The eight elected members of the Board of Governors — three students, two administrators and three faculty members, representing both UBC Vancouver and UBCO — have released a statement detailing their level of involvement with the process which led to the resignation of former President Arvind Gupta.
Much of the criticism surrounding the Board of Governors’ handling of Guptagate had to do with the secretive nature of the Board of Governors’ operations, but also the fact that an ad-hoc committee of the board — the full membership of which is not known — was the one to tell former Gupta they had lost faith in him.
Now, the elected board members — those not appointed by the province — are speaking up about their position on the scandal.
“We, the eight elected members of the UBC Board of Governors (students, staff and faculty), voted to accept the resignation of Dr. Arvind Gupta as president of UBC. We did so after respectful deliberation among all board members and based on our own observations,” read an open letter on UBC’s website, signed by all eight persons. “None of us were bullied or pressured. We continue to believe that this decision was in the best interests of the university.”
Whether Gupta was forced out based on the working environment or the decision to leave was mainly a personal one remains contested. Both UBC and Gupta himself have maintained this was a resignation, but the inadvertently leaked documents that put the university in the spotlight last month detailed dissatisfaction with Gupta's governing style, particularly from former Board Chair John Montalbano.
It is not yet clear whether the statement was made in response to one released by the AMS days ago, which noted that “duly elected student representatives from both campuses appear to have not been rightfully involved in key conversations leading to Dr. Gupta’s resignation.”
According to the statement, the elected board members regret that this statement was not made earlier and now see that excessive caution impeded its publication.
“Part of our concern was not to inflame opinion by commenting more than to say what we actually did,” said Richard Johnston, a professor in the department of political science at UBC Vancouver and one of two elected faculty members on the Executive Committee of the board that was involved the process leading up to Gupta's resignation. “The events and circumstances of Arvind Gupta’s resignation are governed by privacy act considerations and there is the agreement that he signed, which prevents us from saying much of anything.”
The letter concludes that the elected board members are listening carefully to the concerns raised at UBC. At the most recent standing committee meeting of the board, a rally was held in protest the lack of transparency. The statement says that these eight members are committed to greater transparency.
“There was a lot of stuff in the document dump, so to speak ... which revealed a patterns of meetings on short notice, meetings not advertised, meeting off-cycle and so on,” said Johnston. “I would not say that this is anybody's fault. I would actually admit that, as a member of the board for five years, I sort of acquiesced in some of these trends and we’re now stepping back and asking ourselves, ‘Is this how we should be doing business?’”