After associate professor Ayesha Chaudhry announced her resignation from the Board of Governors on April 19, four faculty members are now running to fill her vacated faculty representative seat.
Faculty representatives are voting members of the Board elected to represent faculty in the highest level of decision-making at the university. The other current sitting representative for the Vancouver campus is anthropology professor Charles Menzies.
The four candidates are professor Jeannie Shoveller from the School of Population and Public Health, microbiology and immunology professor Steven Hallam, mathematics professor Nassif Ghoussoub and psychology professor Darrin Lehman.
While Shoveller has had extensive experience working on different boards and committees at UBC and across Canada like the Governing Council for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, this is her first bid at a position on UBC BoG. She attributed her decision to run to her “dedication to the UBC community.”
Her platform focuses on positioning UBC for reinvestment from different levels of government and philanthropic organizations to enable interdisciplinary collaboration, committing the Board to “organizational renewal” and helping the university with faculty, staff and student attraction and retention.
“We all know that it’s a very competitive market out there [for attraction and retention] and simply staying the course will not really do what we need to do in terms of scholarship and scientific discovery,” she said.
Shoveller acknowledged the importance of housing for this process, but added that directing more funding towards interdisciplinary research on campus and creating mechanisms to support it like the UBC Research Excellence clusters could be complementary solutions.
And while she would be new to the Board if elected, Shoveller believes she has the experience and strength to carry out her platform and represent the faculty effectively.
“I’m a consensus builder and I’m told I have an ambassadorial quality, but I also am a kind of person whose kindness should not be mistaken for weakness,” she said.
“I feel like I will be able to make my voice heard in the interest of the university and the interest of the public.”
While this is his first run at elected office and he acknowledged there is a “lot to learn,” Hallam said he wants be be a “voice of reason” for faculty within the BoG.
“Faculty want representation that is willing to take the best interests of the faculty at heart … and are in alignment with the strategic vision of the university to be a diverse, energized place,” he said.
In an interview with The Ubyssey, Hallam noted that the university had “stabilized” after President Gupta’s resignation and the subsequent controversy.
“As a faculty member during that time, I feel there was not information presented that we needed to hear,” said Hallam. “If something like that came up, I’d be a real advocate for transparency.”
Hallam’s main platform points are related to educational leadership, including the introduction of data visualization and literacy skills to student and training curriculums.
“I see value in pushing that in terms of curriculum reform — not to force it onto people … but to support programs that give people literal competency in being able to work with and navigate large data sets beyond the university,” he said.
Hallam also advocates for educational leadership development, noting that while UBC has been successful at raising funds to improve its programs, it needs to “bring that knowledge back into the classroom where it can be applied.”
Having previously served on the BoG, Lehman is now running again on a platform of eight items as outlined in an email to The Ubyssey.
In particular, he wants the Board to “support ways to improve everyday life for UBC faculty members,” increase “support for interdisciplinary research, teaching and learning” and make the appointed members “better known (and understood) by faculty members.”
Lehman’s platform also advocates for expanded opportunities for faculty and student to interact and “an enhanced student experience (e.g, cultural activities, athletics, off-campus experiences).”
More notably, Lehman was a Board faculty representative during former UBC President Arvind Gupta’s resignation and a breakdown in confidence of the Board from the Faculty Association. Gupta has since endorsed Ghoussoub for this by-election on Twitter and in a message to faculty members.
Lehman said in an emailed response to The Ubyssey that he “didn’t know about this endorsement, and [doesn’t] want to speak to such issues.”
After serving on the Board from 2008 to 2014, Ghoussoub is running again to provide more perspectives from the academic community and to continue improving transparency and accountability at UBC.
And while he “wasn’t eager to run” originally, he feels that he had to stop Lehman from winning the vacated seat. Since the list of candidates wasn’t released until the first day of voting, Ghoussoub said he had “a hunch” during the nomination period and would have withdrawn later if he has seen only “good, new faces.”
“Darrin Lehman was part of the Board that got 800 votes of non-confidence,” he said.
“Some people did a lot of damage to the university and they need to be stopped once and for all, so I decided to get a last kick at the can and go for it.”
Ghoussoub’s platform also outlines 10 goals that range from “providing academic focus to IMANT, UBC Properties Trust, and the forthcoming Student Housing Fund” to “returning to open searches for senior administrators and to convocation-elected chancellors.”
When asked which would be his top priority if elected, Ghoussoub said that they are “all top priorities” but the timing is uncertain because he wouldn’t be the only one making the agenda. Instead, he would aim to sit on the governance committee or the property committee — “important committees where faculty need to have a say.”
“Usually these boards have very short memory, people come and go, so it’s very important for me with my knowledge of the six years when I was on the Board,” he said. “If you have the knowledge then you know when to pushback and when to support it.”
The by-election’s voting period has already opened on May 15 — following a slight delay because of a system outage — and will go until June 5. The winning candidate will then take over after June 30 and serve until the end of Chaudhry’s term on February 29, 2020.
The candidates will also meet on Wednesday, May 23 for a by-election forum. It will be hosted at Jack Poole Hall from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
This article has been updated to better contextualize Ghoussoub’s motivation for running regarding Lehman.