Thursday, February 11, 2016

Isolated Issues or Systemic Problem

It would seem that UBC's Deans consider the issue of governance an isolated issue related simply to a needed leadership transition.  But what they really take issue with is any thought they might be opposed to the investment in research. I will confess to having missed that 'big' issue with the forced resignation of Professor Gupta.  I thought the issue was how a small ad hoc gang of four appointed governors railroaded a man of integrity out of the presidency of UBC.  But then I do appreciate that I am looking up from the ground and the Deans are firmly located higher up the tower near the feet of Zeus.

The Dean of Arts, Gage Averill, replied to my disappointment in what I called an apparent failure of academic leadership with a stirring note articulating his support of academic freedom.  I would hope so and would feel somewhat more concerned if he had not.

What stands out to me though is a listing of issues he says we need to discuss: "issues that roil the community: divestment, sexual violence, response to the anti-gay flag burning this weekend, animal testing… things that universities often try to sweep aside, and this includes how well we achieve our high expectations for transparency, inclusion, democratic participation and good governance." These are important concerns that indeed need to be discussed.  When listed together in this fashion one might be forgiven for wondering if what we are looking at is not a listing of separate and discrete issues, but a more systemic problem.

The issues Dean Averill lists are facilitated by a culture of subterfuge and back-channel dealings. These are the types of issues that arise when management by secrecy has become the norm.  These are the types of issues that emerge in a management context where people feel (rightly or wrongly) threatened by administrative and academic leadership.  Secrecy at the top breeds secrecy throughout the system.  As long as we continue to see these matters as isolated issues and events we will never end the social-ecological violence that "roil the community."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Deans' Gupta Letter and my reply to Dean of Arts

Dear Prof Averill,

It is a disappointment to receive this letter from the Deans of UBC that ignores the clear record of subterfuge practiced by the highest levels of governance at UBC.  It is evident to many of us that great effort appears to have been made to keep regular faculty and the general public in the dark regarding the secret ad hoc processes and back door channels used to depose former President Gupta.

I  know that I am not alone in expressing a lack of confidence in the highest levels of UBC’s administration.  It would appear that our lack of confidence may well need to extend to the academic leadership as well.

The “op-ed” ignores what now appears to be a culture of secrecy, a persistent pattern of subterfuge, and the perception of tainted governance processes.

With regret I find my self disappointed in  the Deans’ apparent lack academic leadership.


Charles R. Menzies, PhD
Director of the Ethnographic Film Unit at UBC
Chair: Anth Undergrad Studies Committee 
Co-Editor, Collaborative Anthropologies (U. Nebraska Press)
Department of Anthropology, UBC
6303 NW Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1


Twitter @charlesmenzies

From: anth-sesfacstaf <ANTH-SESFACSTAF@LISTS.UBC.CA> on behalf of Anthropology Head's Office <Anth.Head@UBC.CA>
Reply-To: Anthropology Head's Office <Anth.Head@UBC.CA>
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 8:09 PM
Subject: FW: for distribution - OpEd letter from the Deans...

From: Tom-Wing, Margaret
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 7:49 PM
To: Tom-Wing, Margaret
Subject: for distribution - OpEd letter from the Deans...

Feb 10/16   
To Arts Heads' Assistants & Administrators, AUS President, and Dean's Office (w/fyi copy to HD group):  
I write on behalf of Dean Gage Averill.  Please distribute the following message and attachment to faculty, staff, and student leaders in your units. Dean Averill has shared this with the Heads/Directors group. With thanks, - Margaret  

Begin forwarded message:

Feb 10, 2016 

Dear friends: 

A letter from UBC deans, including me, has been submitted to the Vancouver Sun for Thursday's edition as an op-ed.  I wanted you to see it first.  The op-ed piece clears up one issue of fact in recent media coverage of UBC, speaks to the importance of the search for a new President and Vice-Chancellor, supports UBC debate on issues of governance, and stresses our support for the work of the Chancellor, President Pro-Tem and Provost Pro-Tem. 

With all best wishes,


Gage Averill
Dean | Faculty of Arts | The University of British Columbia
Buchanan A240–1866 Main Mall | Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
t: 604.822.3751 | f: 604.822.6096