Only 64 per cent of faculty would give UBC a good Yelp review

Each year, UBC publishes an annual report providing interesting statistics and insights into the university’s performance in the previous academic year.

This year, the recently-published 2016/17 Annual Report includes responses from the 2014 Workplace Experiences Survey, which show that only 62 per cent of UBC faculty would recommend UBC as a good place to work. However, as confirmed by Public Affairs Associate Director Leslie Dickson, the statistic included in the annual report is incorrect, and should be updated to 64 per cent to match the one stated in the 2014 survey.

Overwhelmingly, the biggest concerns from a faculty standpoint are noise pollution, campus commute times and classroom spaces.

“At that stage, the noise on campus had been getting so bad that I was more willing to do a nine hour flight to a place where the weather was worse than [Vancouver], just to get some quiet,” said Lecturer of French Dr. Juliet O’Brien, while comparing UBC to University of Cambridge when she visited her spouse there on sabbatical.

According to O’Brien, this noise pollution typically stems from UBC Operations vehicles, such as garbage trucks.

The constant construction also adds to the issue.

For instance, several departments have been kept in Buchanan Tower while renovation construction is occurring. According to Professor of Philosophy Dr. Alan Richardson, this situation created a disruptive work environment for faculty.

“It’s an enormous pain in the ass to teach in the places we have to teach with the endless construction noise and other sorts of noise,” he said. “People cannot work in those offices while construction is going on.”

At the same time, it has created its own problem of inconvenient campus commute, while neglecting to solve the issue of inadequate instruction space for certain faculty.

“I had to go from my office in Buchanan to Materials Engineering to teach a small, upper division philosophy class last year — [a 15 minutes walk] across campus to a building that is totally inappropriate,” said Richardson.

“There are twice as many buildings as there were when I got here 22 years ago, and yet I have to go further and further to teach my classes because none of these building have adequate instruction space … faculty members that I know of in the arts have been talking about this for the entire time I’ve been here and it’s getting worse, and it seems like a solvable problem.”

His proposed solution is for UBC to “build some academic buildings with actual classrooms.”

Furthermore, to him, these highlighted issues seem to point toward a “disconnect between the actual realities of working at UBC” and what the university is promoting.

“In general, UBC has this way of thinking that everything is wonderful, you know ‘go look at the mountains isn’t it all wonderful’ … whereas as faculty members we have really type specific concerns that would be really easy to listen to and take on board,” said Richardson.

He once again pointed toward the disruption to faculty’s work environment in Buchanan Tower as an example.

In response, UBC would not comment directly on the statistic.

“Given that the views expressed by the faculty in the workplace experience survey are those of the faculty, it’s not really appropriate for the administration to speak for them,” wrote Strategic Communications Manager Matthew Ramsey in an emailed statement.

However, the university believes that it is performing well along Canadian guidelines.

“Overall, the response in the 2014 Workplace Experience Survey was good and the results are in line with Canadian benchmarks,” said Catherine Pitman, associate director of workplace engagement & communications, in a written statement.

In response to a follow-up email, Dickson clarified that these benchmarks refer to those established in the analysis by Ipsos Reid — “UBC’s third-party survey consultant” — “which calculates an average among all the organizations’ [workplace] surveys.”

Moving forward, it is important to note that this statistic is slightly out of date, and new survey results will not be available until next year’s annual report, as confirmed by Ramsey. 

More importantly, given the fact that the resignation of former President Arvind Gupta and the subsequent faculty’s vote of non-confidence against the university’s Board of Governors happened two years after the 2014 survey was done, it will be interesting to see how UBC’s performance statistics would change in the next annual report.

This article has been updated to correct the statistic and clarify the benchmarks.