Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Calling Upon UBC's Board of Governors to Issue Statement: Justice for Colton Bushie

Update: February 18, 2018.

UBC's Board of Governors voted to endorse and support President Ono's statement at the start of the Thursday, February 15th Board meeting.

Update: Feb. 13, 2018. 6:36pm.

UBC's President, Dr. Santa Ono issues a statement on behalf of UBCs community.

Thank you for your leadership Dr. Ono!


Dear Stuart,

In the wake of the call by hundred of Indigenous faculty members and allies across the country for our Universities to reaffirm their support of implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action I would ask the indulgence of the chair to entertain a motion to make a public statement of support for the family of Colton Bushie and to publicly reaffirm our commitment to implementing the TRC call to action. See here: statement.  

As arguably the leading post secondary institution in BC, if not Canada, I would suggest we have a moral obligation to take a leadership role in this matter.  I have taken the liberty to draft a statement, but I leave it to your good offices to find the wording that is most comfortable to you and fitting to our university, but offer the following for your consideration.

Proposed wording of statement to endorse.

The University of British Columbia extends our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Colten Boushie. In this moment of collective national self-reflection on the implications of Canada’s settler heritage, The University of British Columbia recognizes our need to support of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff.

We reaffirm our commitment to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and by so doing commit to: supporting Indigenous peoples during and beyond this time of deep pain, grief, and rage; taking actions to enhance institutional accountability towards Indigenous peoples and communities, and; supporting anti-oppressive education.

With warm regards,

Charles Menzies

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Update on proposed governance motions

The three motions on governance that I intended to propose (clarifying process of Board approval of Chancellor, advocating a return to electing the Chancellor, and composition of governance standing committee) were brought to last nights standing committee on governance. Things went better than they did with my first attempt when introducing a motion was denied by the chair of the board. The motions were accepted by the chair and placed on the agenda. But. But. But! They went to the closed agenda.

Well.  OK.

I advised the chair and the committee members (as I handed out copies of the 3 motions to the student reporters) that I had already publicized the motions, shared them with some other governors (including emailing them several weeks prior to the meeting to the Board Chair and Governance Chair), and had in fact blogged and tweeted about the motions and my intentions to bring them forward.

"Where does that leave me now that they are being placed on the closed agenda?" I asked.

Someone said (I can't recall whom), "you're welcome to bring them to the Board directly."

But what if in the closed session the committee (of which I am not an official member) the committee voted to hold the motions back, to ignore them, or to study them in a working group, or to selectively do some and not the rest of what was included?

Well, since any discussion, debate, or agreement took place in closed session I can say nothing about what may have transpired.  In fact if, for example, I do not reintroduce those motions in the open Board meeting, I can not tell anyone the reason why.  It might because I am tired of the issue?  Perhaps I heard an argument in closed session that convinced me not to proceed?  Perhaps the committee decided to stop the discussion and tell me it was not a priority issue? Perhaps it is already being dealt with? Perhaps I realized that no matter what argument I made, no matter what evidence I might present, no matter what faculty sentiment on the subject might be, there is no way, under the current configuration, that any fundamental change opening up the inner decision making process of the board is possible. But all that would be speculation and conjecture and I can neither confirm nor deny any of those speculative thoughts. Because the motions were placed into closed session and I am prevented from speaking about anything that may have (or even did not) happen during the closed session.

It's a Gordian Knot of administrative process.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ten months on the job

It’s been ten months since the start of my formal term on the UBC Board of Governors and nearly a year since the BoG elections. 

Colleagues ask me about my experience on the board, what is it like, is it a lot of work, have there been any surprises?  Having been involved in all matters of UBC & community tissues for over two decades I have been both surprised, disappointed, pleased and impressed in equal parts. 

I am impressed by my fellow faculty colleagues on the board - together we bring a lot of differnt levels of expertise.   I am disappointed by the ways in which the board doesn't really take advantage of our collective capacity.   It would seem that we could offer more than the few minutes they entertain us every couple of months in committee or board meetings. We are told our comments are relevant, the evidence, however appears lacking.

I am pleased to get to know my fellow student and staff governors.  It is a bit of a cliche, but having the chance to meet with folks outside of the typical ways in which a faculty member might meet with students or staff is rewarding in and of itself.  I've enjoyed informal coffee meetings as well as our interactions in the formal meetings. 

While my public statement on appointed governors is clear in the abstract (I think our new government should replace all the former Liberal government appointees), I have gotten to know several of them directly and find them individually amazing people.  While we may well disagree over fundamental aspects of what is the best way to achieve the core mission of our institution we do share a general desire to ensure that UBC's best interests are met.  

I have been surprised by what I might call an institutional culture of reluctance.  I am surprised as the University places so much stake on innovation, doing new things, being creatively disruptive, etc.  Yet, in the operation of the Board there is a great reluctance to move beyond their comfort zones of control and authority. A reluctance to actually enable potentially creative disruption how they run things at the board. A reluctance to extend the circle of governance to include those who do not agree with them.  

I've seen the same sort of cultural forms engaged in reserach at the interface between First Nations and government agencies and their corporate allies. Governments and/or corporations will say they are interested in dialogue, with shared governance, with transparency, but in practice they are reluctant to relinquish a modicum of control.  The cost of these lost opportunities is high - it's a shame that at the highest level of our university the same culture of reluctance can be found.

Two issues related issues of these past months have stood out for me: continued concerns with academic freedom and the place of athletics in the prioritization of UBC-V building projects.  

As most of us will be aware the President’s office is currently following up on matters related to freedom of expression (which is related, but not the same as, academic freedom). 

The current focus on the Stadium Neighbhood Planning process – which involves a rebuild of the Thunderbird Stadium and a development of a new residential community- creates an opportunity to open up the discussion of how best to fund the university’s core mission.  

In my capacity of governor I very much wish to hear from my colleagues on the above matters, but more importantly on matters that you consider important and would like to see some action on.   

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any ideas, matters, or concerns that you think would benefit from consideration by the Board of Governors or senior administrators.  As an elected faculty governor I would be pleased to hear from you and to bring forward questions on matters before the Board.  As a governor I have opportunities to pose questions and request information on university matters (as long as they are not part of a closed meeting agenda).