The majority of faculty at UBC lack confidence in the current Presidential Search Committee (72%) and the Board of Governors (62%). This confidence needs to be restored before selecting and appointing a new president. No matter how wonderful a candidate the current PSC may find, this person will arrive at UBC under a cloud of suspicion and an indebtedness to those currently not trusted by most of the faculty. This, in turn, will undermine the president’s ability to be trusted, supported, and effective at UBC.
There will be enormous pressure to have the next president serve a full term, no matter his or her effectiveness or level of support from the university. It is therefore crucial that the next president walks into a situation in which governance problems, and the rift between faculty, administration, and the BoG, have been adequately addressed and healed. This will ensure that proper institutional support is in place, along with effective mechanisms for performance review and accountability.
Below are suggestions for moving UBC forward and taking advantage of this moment of unprecedented faculty engagement in issues of governance. By refocusing UBC on its academic mission and enlisting faculty more deeply in governance, UBC can grow stronger, and around its longest serving members: the faculty who define the university’s reputation for research and teaching. Rather than a threat to its reputation, our strong and vocal faculty are a sign of excellence and opportunity. Positive reforms and strengthening faculty governance can launch UBC to a new level of greatness.
1. Suspend the current presidential search and appoint an interim president until the items below can be accomplished, probably through June 2018.
The Coming Year (2016-17)
2. Conduct an independent investigation into the failure of the last presidency and the (mis)management of the announcement, external relations, and internal relations following the resignation. This is required for institutional learning & accountability about what went wrong and why.
3. Conduct an independent external review of the Board and its practices, including:
- How new Board members are trained (past two years);
- How meetings are scheduled and announced;
- Time given to members to review the agenda and materials in advance of meetings;
- Recording of meetings, minutes, and record-keeping (including voting records);
- The existence of secret subcommittees (extracommittee meetings between Board members);
- Communications within the Board and between the Board and its members with the president, executives, and deans;
- Communication and transparency with the university community of Board activities;
- Management of conflicts of interest between Board members and the university.
4. Identify best governance practices for university boards (e.g. as outlined by the Association of Governing Boards) and implement them.
5. Clarify responsibilities for the different governing bodies at the university and proper lines, methods, and documentation of communication between Board members, the president, the executive, the senates, and the deans.
6. The faculty within a department should be consulted and polled about their choice of department head to inform these appointments.
7. Vice presidents, directorships, and executive posts should be held by tenure-track faculty. Exceptions should be rare, well justified, and approved by the appropriate governing body.
8. Launch a UBC Dialogues Series on Academic Freedom, Governance, and Social Justice at the University organized by and for students, community members, members of the Musqueam First Nation, faculty, and staff who are interested in the welfare of UBC.
The next three recommendations may require amendments to the University Act:
9. Make the Faculty Senate consist of faculty. Department heads, associate deans, deans, and other administrators should not be eligible for the Faculty Senate.
10. The Senate, not the Board, should submit nominations for new appointments to the Board, with an eye toward building a Board that represents the diversity and excellence of the people of British Columbia.
11. The number of faculty on the Board will be raised to at least 25% of its composition, consistent with peer institutions.
The Following Year (2017-18)
12. When the above steps have been accomplished, begin the search for a new president. The number of faculty on the Presidential Search Committee should be at least 25% of its composition.
14. A new president, with enthusiastic support from the faculty, will be inaugurated in the fall of 2018.
15. Recreate the Faculty Club, where faculty across campus can gather, meet, dine, and host visitors. Small dues will be mandatory and drawn pre-tax from faculty salaries.