Friday, February 14, 2020

Final remarks at my last full meeting of the UBC Board of Governors.

In 2016, when I ran for election as a governor I argued that it was time for a change in how the BoG responds to faculty members. It is time for new faculty voices, different voices from what were accustomed to. In fact, we very often never ever heard from our representatives once they began their terms on the board.  Deliberations at the board level had become shrouded behind a veil of secrecy and subterfuge. I have no strong opinion on the palace coup that precipitated a particularly rocky period of UBC governance aside from the fact that the machinations around it revealed a culture of secrecy and cohabitation between a corporate oriented and controlled board and a layer of university administration that found democratic practices distasteful.

Before beginning my term on this board I had only twice before attended a board meeting; once as a student activist when we really got no further than the top of the stairway in the old admin building. Then once more as a faculty member participant in a UBC Clean rally when we took our protest from the street into this board room. From the vantage of this table with three years behind me I believe that I can say with some confidence that while minor changes can be made, real power lies in the streets.

The democratic reforms that have been made on this board derived from the pressures of faculty from units and departments across this campus who said that’s enough and were willing to put their personal lives and careers at risk to say so. The climate emergency declaration came after thousands of students took to the streets, demanding that their elders stop squandering their future. The current Indigenous plan that is moving forward is here also due to the work of community activists over the decades refusing to allow colonialism to forever shape our future.

I firmly believe that a diversity, not of the superficial, but of the fundamental, experiential, life, and perspective –is critical to being able to address our democratic responsibility governing this public institution. When I joined this board there was no real diversity of life experience or perspective at this. This is not a criticism of the individuals as it was the government that put most of you here. But from the vantage point of a Indigenous person, born in BC, a working class northern BC’er, this was a table populated by those more familiar with corporate board rooms than world I am from. The boards of public institution are best when they include broader cross section of people – union leaders, social activists, community organizers and yes some lawyers, accountants, and business people. It will be interesting to see where this board takes UBC over the next few years.  

There is, of course, much to acknowledge in the every day operations of this large institution. I have appreciated the opportunity to meet the individuals charged with making the daily decisions that keep this large vessel moving forward. There is much to commend them for in their care, concern, and commitment. While I may disagree with the overall course taken, I understand and appreciate the reasons why.

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