Reorganization of VP Students portfolio sparks criticism from students and faculty

The recently announced reorganization of the VP Students portfolio has prompted strong reactions from the UBC community.

On Monday, October 27, VP Students (VPS) Ainsley Carry sent a memo to staff detailing a reorganization of the VPS portfolio. Most notably in this reorganization came the termination of Janet Teasdale, the managing director of Student Development and Services.

The memo also explained that the Student Development and Services portfolio would be split into two separate portfolios: Student Health and Wellbeing and Student Engagement.

On Wednesday, October 29, Dr. Mark Mac Lean, a professor in the mathematics department, posted a twitter thread that sparked public discussion about the decision to terminate Teasdale.

“Janet never lost sight of the fact that we are a university. She understood the value of supporting the ‘whole person’ as our students navigate their time at UBC, but she also understood we would fail them if we were ever to forget they are here to earn degrees,” Mac Lean tweeted.

Teasdale was not immediately available for comment when The Ubyssey reached out.

Max Holmes, one of two Vancouver student representatives on the Board of Governors, emphasized his sadness over his personal connection to Teasdale but also voiced his concerns for what this means about the relationship between elected student leaders at UBC higher-ups.

“More and more UBC is trying to sideline elected student leaders and representatives from decisions and consultations. It's an issue that is really concerning to me,” Holmes said. “This decision only emphasizes that, that ultimately, we are at a worrying place right now with how this university engages with the elected representatives that students have chosen to work on these issues and communicate with UBC.”

Mac Lean emphasized the large impact a decision like this can have, especially on staff.

“When you're making a change like this, it's not just a managerial change. It's starting to affect the actual work of the staff but also of your faculty connections,” Mac Lean said. “It's not clear to me that [there was] consultation with that community of people. In fairness to Dr. Carry, it may be that he doesn't really understand that part of this structure, how we at UBC have built this integrated piece.”

As for staff within the VPS office, Mac Lean said they’re in “fear mode.”

“This news was dropped on them … there was actually no preset discussion with the staff of this part of the reorganization. So they're also feeling like, is this the end? ... Will this work be supported?” Mac Lean said.

“I think he has a lot of work with this to rebuild trust. He’s destroyed his trust. He may not have anticipated how impactful that would be here,” he added.

In the memo, Carry did acknowledge the work Teasdale has done at UBC.

“Over her distinguished tenure at UBC, Janet has demonstrated bold leadership and a strong commitment to students and to the university. She has led numerous initiatives that have served to enhance the student experience and has been a strong advocate for student health and wellbeing and inclusion,” Carry wrote in the memo.

But when The Ubyssey reached out for comment on the lack of consultation in regards to the reorganization of the Student Development and Services Portfolio, UBC declined to comment, saying that they could not comment on “personnel issues.”

Holmes is also planning to move a motion at the next AMS Council meeting on November 6 to make Teasdale an honorary member in recognition of her over 25 years of service at UBC.

“We just lost somebody who I would say, respected those leaders and respected the collaborative relationship that needed to be there,” he said. “I hope that UBC will take this moment to reflect and really see if this was the best way to go about making this decision.”