UBC locals call for transparency, openness on Gupta exit
VANCOUVER – In a joint letter to the UBC Board of Governors chair, all three presidents from CUPE locals have raised concerns about the handling of the recent departure of UBC President, Dr. Arvind Gupta.
CUPE 116 President Colleen Garbe was a member of the 22-person selection committee that included unions, faculty, alumni, management and professional staff, students and board members from both the UBC and Okanagan campuses. The committee did a yearlong global search and made a thoughtful, informed decision collectively.
“We had selected someone — a professor, Canadian, person of colour and internal candidate – and hoped that we had someone with a different style, a breath of fresh air,” said Garbe.
But one year into a five-year term the university president, who is compensated extremely well, left all of a sudden, with no explanation from the Board.
“The public is now aware of the power this Board has to oversee one of our public institutions,” says CUPE 2950 President Karen Ranalletta. “A decision made with due process can be overturned at the stroke of the pen – by an unelected board, the majority of whom are appointed by the BC Liberals.”
Ranalletta notes that UBC is a public institution, one of the three largest research institutions in the country with a significant reputation. As an alumnus, she says she is embarrassed. “Where’s the accountability – not only to the public but to staff, students and faculty who make up our campus community – we deserve more than silence.”
The University will continue to pay the departing president’s salary as well as that of an interim president. The compensation for Dr. Gupta as well as the interim president’s salary, the external PR firm handling the media fallout, and the search for a new president is expected to cost millions of dollars.
CUPE 2278 President Trish Everett-Kabut says that the university is in a period of tuition increases and constant hikes to international tuition, and exorbitant increases to student fees.
“You feel like you’re being nickel and dimed to death. Then something happens with our president and suddenly the University can find millions of dollars to deal with the situation – in an age of supposed austerity,” says Everett-Kabut.
“I sure hope that money isn’t coming from anybody who attends UBC or works there – because this is not our mess to clean up,” she says.
The CUPE locals are concerned that the Board has just “accepted” his resignation and given no explanation of what has happened. As a publicly-funded institution, the Board has a responsibility to the broader community to ensure that UBC’s reputation is “beyond reproach.”
The letter calls on the Board to clarify the real reason for Dr. Gupta’s unexpected resignation and to obey the principles of “openness, transparency and effective communication” as necessary pillars for a respected public institution.
Read the full letter here.
Read Bill Tieleman’s article in the September 1 issue of the Tyee calling for a public inquiry.