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Dr. Arvind Gupta. (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)
Dr. Arvind Gupta. (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)

UBC deans throw weight behind current university leadership Add to ...

The University of British Columbia’s deans have come out in support of the university’s current leadership and the search process for a new president, writing an op-ed that will appear in local newspapers on Thursday morning.

The university has been shaken over the past two weeks by growing demands for a review of how it is governed. Faculty and students gathered outside a board of governors meeting last week to demand such a review, and the school’s faculty association has also requested one, while critics question the process to choose a new president.

In their op-ed, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, the deans write that questions about how the university is run are “proper and important.” But they also say they support continuing the search for a president.

“We look forward with anticipation to the successful conclusion of the search process and to the new momentum that an incoming president will provide,” they write.

UBC said it welcomed the comments from the 19 deans, who head faculties of science, health, graduate, arts, business, law, education, engineering and others at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

“The university is at a point where it needs to work through these issues,” said Philip Steenkamp, vice-president, external relations and communications.

“We are hoping that once the new president is identified, that will be a rallying point.”

A profile of the requirements for candidates was expected to be released on Wednesday or Thursday. A new president is scheduled to be in place by the end of June.

“Everyone is pretty confident that we may be in a position to identify the new president before June 30,” Mr. Steenkamp said.

The op-ed is the first time senior administrators have officially commented on the aftermath of the resignation of former president Arvind Gupta last August. Along with support for interim president Martha Piper, the deans emphasize that they did not oppose Dr. Gupta’s proposals for increased investments in teaching, research or community engagement.

We “have consistently supported initiatives to promote such excellence,” they write.

In January, the university mistakenly released confidential correspondence and documents relating to the former president’s departure. That led to Dr. Gupta speaking out publicly and arguing that his decision to step down was precipitated by meetings with a small group of board of governors members. Some of the people involved are on the search committee.

In a letter last week to Stuart Belkin, the new chair of the board of governors, the faculty association reiterated its call for an external review of the board. Mr. Belkin has invited students, professors and the association to a meeting in April, and discussions are ongoing.

Mr. Belkin was travelling and unable to comment on the deans’ op-ed, the university said.

A faculty association petition asking for a motion of no confidence in the board of governors has garnered almost 400 signatures, more than 10 per cent of about 3,300 full- and part-time professors at the university.

“The faculty association is a union, and our engagement with the faculty association is really around terms and conditions of employment,” Mr. Steenkamp said. “So we are trying to work our way on how we engage with the faculty association on the governance issue.”

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