Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The BoG's Housing Working Group

Recently UBC's Board of Governors set up a working group to develop housing strategies to provide some solutions.  After it was set up several months ago everything seemed to go silent.  As of this post neither of the two UBC-V elected faculty governors are on the housing working group. So I wrote to ask the BoG Chair where things were at on that front and letting him know that if it wasn't clear to him, I would be intersted in serving.

Dear Michael,

I am concerned by your silence on the housing working group that you announced at an earlier meeting.  

Perhaps you expected me to clearly state my interest in being part if it, but I did assume that as a faculty member who has been a resident on campus throughout my time at UBC and who has been active in all areas of this issue that I would have been asked to join the working group. 

So – in the event that it has been my lack of self-advocacy that explains the lack of an invitation to participate on the working group please hear me know – I wish to be involved on the housing working group.

I look forward to your response.

With warm regards,


I sent the above email twice, separated by several weeks.  Only after this most recent dispatch did I receive a response.

Dear Charles:

Thank-you for your email. 

While we appreciate your interest in being a member of the Working Group (which is not a committee or subcommittee of the Board, but rather an advisory group), we have (based on past commentary from him and a meeting that Sandra and I attended in which he participated) decided that Christopher Rea would be invited to join the Working Group, an invitation he has accepted.  We also extended an invitation to Max Holmes of the AMS to join, and he (too) has consented.

As you will recall, you strongly urged me to appoint you to the Presidential Search Committee for the new VP External.  When we were determining who should be on the Working Group, we took into account the fact that you were/are representing the Board on that Search Committee.  From records that are regularly updated to me as Board Chair, I note that you missed two of the first three meetings of that Search Committee and, in fact, we had only one Governor in one meeting and that person attended by conference call. 

You will be welcome to make submissions to the Working Group.  It has no autonomous decision-making power, and will be returning to the Joint Property/Finance Committee meeting with any recommendations it may wish to submit.

I trust that you understand.  By the copy of this email sent to her, I will make sure that Shelley Milne (our Interim Board Secretary) knows that you (and all Governors) are to be given access to materials developed for the HAP Working Group.



You will note that the approach the chair takes is to (1) inform me who he has selected and then (2) point to what he sees as deficiencies  in my capacity to serve (ever so politely, I would add).  Reminding me that I asked to be on a hiring committee and then noting (with out consideration of the reasons) absences from that committee. To be clear he does not explicitly link absences from the hiring committee as the reason, but the subtext is there. 

My reply follows. It is not one of my more temperate or politic responses. It is, though, honest and heartfelt.  Despite some overtures to the contrary, if anything, the current board and administration continues the tradition of discretionary, closed door, decision making processes that caused so many colleagues such grief and heartache and lack of faith in the governance practices of the Board previously.

Dear Michael,

So let me make certain I am understanding what you are saying, including the subtext. Because I said that I wished to be on a vp external search, and since my UBC work related activities took me away from being able to attend said meetings, and since I was never consulted by the people organizing the meetings as to my schedule (much of which was preset before the vp committee was set up), your determination is that I should not be included on the housing working group.

This is all very intersting but actually has no direct bering on whether a faculty member (who has direct and long term understanding and experience of UBC’s housing issues, having been at UBC and lived at UBC for 22 years now) should be included in his role as an elected governor on the housing working group.

So actually. No. I do not understand your explanation. Nor do I find your rational based in any real, empirical evidence, except that you would rather not have me participate on that committee.  That is, of course, within your total discretion. But let’s not demean our collective intellects by implying –as you have-  that because I was chairing a national SSHRCC grant adjudication in Ottawa and presenting a Keynote address to an International Indigenous Research Conference in Auckland, hosted by the Maori Centre of Research Excellence, that I was in someway not reliable enough to sit on a advisory ad hoc committee of the board to provide input into the housing needs being experienced by university faculty.


And then the reply comes back. It is gracious.  [Though, the academic in me can't help pointing out that, despite to below declaration, there is always a subtext - it's just that calling it out essentially violates the technical language of managerialism which asserts that communication is simply what is said, nothing more..].

Dear Charles:

Thank-you for your explanations as to your absence from the Search Committee meetings.  It is my hope that you will be able to be present for the remaining meetings of that Search Committee.

There is no subtext re the Working Group.  We feel that the interests and views of faculty will be taken into consideration, and that Christopher Rea (with whom I told you in Kelowna that we had met) can and will be an important member (and a faculty member) of the Working Group.  I see that you have cc’ed Nassif.  I advised Nassif that it was my intention to add Christopher Rea to the Working Group membership back in September.  To the extent that you wish to provide input/be heard on matters considered by the Working Group, that will be welcome (as I have welcomed your input on any matters about which you feel a desire to speak).



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