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Turbulence, controversy at one of Vancouver’s largest employers: UBC

September 3rd, 2015 · 3 Comments

UBC has become the subject of rampant rumour and speculation since president Arvind Gupta’s surprise resignation was announced Aug. 7. (He had told the board he would resign a week earlier, July 31.)

That’s been preoccupying my time the last couple of weeks, especially since the city is in its August lull.

For those who missed it, here’s the major feature I helped report for the Globe, trying to understand what happened behind the scenes. I have to say, we still don’t totally know. Even Gupta’s most ardent supporters (and fiercest critics) haven’t been able to tell us exactly happened in the last few weeks between him and the board of governors.

And, because everything is so secondhand, most observers are still trying to reconcile the diametrically opposed viewpoints on Gupta. One, that he was a brilliant innovator with a very aggressive plan to remake UBC who was done in by a micro-managing or conservative or corporate (take your pick or combine all three) board and board chair, who were being lobbied by powerful deans. Or two, that he was a brilliant innovator with a very aggressive (but vague) plan to remake UBC who was done in because he alienated people, was weak at administration, didn’t line up allies before he tried to take on the powerful deans, etc etc.

And here’s a follow-up from today, what some of the university’s prominent donors have to say about the situation and whether it will affect their inclination to give in the future.

There’s been no shortage of other reporting and commenting.

Gary Mason in the Globe and Daphne Bramham at the Vancouver Sun have both been flagellating the university for its lack of openness. UBC defenders, including interim president Martha Piper, have weighed in on commentary pages. UBC mathematics professor Nassif Ghoussoub, a friend of Gupta’s who has been particularly dismayed by the entire response at the university, has been blogging about the issue at Piece of Mind.

I know some of you may think of it as just an entertaining House of Cards-style drama for the one-per-centres in town. But UBC is one of the city’s and region’s largest employers. It’s also a job-generator, with the creativity and start-ups that spin off from its research. What happens there matters to all of us in a way.

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