 and 478 enrolled at the levels anticipated. However, ANTH 329 jumped in enrolment from a planned 50 to 145. Many students explained that they enrolled as a direct result of the pandemic.  

As the course started I polled students on their learning needs and set up to determine if there were structural or technical adjustments that I could make to adapt the learning environment better. Mid-way through the course I ran a 'check-in' survey via google forms to learn how students were doing - not simply with the course, but in their lives (n=111/285). 

Global distribution of students.

I learned that my students were spread all across the globe. They covered almost every time zone and region of the world. This underscores the importance of providing asynchronous learning opportunities, not making live attendance a requirement, and considering scheduled live sessions at non-standard times.

I also learned that a good proportion of students do not have a dedicated home work space or even dedicated computer. One student talked about how they had had to move home but there was so much going on around their natal home that they weren't really able to study or work effectively. When it became apparent that they were going to be able to effectively complete the course were were able, with the help of Arts Advising, arrange a concessionary withdrawal.

Four big obstacles students noted were: finding motivation in the new learning environment, technical glitches, lack of social interaction, and social anxieties related to pandemic work, and family.  Some of these issues are beyond the scope of an instructor's ability to mitigate. We are all sharing in the increased social anxieties for example. But we can, I think at least be honest and direct about what we are doing and what we can do. 

The things that students felt worked included the following:

  • Reducing lecture/online times and supplementing with resources such as videos and podcasts.
  • Roundtable Q&A (with teaching assistants and instructor) after each lecture.
  • Flexible deadlines permitting a hybrid do at your own pace model.
  • Regular short assignments marked on a completion basis.
  • Blended synchronous/asynchronous with sessions recorded.
  • Students appreciated mid-term check-in that asked them how they were doing overall (not just about the course).
Some general observations: 
  • First year students were the least tolerant of learning environment issues, more critical of delivery/teaching techniques than more senior students.  I have no clue as to why this might be, but also have the similar situation with in person teaching. I suspect the adjustment from high school to university is part of it and going online as we did would likely accentuate these issues.
  • There was a high degree of social anxiety across all year levels.
  • In classes with teaching assistants it becomes even more important than usual to ensure that TA's are on the same page as instructor with respect to marking/assessments and intellectual orientation of the course. A certain amount of dissonance is useful, but the online learning environment requires a degree of clarity and scripting that can sometimes be skipped in person. 
  • Important to acknowledge the unusual context and to be honest about what one can do and is doing to provide a structured learning environment.
I would say that I enjoyed this experience doing a full load of courses online during the summer term. But I would be less than honest if I said I would love doing online teaching for ever. I missed the chance to be there in person with the students.  There is a lot more that is possible face to face. However, I have also picked up instructional techniques and approaches that I intend to continue irrespective of whether I am teaching online or in person.  Finding ways to shift my contact hours with students to being more interactive and participatory is one thing this experience has provided an opportunity to reflect upon. I do this already, but now I have some hard skills to make it even more effective.


Formal SEoT – end of term. Selected comments related to pandemic learning.

ANTH 100  n=13/122.  3/19 comments specifically discuss COVID-19 teaching.


With the coronavirus, Dr. Menzies did a great job teaching the course on Collaborate Ultra and the examinations were able to be taken any time within a 24 hour period really helped since not everyone is currently living in Vancouver.


I found that the recorded lectures were a big help as I was living outside the Vancouver time zone and the weekly assignments helped keep me on track with my studies. Additionally, I loved the relevance of this course to current events happening in the world right now. I think it was an essential asset to my understanding of systems of inequality and I'm grateful for this opportunity to learn.


This is the kind of course where in–person discussion and the first year course tutorials are valuable. Hard to find alternatives for large, online course format.


ANTH 329 n=23/145.  5/17 comments specifically discuss COVID-19 teaching.

I thought it was very generous that Prof. Menzies had a suggested due date for assignments and then a final due date and there was no penalty for missing the suggested date. It was really helpful to have the buffer.


Professor Menzies taught with patience and clarity. The chat feature on Collaborate Ultra allowed students to ask questions and I appreciated that he took the time to address them within the class period. If a question was unclear, he would wait and allow students to clarify their ideas so that he could address their questions fully. He also presented unique topics in a way in which people of all different levels of knowledge on First Nations issues could still learn something new. His personal background brought insights into the material and topics, especially the topics of fisheries and food production. Given the circumstances of the class being moved online, he is a very compassionate teacher who seems to genuinely care about his student's understanding and well–being. Though I never used the extended submission windows for assignments, I wish other professors would be as understanding as Professor Menzies and use this format (of a due date and a final submission date), as it gives students flexibility in times of uncertainty. His teaching style is effective yet understanding and I really enjoyed this class.


Instructor was exceptionally knowledgeable, presenting an engaging, thought–provoking and important course. Current events were part of the course, news items, films, excellent readings and essays to read. Every aspect of the instructors teaching style, content shared, information and assignments was excellent. Enjoyed the assignments, challenged me to think critically. Learnt important issues regarding First Nations in Canada and provincially, as well as internationally. I looked forward to every class, every reading, every assignment, a new tool to learn. Inspired by instructor. Encouraged creativity, independent thinking, knowledge and conscience. Provided exceptional awareness. The TA's were both a great asset. TA and Instructor always available. Instructor created a 'check in' questionnaire to see how each student was doing mid–way through course, not simply academically, but on a caring and concerned level. respectful, relevant, informed, a gifted instructor. The course was valuable and gave much more than I anticipated. On–line resources were excellent as was the instruction, despite limitations from Covid–19 and the instructors need to adapt the intense and detailed course from an in–class format to an on–line format in a short amount of time. Thoughtful, progressive, contemporary teaching style. Excellent communicator, listener, and instructor.


First off, I would just like to say thank you. You were one of the only professors who continuously checked in with us to ensure that we were managing well during the incredibly stressful pandemic. You made the course extremely accessible and that took a lot of stress away. Not only that, but you created such an interesting and engaging course, despite the challenges of being online. I really enjoyed the course and found a lot of my own views and understanding on the issues facing Indigenous peoples have expanded and developed more. I am leaving the course with a much more in depth view of the systems in place that continue to limit Indigenous peoples––and as a result, can be a better ally. I really appreciate that you provided so many extra, optional readings and materials for us to look at on the wide range of topics. Being able to further research and read the commentary on certain issues that interested me really elevated my course experience. Likewise, the assigned material was always interesting and featured a broad range of voices. Your own contributions with your own knowledge and research with Gitxaala also enriched the course, as well as brought it closer to home for us from BC. Overall, the course was so well done and I am really thankful I had the opportunity to take it. Thank you



ANTH 478  n=6/18.  3/10 comments specifically discuss COVID-19 teaching.


Small group teams were very beneficial as I felt comfortable asking them for tips or their honest opinions as I assembled my video, and acted as a sort of friend–support group since we were unable to meet in person. Thank you for being understanding and patient as we all adjust to online learning, especially for a course that is very hands–on. Despite being online, Prof. Menzies made it very accessible and I am confident in how my project came out.


I greatly appreciate how supportive Charles has been throughout this process. It has been a challenging class to do with COVID–19.


Instructor contributed above and beyond what I expected. Instructor extremely knowledgeable, engaged, informative, generous with comments, excellent listener, encouraging, supportive, inspiring, dedicated, creative, excellent communicator and writer, exceptionally well–versed in Ethnographical film and Anthropology, superior teaching style. Always participated in group conversations, continually checked in through the course to see how students were doing – not simply on an academic level. Touched all the bases teaching, care, keen observations, quality instruction. All with limited resources due to Covid 19 parameters. Honourable, respectful, kind. Learning structure was excellent. Textbook suggestion excellent. Always available. Created an intense, 6 week course from in–class to online in an excellent manner. Worked with the students, building students. Productive learning sessions daily. Humourous, great speaker, gave excellent instruction. Superb course!


Monday, August 3, 2020

Twitter shaming won't change university power structures

“Another one bites the dust,” a colleague quipped. They were responding to news that Michael Korenberg, chair of the University of British Columbia (UBC) board of governors, had resigned.
Three days earlier, on June 18, an activist group called UBC Students Against Bigotry outed Korenberg for liking pro-Trump and far-right tweets. The following day Press Progress ran an article. Soon most major local media had picked up the story.

Korenberg submitted his resignation following an in-camera meeting of the UBC board of governors on June 20. In his letter, he apologized for his actions. “It is especially critical for the entire institution to demonstrate its absolute commitment to our racialized faculty, students and staff,” he wrote.
Korenberg had been brought onto the board in 2016 by former right-wing premier Christy Clark to help clean up a governance mess. In 2017, NDP Premier John Horgan kept Korenberg on the board as chair. I served as an elected faculty governor on the board 2017-20. My term ended before Korenberg was ousted.

As a former governor I wasn’t surprised to hear that Korenberg had “liked” conservative voices on Twitter. While we disagreed politically outside the boardroom, Korenberg was a moderate on the board and found ways to work across political differences. He was effective at moving UBC through some major changes in governance transparency. He was also instrumental in UBC’s move away from fossil fuels.

On June 1, less than a month before the Korenberg incident, and in response to society-wide anti-racism protests, UBC president Santo Ono acknowledged in a letter: “UBC itself is not immune to racism and injustice.” As an Indigenous person I am well aware that racism has been a common experience for Indigenous students, staff and faculty at UBC. The university’s ongoing failures to counter systemic and anti-Black racism on campus were spotlit soon after Ono’s letter due to a racial profiling incident.

Korenberg was called out, social media erupted and I can only assume his fellow governors shook their collective head and told him he had to go. Outed, shamed and apologetic, Korenberg was gone.
My research as an anthropologist documenting the traditional territory and ecological knowledge of my home, Gitxaaɫa Nation, has taught me that respecting Indigenous rights relies on structures of power not the good will of functionaries or business folk. Individuals might be personally sympathetic, but they are locked within a system already biased against Indigenous authority and jurisdiction. If we want a better world we need to change structures not people.

Rituals of rebellion

Public outcries and subsequent resignations or terminations of people like Korenberg suggest our social institutions are responsive to societal change. Anthropologists from the Max Gluckman school of thought describe these acts as rituals of rebellion that appear to challenge those in authority.
But what Gluckman and other social anthropologists have found is that these rituals merely reinforce power structures. There might be a momentary reversal. Individual leaders might be replaced. The lives of the shamed and called out are disrupted. However, calling out and shaming individuals allows social dissatisfaction to be vented in ways that reinforce existing relations of power.
Sociologist Feiyu Sun of Beijing University describes how the Communist Party of China (CCP) maintained and solidified its authority through the practice of Suku, a political performance used to elicit support and discipline opponents.

A frequent manifestation of Suku was a peasant or worker testifying in front of a crowd and detailing the harm they had experienced at the hands of an accused intellectual, leader or political opponent. It had the appearance of being spontaneous, but was performative and carefully scripted.
A “successful” session ended with the accused publicly confessing to the harm they had caused and professing their support for the revolution.

The role of suffering and confession

What draws me to Fieyu Sun’s work is his analysis of the role suffering and confession play in reinforcing social hierarchy that is linked to the individual destruction of opponents. The CCP example mirrors the current practices of online shaming and call-out culture. We see the same outrage, requirement for complete apology and removal of offending individuals.

Both then and now the fundamental structures of societal power are not being challenged or changed. Instead individuals are publicly shamed and then removed from their positions. Then they are replaced with individuals who are members of the same social class.

A big business

UBC might have changed the chair of the board of governors, but governing a university is still big business.

When I was on UBC’s board of governors I witnessed how universities work.
We have fundraising branches (often called development offices) that work hard to cultivate multi-million dollar donors. In a time when education is treated as a market enterprise, and universities are expected to justify their outputs in terms that rationalize economic investment, university staff echo larger policy directives that speak explicitly about the student experience being critical to maintaining market share in a global competition. University research offices highlight innovation, understood as transferring discoveries into commodities.

Some universities also own real estate firms charged with transforming their land into endowment investments.

Voices that call out the single-minded focus on the university as big business are a minority on university boards of governors. Government appointees come from every field of the business world — law, consulting, finance, tech, real estate and wealth management. Korenberg has a legal background and founded an investment, merger and acquisitions consulting company.

Even those of us elected to the board are typically drawn from among the university’s management (or those aspiring to become management). The fact that some of these individuals might have controversial or divergent political affiliations matters less than whether they are able to work with the flow of things to get the business of the university done.

Purpose of education

But it shouldn’t just be about individuals.
We need to look at the core purpose of our post-secondary sector. Should universities be big businesses? Should market share and donors drive educational decisions? I don’t think so.
Those of us who advocate for fundamental structural change want more than increased individual diversity at the top: We know that only a fundamental restructuring will make a difference. Such a restructuring would reframe how university decisions are made and transfer power more directly to elected, rather than appointed, governors.

Universities should be at the forefront of a socially just democratic society, and to do this we have to change real structures of control and power. We have a choice to make — continue to celebrate rituals of rebellion or engage in acts of transformative change.The Conversation

Charles R Menzies, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Interview with Sarah Zhao (The Ubyssey).

June 26, 2020.

Auto transcribed with ‘happyscribe.’ Minor corrections and edits made but what you see is mostly what the machine did. Some modifications to clarify the text were made, but were not checked against the audio recording. The full unedited audio file is here for reference. 

Article by Sarah Zhao that this interview was used in: 'The aftermath of chair's resignation ... '

[00:05:54.820] - Sarah
Why don't we go ahead and get started. I got too much for your time today. Yeah. So I know that you did an interview with the CBC already with for a piece related to the corporate resignation. But. Yes, Yes. So I just want to start off by asking if you in that, piece. And I've heard from other sources as well. This kind of characterization of Michael Kornberg as someone who perform the duties of the chair well [but holds strong right wing views]. And so I was wondering if you agree with that characterization.

[00:06:47.430] - Charles
Well, when I started on the board, a man called Stuart Belkin was the chair. He was a very close ally of Christy Clark. In fact, one of the first things he said to me was, “well, Christy called me up to sit on the board. And at first I told her no.” And so this was my first meeting with him. He was the chair. Kornberg was the vice chair. And you could see it was very evident that Belkin considered that I was a Marxist ‘Indian’ who was a troublemaker and shouldn't be included in things.

[00:07:19.020] - Charles
That's how it felt. A person who had gotten elected at the same time as me, Ayesha Chaudhry, stepped off the board and you can ask her why. So I can't speak for her, but I can certainly say that the first year the faculty, especially the Vancouver faculty, were excluded and kept out of the center of the circle of any discussions, anything we said was dismissed and ignored.  And there was a kind of, you know, a quiet politics of neo conservative, neo liberal hegemony on the board. And they used the quiet practice of civility to silence us and exclude us. So that that was kind of interesting. And then when the provincial government changed. I very publicly wrote articles. I got picked up by the Georgia Straight saying that the entire liberal appointees should be swept clean off the board and replace them. We didn't quite do that.

[00:08:29.820] - Charles
And Kornberg became the chair. And you have to keep in mind that the person who gets selected by the chair is really between the minister of advanced education and probably the president of the university has some potential role. I don't know. But it's really a government decision about who gets put into these positions. And so I know there is the performance of it being elected, but I've never actually seen that. Well, I only have a three year window to talk about, but it's been my experience with everything that is said that the government takes a very close hand in deciding who gets appointed (elected), who's going to be the chair.

[00:09:12.230] - Charles
So Minister Mark and John Horgan, you know, Premier Horgan [would have] been directly involved in selecting Kornberg for that position. And then, of course, nobody contested that on the board board of Governors.

[00:09:32.320] - Sarah
So it sounds like. It sounds like despite the characterization or like I've seen some people talk about -how on the board, how Kornberg was non-political or just like non-partisan, but 

[00:09:58.250] - Charles
Seems impossible to be nonpartisan or non-political. And it depends what you mean by the term. This is so, as an academic and sadly, well, I thought sadly, I am  unrepentantly academic. That's why I'm here. That's why I've managed to be here so long. Everything is political. Yeah. Everything is about politics, about presentation and things like that. But typically when people from the news media, from the, in the general kind of vernacular sense, talk about political, they mean that they're having some kind of hidden agenda or some kind of political affiliation with it. You know, like capital P political party thing.

[00:10:49.040] - Charles
The legislation, the Universities Act is quite explicit. The politics is outside the domain, that the boards have to act in a non-partisan way.

[00:10:59.700] - Charles
And I was party to a discussion about this, which on the board were Hubert Lai, the university counsel, you know, gave a sort of explanation for the definition of politics in this kind of stuff. I think it was a conversation (I might be wrong). So to be quite honest, it may have been in a conversation where I pressed him on that, on that question. I'm I'm thinking this was connected to somebody who was concerned about whether university administrators could put land acknowledgements in their email and whether that was a political statement or not.

[00:11:35.780] - Charles
There were some something like that came up. So. There's a lot of controls and constraints placed upon things. But, you know, my critiquing [of the board] you can take a look at this point. It was, is, that I said that these [people] are all one perspective sitting that board. They're all a corporate pro capitalist positioning. And when I came on, I basically, that's one of the reasons why I said they all should be swept off the board. And in that piece, it in the public domain, it got picked up at the time, I know that's part of the George Strait piece.

[00:12:14.430] - Charles
And when I got on the board, a couple of people who had been there for a while came and took, I think David Sidoo was one of them. He may have mentioned [to me], he said, "oh, look, we have a lot different points of view here. And you know that this guy's a lawyer and this guy's a bright banker and this one's a realtor  and this one's a developer." And I said, "that's my point. Everyone's the same."

[00:12:33.920] - Charles
But, you know, sadly, I mean, we haven't I haven't seen that really change with the [new] appointments. The board, and I respect  a lot of the new appointees, we have lawyers, we have independent consultants who work in communications field. We have, you know, lifelong politicians, clean energy businessmen. So they're all from a slightly different side. But it's it's still a pro-business, pro corporate, pro capitalist agenda.

[00:13:03.980] - Charles
So, I mean, the politics is inherently built into the system and it shapes things along. And the legislation makes people act in a particular way.

[00:13:15.640] - Sarah
Mm hmm. So. Or so many questions, I don't know how to phrase them kind of going off of that. Everything is political then. I guess. Like, given that everything is political, you know, how can. How how can someone with political views that actively harm marginalized people be sitting on a chair position?

[00:14:00.720] - Charles
Let's let's phrase it. Let's look at it this way. When I got to, got ask to, run the Learning and [Reserach] Committee as a chair, I had an opportunity to do something. I made a decision that the presentation, the standard sort of presentation of faculty that would come, that would represent, would be ones that really linked to indigenous issues and would be indigenous faculty primarily.

[00:14:34.680] - Charles
And so I thought because part of what I saw on the Indigenous Engagement Committee, a lot of the governors just didn't bother turning up [they weren't on the committee, so they didn't have to turn up].  And the indigenous engagement community didn't get ,didn't get struck, struck until after the NDP were in power with the whole move, with  moving us into foregrounding more indigenous issues. But because of the way the Indigenous engagement committee got scheduled, because every governor wasn't a member of it, so they wouldn't turn up. So you only had the people who've been put on the committee who are the ones who, in a sense, didn't need any convincing or education or informing of anything like that. So when I was asked to chair the  Learning and Research Committee, I said, well, let's move these events [onto this committee].

[00:15:22.620] - Charles
I had two opportunities to do that two cycles because it was just the end of my term, so I was able to bring forward indigenous speakers. And so we had an opportunity where I had on the agenda one man, a non-indigenous man, and there was an indigenous woman, both academics on campus. And after the non-indigenous man spoke, the one person said, "that's a really excellent presentation. That's really wonderful.  It's really great. I love that. Can you tell me more of this kind of stuff."  When the indigenous woman then followed with their presentation and after that point from the meeting room, complete silence. Nobody asked a question. And so it was one of those moments where rhetorically what you have represented right in that moment is that the head of the university is acknowledging and representing and pulling out the white expert speaker and is not responding to the indigenous expert who happened to follow.

[00:16:33.020] - Charles
And, you know, that was a really interesting dynamic. And I don't think people do this deliberately. I mean, I don't think they were deliberately doing that. I mean, there are something about the kind of gee whiz science kind of stuff for my colleague's presentation, and that attracted attention. But unless we constantly examine ourselves in these moments, we will reproduce the structures of oppression and exploitation. And the point the point is by focusing on a particular person and not the structure. We're not actually solving anything.

[00:17:07.880] - Charles
In fact, we're really reproducing the structure of late capitalism. It's focus on individual attitudes. So it's all about the individual. It's the bad cop. It's the prof in Sauder who puts out an assignment that's inappropriate. Not looking at the structure[s of power].

[00:17:26.000] - Sarah
What kind of the business school?

[00:17:30.370] - Charles
One that had the whole sequence about the rape chant and that and the one that attacked indigenous people as well. They had another one of those out of the school. Sauder, they always say that was a student activity doing that. So we need to look to the actual process and people need to be individually self-critical and collectively engaged.

[00:17:59.780] - Sarah
So going off. Is that what you're saying about the structure needing to change instead of focusing on individual bad actors? Like, what do you think is. What do you think that the university should change about? Maybe the structure of the board or the structure of the executive or anything that is.

[00:18:21.960] - Charles
Yeah, well, when you look at, for example, the university executive has nobody of decision-making authority who's indigenous. Right. And hardly any of the faculties have any indigenous people.

But the point is, when I say indigenous in terms of positions of authority and decision making power and, you know, we have a few positions, but they're there in the typical positions. But the point is, just recruiting people into leadership isn't sufficient. Because it has to be changed from the base.  When as a faculty member, I in my own unit don't feel in some sense [respected] either. I'm expected to do all the work on indigenous issues in my department or to basically be excluded because these things because, of course, when when you do speak up about indigenous issues as an indigenous person, one typically gets you, you're too angry, you're too upset.

[00:19:20.830] - Charles
"Let's be calm about this," people say. And so the point is that those kind of dynamics have to work at the bottom. And that means the people who are engaged when they take a look at these political struggles have to understand where do we sit? Where do we stand? We stand on indigenous land. And then how do we then work from that perspective and move forward?

[00:19:43.110] - Sarah
All right. Yeah. Questions. OK. You're also quoted in the CBC piece as saying that. I feel like this is kind of a continuation of what we've been talking about, but you were quoted as saying that like it should have been dealt with in reference to, I guess, this whole situation of having a chair with views like Korenberg quote does actually says it should have been dealt with. 

I think you should read it in its entirety.

[00:20:23.410] - Sarah
All right. Well, you said, sorry. Course, that's the way it. Just in quotation as well. Sorry.  OK. Yeah. If I'm like. Misrepresenting what you intended. With that quote, please let me know. So I think you were quoted as saying there's an element of hypocrisy there. I think we need to be consistent all the way along. If it's bad today, why wasn't it bad yesterday? Doesn't mean it should have been dealt with. So I guess what I'm asking is just can you explain your thought process behind that a little bit?

[00:21:09.320] - Charles
Well, that's a I think it's it's when you take a look at the way the university is acting now, they're acting now only because there's a kind of like a political upsurge.

[00:21:23.770] - Charles
It didn't seem to be an issue for anybody who makes the decisions prior to this point in time. One of my colleagues who is constantly at loggerheads with the chair,  had many times raised questions about about the example of wearing of the so-called MAGA cap episode. I wasn't privy to that. It's only what I heard. So I don't. But nonetheless, that's been made. I mean, I think he mentioned that he would wear his own cap, an AOC cap.

[00:21:56.870] - Sarah

[00:21:58.990] - Charles
And it's so. The point is that it shows that as long as there's a utility for a person there, fine. And so but, you know, and it's the same way, you know, as an indigenous person sitting in these situations, it's really great. We often were brought in. If we can perform the right way, do the right  thing and say the right thing. And as soon as we become a difficulty, the institution immediately can find some reason why to exclude or close the door on that or to try to kind of inoculate themselves against this deal.

[00:22:37.180] - Charles
So we've got lots of great events are held and monuments are put up on campus. And these kind of things, signs are put up on campus. But where's the actual work behind it? And so when we focus upon these kinds of things, I think we're moving away from actually making these substantive changes, which really were in question. 

Why is it that a social democratic government continues to appoint leaders of industry onto the Board of governors? And that's the fundamental question. Why is it that the provincial government and the university administration think that profit motives and the market regulation of the economy is the sole thing that should be used to to manage, to  make decisions about these things? And of course, part of what's going is because of the way in which they market the university [student] experience, becoming a major or drawn to this university, that they're concerned about the issue around how the they can market or sell or packaged the experience.

[00:23:37.090] - Charles
And if there's things that look like they're going to undermine the marketing and the sale of that [student] experience, they're going to pay attention to it. That's the wrong reason to pay attention to it. We need to pay attention to it because we actually believe that the combination of capitalism with systemic oppression  works in a way that is unfair and unjust. That's the way we should be moving. And if we're not moving that way, then I think people are hypocrites.

[00:24:04.780] - Sarah
So I guess if you had to imagine or create, like an ideal, like what the board would look like in the perfect sort of if 

[00:24:21.650] - Charles
I actually have a blog post on that front.  Yes. I think we should have people who are based in community organizing, perhaps with VANDU down  in the Downtown Eastside. I think you should put people who are housing advocates who've actually been at the forefront with the housing camps . I think we need trade union organizers sitting there. And yes, I will concede we probably should have a businessperson who might think about green renewable energy is as a core issue and the occasional politician should be included in these spaces, too.

[00:24:52.760] - Charles
But with the heavy weight toward people who are involved in accounting, finance, business and management of large corporations, it's a problem. It's a serious problem. And I think for a lot of people, these positions are seen to be more. 

[00:25:23.170] - Charles
Kind of an important marker of prestige to get get appointed. We need to move away from that. These to be on go, I will say, for the most people who do this. I think they do see it as a calling. Some of them literally do get a call to.

[00:25:44.190] - Charles
OK. I mean, I personally, myself, it's really unusual being on the board of governors. I mean, even you look at the typical type of faculty who even get elected, they tend to be kind of you know, they're stars in their field. They're small C conservative politically, perhaps, you know, in the middle. Kind of modest kind of way. They they  probably had administrative achievements. They may have been an associate V.P. or associate dean or department head or something like that..

[00:26:17.140] - Charles
I've not been in those kinds of positions, [to get someone] who is more interested in that kind of front line type of thing is very unusual. And course, the result was I was basically frozen out for the first half of the term. Yeah.

[00:26:30.920] - Charles
So, I mean, and if you have to say one of the things that change is when the chair [from Belkin to Korenberg] and I've said this publicly, who was willing to engage with different perspectives in a way that other people weren't. That's unusual. And so I think that issue right there is a critical one that people have seen. 

[00:27:05.100] - Charles
More participatory than say, you know, when we look back in the 90s when the NDP controlled who was on the Board of Governors, which was the period that began, UBC's major sort of neo-liberal dive. If you look at who was on the board of governors like Brad Bennett, for example, who was the chair, and the early early 2000s under the Campbell government, who Christy Clark appointed. There was no diversity of perspective of any sort.

[00:27:34.790] - Charles
It was all tilted hard to the right. And  my only concern is that we don't tilt too hard to the center, which is what the NDP is  (the NDP is not a left wing government).

[00:27:47.750] - Charles
I don't know, of course journalist are supposed to have political opinions, but you clearly do.

[00:27:56.710] - Sarah

[00:27:59.270] - Charles
But, I mean, the NDP said clearly in the middle of the road and the Greens are further to the right of them. And so that's you know, we know where they're situated. We we don't really have much of a progressive voice sitting there. And that's that's a shame. I mean, and the other thing I think that people often confuse politics with with qualities of, of personal qualities and some of the nastiest people I've meet are some, some of the nastiest people, have been progressive academics who have big followings, very popular, but are actually kind of, ... 

[00:28:40.880] - Charles
Somebody you don't want to rely upon. When push comes to shove, and so that's, you know. Yes.  So these are, these are very complex life issues that I think we all wish would be very simple and easy to solve. Often when I'm teaching, I talk about models, we have to make sense of reality, are simplifications. A model isn't reality. Reality is always messy and dirty and different and confusing.

[00:29:24.230] - Charles
And the model just helps us give a give away to look at what's happening. And sometimes our models are wrong. Yeah, sure.

[00:29:34.520] - Sarah
Well, so you mentioned. Well, you have a mentioning, but also we you all right. How do phrases. So you mentioned just now that you were kind of frozen out in the first half of your term and, you know, you're you're one of your first faculty. Colleagues on the board ended up resigning. And so I don't know if you saw Nasif's recent tweets about.

[00:30:08.760] - Charles
I didn't, I don't follow his tweets.

[00:30:12.070] - Sarah
OK. Well, he tweeted about just. Saying that, like all the major controversies at UBC since 2015 have had to do in race in some ways, in some way. And so I was wondering, I guess, what your thoughts are on that. And if you think that, you know, I feel like we've touched on this a little bit, but, you know, do you think that there's a blind spot when it comes to race and other marginalized identities on the board and other important bodies.

[00:30:45.400] - Charles
Well, you know, the board is is product is probably had to run the numbers is probably at least half visible minority, people of colour [fact check: its is about 1/3 BIPOC].

[00:30:56.300] - Charles
Yeah. That's one change the NDP has made, though, even before that. No, it's been much more. I mean, the NDP have got more people there. So, I mean, for a moment, there were three Indigenous people were on the board of governors, which is unusual.  Three of us between myself,  Celeste Haldane  and Chaslyn Gillanders. So you had three indigenous people in there. Now there's just one [Indigenous] person just on the board. But with the new appointees there [more BIPOC than previously].

[00:31:34.780] - Charles
So, I mean. So that's interesting. So yet one has to ask so about that, whether it's the board. I actually think the real blindness is the fact that people who join  the ruling class loose their colour filters in an interesting way. And people's experiences are different [as a part of the elite]. So, I mean, you know, the fact that I  was never part of the ruling class.

[00:32:01.480] - Charles
I don't have the  bank accounts to support membership in the elite. But I think the real issue that's motivating these things have been about Gender. Significantly, I think gender is probably the fundamental one intersecting with issues of racial identity and fundamentally a fundamental question of class direction and the sort of the denial of people [like Indigenous peoples]. So, if you didn't fit in, weren't in the know, certain things get passed over you.

[00:32:49.000] - Charles
But but even when you see David's Sidooo and just you know, he went to court. He committed the crime and he's taking a penalty for it. But the whole flip that happened there in terms of from being this sort of person seen to this kind of amazing sort of charismatic individual. And then on the flip side, and that occurred which was merited, I mean, it was he was charged in the US for [it]. And I believe he's either pleaded guilty or been charged.

[00:33:23.330] - Sarah
I think he's up for sentencing now. I think.

[00:33:27.370] - Charles
The whole shift that occurred from people who had presented him as being, you know, saw him as an amazing thing to just [a  non-entity]. That complete total flip, you you wonder about the hypocrisy of people. 

[00:33:53.170] - Charles
Why was the campaign manager for her [Christy Clark's] failed campaign against Eby sitting on the board of governors? And so these are things that are evident all the way along. You know, why is the head of one of the major Vancouver based private enterprises, which is, you know, which is Belkin, which gets appointed to be the chair of the Board of Governors, or why is the chancellor of the university previously this sort of major financier who made donations to fund indigenous health research and then was front and center at every kind of monument rising thing on campus?

[00:34:31.340] - Charles
And, you know, talking about all the good work they were doing. So that's what's happening with these kinds of positions that are going. Going forward. You know, and it's I think it reflects an underlying sense of recognition of the university as a major corporation and controlling that corporation in terms of also its market share.

[00:34:53.780] - Charles
Right. That's right. People who are sitting at the top. I think, you know, historically marginalized people get left behind when we start taking a corporate lens to things.

[00:35:15.060] - Charles
And you have to ask yourself, you know, how, how this all, this idea of being marginalized and the fundamental issue is, is an economic class marginalization. And so if you take a look at the what, why, [and] how that works and who is, who is excluded in terms of those social things. And it comes fundamentally, when you look at the world in which indigenous communities are in, which we've been marginalized from our own land, from our own places. So people will say, you make these land acknowledgements, but how about UBC sits on non ceded territory, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:35:49.950] - Charles
Where is the anteing up. Whereas the actual, besides putting signs down main mall, where's the real recognition of that? And I think that when you start looking at those things, that there's been a disproportionate effect for indigenous communities. That means that any solution has to be disproportionate in terms of the resolution of that.

[00:36:13.900] - Charles
And when you look at the history of settlement in Canada and the way it's worked and the way the economy is done, I mean, that's the fundamental and primary contradiction in our society. And until we resolve that, nothing else will be resolved, because what it will mean by if you resolve these other issues [of marginalization of settlers, then that resolution] it's still premised upon the theft of Aboriginal land and time, bodies, intellect, intellectual property and that whole aspect.  Until that's actually addressed nothing else will fall into place.

[00:36:50.670] - Charles
Yes. Or I'm concerned. Or if it does fall into place, it will basically be a distribution of the spoils [excluding Indigenous peoples]. And so in that respect, that whole that whole the whole non-indigenous community is complicit in this. What amounts to a double oppression of indigenous communities.

[00:37:14.170] - Sarah
OK. Oh, sorry. Cool. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think my last question is just about. I have. I've been reaching out to people who currently sit on the board, and I've been told that they that they have been directed not to speak about the situation with the media. As per the code of conduct, I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the ability of the governors to speak to the media independently if you're currently sitting on the board?

[00:37:53.150] - Charles
Well, I'm not currently sitting on the board. Sorry.

[00:38:00.380] - Charles
So I would have to be a lawyer to interpret whatever. I mean, I don't know what directions they've been provided with.

[00:38:11.200] - Charles
Clearly, nobody except the chair, or their designate, can speak on behalf of the board of governors. So, I mean, I you'll notice my email signature includes a tag saying for identification purposes only or whatever, because I had my wrists slapped awhile back for basically, the implication being that I was, I was issuing an opinion as a board of governors member. And I said, OK, well, I'm not. I never would intend to do that. But we'll put this tag line in to make sure that's clear.

[00:38:52.030] - Charles
So. I really don't know personally. I've I argued while I was a governor that because, of course, I was a faculty member, one has a kind of unique position that I actually had the right the right to speak my personal opinion as a faculty member about what was happening on the board of governors, unless, of course, it was a matter that was in an in camera meeting. And then I was opposed to us having very many in camera meetings or closed meetings.

[00:39:22.890] - Charles
And I was quite vociferous and the board was actually opening up. I've noticed a kind of very recently a contraction.  The board had been slowly opening and expanding things, making [more] things more public. And there was a clear set of procedures about what was closed and what was what was open and the recognition of that. And it is just my impression that things have shut down a little bit.

[00:39:53.100] - Charles
And but, you know, for what governors have been told to say, I don't know. I mean, clearly, when there's matters that might be before the courts, like when there's been some of the famous sexual assault situations at UBC, it was very important that the governors not speak out with public opinions because the fiduciary duty that a governor has in that role.

[00:40:25.980] - Charles
I don't know why they wouldn't have an opinion.

[00:40:30.180] - Charles
But I mean, so you're telling me that they've been told that the governors have been instructed not to speak to the press?

[00:40:38.460] - Sarah
Yes. So it is not a response that we've often gotten from them. I'm sure it's, you know, like you interviewed for the Ubyssey while sitting as a governor. So I'm just a little bit confused about how.

[00:40:56.730] - Charles
Well, I mean, maybe it's maybe it's. I mean, this is a harsh thing to say, but maybe it's easier to say "Somebody told me not to [talk] rather than to foray into this [issue] because many people are going to sit there and say there's no winning in this."

[00:41:10.450] - Charles
"I'm going to look like, I'm going to look problematic no matter what I say" is what they're probably all thinking. I mean, looking at the context and look at what's going on, looking at the response, I can just  say whether they're left or right, left, right or center, they're probably going to be saying there's nothing, nothing to be gained by talking to anyone about this. [But] the code of conduct doesn't say you can't speak and it doesn't say you can't disagree with [the board].

[00:41:44.600] - Charles
You know, the people who speak officially is the chair. I suppose you could say that in this context there's no way a governor could speak without it being some way considered to be an official statement.

[00:41:59.110] - Charles
Right. So no matter what they could say, they could say, do an interview with you. And then you could even if you frame it, given the way in which you might frame it in the article, could clearly have the words saying they're speaking as individual, but it [might] come across as 'look at this from the board of governors. Here's a statement.' And so I that I could see, especially for those who don't [like being in public they might rather not speak at all.].

[00:42:30.580] - Charles
Yeah. I mean, that's unusual. I don't know why the faculty members on the board, there's three of them haven't said anything. They're ones who could say something and be interesting to hear the students, for that matter. They have, there's no way in which the students can be controlled. And I would have thought the students would be front and center with the loudest voices on this issue.

[00:42:50.890] - Sarah
Yeah. Yes.

[00:42:56.110] - Charles
I mean, you guys have a closer connection to them than any faculty member or a former governor would have. I mean, you guys basically interact in the same social worlds.

[00:43:05.740] - Sarah
Well, I think personally, I would love it if you told them that. And I am maybe going to try to do a little bit more. Sorry. Make a more convincing argument for it than to give me an interview. That's been the response that I've gotten from the students. They've been directed not to speak. So I don't know. Yeah, it's it's it's. These rules are difficult, I mean, there was a point early on when they're changing, fixing the rules.

[00:43:38.250] - Charles
They had a line before that we had them remove. You couldn't disagree publicly with the board or something or at least it could it be inferred that way? And we got that one held back. And I think I have a blog post about that one, too.

[00:43:56.450] - Charles
But I'm just. Yeah. I mean, it's like when they tried to silence social social media engagement, when the chair of the governance committee, who is an NDP appointee, basically was moving forward with with kind of shutting down Twitter because it's rude and nasty and mean spirited.

[00:44:16.070] - Charles
And and, you know, there were some colleagues, one colleague from Vancouver, Okanogan, who felt that he didn't want people representing him, speaking on his part for that matter, didn't like me summarizing what he might have been saying in the meetings. And I mean, I don't like how other people summarize what I say, but say c'est la vie.

[00:44:44.090] - Sarah
Okay, well, that was all my questions. But is there anything else that you want to put on the record for the story?

[00:44:51.510] - Charles
What I'm curious about, you know, what kind of how you're looking at this and what would drive you because, I mean, how do you navigate your politics in this, in this thing? You've been very clear on your social media feeds about where you stand on the issue. I mean, maybe not specifically with the board, but with the wider, wider issues and things like that.

[00:45:13.640] - Sarah
How do you navigate that? I don't know. I would argue that as a racialized person my life is inherently, like you said, political as like. Yeah. As a woman and as a racialized person. Like, I don't. I don't have the luxury of not engaging in politics or like not thinking about these things because they directly affect my existence. So obviously, I'm not as a journalist. I guess. My answer would be that I think I. I think that the mainstream media, particularly the mainstream Canadian media, puts too much emphasis on this idea of objectivity.

[00:46:06.780] - Sarah
We know that to be like impossible. And I think like the strengths of. Having like. Diverse people in newsrooms and such as that, you'd. I don't know, I think because I think there's a difference between, like, objectivity and like. Are like, sorry. There's a difference between, like being subjective, but also like actively like being biased against your sources or like being biased against a certain angle, I think. Like, obviously, if.

[00:46:47.080] - Sarah
an angle comes up or like a source says something I'm not going to just like dismissed out of hand. As a journalist, I have to interrogate that and like, you know, back it up, sign it, whatever. So. Yeah, I don't know. I think that, like a lot of people. Yes. I don't know if that answers your question.

[00:47:10.180] - Charles
I find Raymond Williams 1977 book called Marxism in Literature.

[00:47:19.240] - Charles
And he has this section and he talks about the demonstrating commitment and alignment. This is all social production is aligned. To any, to basically to the dominant social order. Commitment is an act of self-conscious alignment where a person chooses. So I mean. I mean, the whole thing about debate, about objectivity. I mean, perhaps the mainstream press is is behind the times. But I mean, ever since Thomas Kuhn wrote his book called The Scientific Revolution in 1962 and how that's moved in, that whole notion.

[00:47:53.150] - Charles
But basically, that paradigm shifted because of the circulation of people, not the changing of ideas. And he's writing about physics and science. Now, how ideas and theories change there. And there wasn't a normal model, that notion of objectivity. But there is something about accuracy and being [honest]. And also, I remember when Janet Stefenhaggen  was the Vancouver Sun's education reporter and I was interviewed by her in the early 2000s  a number of times.

[00:48:24.210] - Charles
And she, it's nothing she deliberately or explicitly did, but the choice of words, the restructuring of quotes, and even as the quotes were, were correct and accurate, the way they were positioned,  other preceding quotes made a very clear thing that that I was seeing. You know, I. Because she was fairly, I would say, fairly to conservative. You might just say, you know, so that the clear orientation where, you know, basically where one comes across looking like a flaming lefty [in a way that undermined any of the content of what one was trying to say].

[00:49:06.270] - Charles
And and I think it's the question of whether people are self critically aware of where they situate themselves. Are they considering people as people? I mean, there's a difference between the gotcha politics of trying to track down, say, Justin Justin Trudeau for doing something. Christy Clark or or Mike Hardcourt to go way back. I should think of some current references rather than these old ancient ones. But that sense of how does one actually locate these things to carry the story. I mean, I think it's like an anthropology of other accounts. It's a very much a recognition of the flexibility of the author, the location of the author and these stories. But there's an acknowledgement of them. And somehow and of course, in 500 words or three hundred, five hundred, 700 words.

[00:50:11.210] - Charles
I've already said way more than you could even put in any reasonable form anywhere over the next year. In your submissions.

[00:50:23.660] - Sarah
I think like what you said about that reporter from The Sun. Journalism is inherently like it's about making so many choices when you write down a word. When you structure an article, a structure like the sentences within a paragraph like those are all about choices. And like with choice comes all the things that you carry with you as a person.

[00:50:48.410] - Sarah
And so oftentimes the choices aren't there. They're that kind of subconscious level, either the direct thing and how people respond to people, whether I mean even the sense and it doesn't always convey to depends on the audience. The audience is read. Things are how they miss misread things. But, yeah, that's interesting.

[00:51:39.670] - Charles
But, um, well. So when do you plan to have the story out?

[00:51:48.190] - Sarah
Well, my deadline is Monday. But it is quickly turning into a larger story than initially anticipated, I think. Yeah.  Thank you. So in answer to your question, I think. As sometime next week, hopefully mid next week before Friday, I would say. We'll see. Yeah.