Faculty elects math professor to UBC Board of Governors

Following a three week voting period, mathematics Professor Nassif Ghoussoub has been elected to the Board of Governors as one of two faculty representatives for UBC Vancouver. He received 253 votes out of 611, which represents a voter turnout of 24.2 per cent.

Ghoussoub will take the place of Associate Professor Ayesha Chaudhry — who stepped down in April after sitting on the Board since March 2017 — on July 1 and will serve until the end of Chaudhry’s term on February 29, 2020. This will be his third term on the Board, as he already served two consecutive terms from 2008 to 2014.

Given his previous Board terms, Ghoussoub said he felt “lukewarm” about winning — but felt that it was necessary to avoid the election of psychology Professor Darrin Lehman, who was part of the Board that received the faculty’s vote of no-confidence in 2016.

“On one hand, I’m happy that the faculty have confidence in me again for the third time,” he said.

“At the same time, I feel that I have bid my due and I should have let other, new people come in. But I have to do it because I don’t want us to go back to the past. Even though I’m an old-timer, I ran because I want us to open a new page of UBC governance.”

During the election, Ghoussoub campaigned on a 10-point platform centred around housing as a tool in faculty recruitment and retention as well as greater academic input and transparency in UBC’s decision-making processes. He also aims to develop a “healthier” relationship between the faculty, the university and the Board in order to better integrate faculty into governance and not have them represented only by deans.

In the meantime, Ghoussoub will continue advancing academic commitments that were set prior to the election until his first Board meeting in September.

“I know the issues, I follow the issues, I don’t need orientations that they have for newcomers,” he said. “It can sound arrogant, but I’ve been in this university for decades and I know it inside out — I’m not conceding knowledge to anyone.”

Lehman was second with 201 votes.

“I was not surprised but a bit disappointed not because some opponent had votes,” Ghoussoub said, “but when a candidate doesn’t submit his CV essentially and when a candidate doesn’t contribute to a forum, yet there are still faculty that keep voting for reasons no one understands.”

“I simply wish the Board and Dr. Ghoussoub the best in their work on behalf of the University,” said Lehman in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.

The other two candidates, microbiology and immunology Professor Steven Hallam and Professor Jeannie Shoveller from the School of Population and Public Health, followed with 47 and 110 votes respectively. Hallam said he was “pleased” with the results overall.

“The Forum that I participated in was engaging and interesting and I believe that Dr. Ghoussoub has the experience and vision to represent the UBC faculty effectively,” he said in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.

“Being able to participate in the democratic process here on campus was exciting to me and I look forward to opportunities to both share my ideas with Dr. Ghoussoub and perhaps to develop a wider network of my own on campus should I attempt another run in the future.”

Shoveller similarly expressed confidence in the election of Ghoussoub.

“I would like to thank the more than 600 faculty members who voted in this election, including those who voted for me,” she said. “There are great days ahead for UBC and I am confident that the Board of Governors will continue to work effectively to ensure that we move from excellence to eminence.”

Dr. Charles Menzies, anthropology professor and the other Board faculty representative for the Vancouver campus, said that Ghoussoub’s victory marks a “good election for UBC faculty.”

“I think it shows a high degree of interest in the Board — an estimated 200 more people voted this around compared to last time,” he said.

“I do not think Dr. Ghoussoub will sit quietly on the margins and let things wash over him. We’ve had too many people like that not representing faculty to their best interests.”

This article has been updated to include Shoveller’s comment.