The University of British Columbia collected $2,812,000,000 from provincial funding between the 2019/2020 school year and 2022/2023 school year. In February 2020, UBC decided it didn’t have a legal obligation to its policies or academic freedom if an employee violated a student’s protections and freedoms.
In the years since UBC decided it would rather operate like a private business than an institution in the public sector, it took another almost three billion dollars from its students as tuition. But when a student asked academic freedom-based questions the UBC couldn’t answer, it paid their lawyers those tax and tuition-funded dollars to pretend it could remove all policy protections and academic freedom from a UBC Person.
The UBC paid Dr. Ono millions of dollars to serve as its steward. In return, he violated an excessive amount of UBC and the Board of Governors’ policies that expected Dr. Ono to perform all his duties to the “highest ethical standards.”
But being a publicly funded institution, it requires an annual mandate letter from the government to operate. Let’s see how many expectations the government gave to the UBC that the UBC thinks it can ignore with no consequences at all:
“Every public sector organization is accountable to the citizens of British Columbia.”
I do not believe UBC believes it is accountable to anyone. Not the Ombudspeople, not even to the University Act, despite Dr. Ono’s duty of knowledge to it. If a student wants the UBC to obey their policies, he knows the UBC has the institutional power and authority to silence them off the record.
I can’t even remember the number of times I had to tell Directors, Deans and Provosts “I can’t believe you put that in writing.” The UBC had no idea that choosing which complaints they entered into the official record was wrong in any way. The Investigations Policy said the Provost must investigate all complaints.
No UBC Person, not even a lawyer, can decide what “must” means in a controlled document. If the UBC training department wasn’t trained to know that, it is on UBC as an institution for failing to train their trainers to train their people properly.
The British Columbian Government continues with another doozy at the end of the same paragraph: “…you are supporting a society in which the people of this province can exercise their democratic rights, trust and feel protected by their public institutions.”
All the UBC policies were written to the standard of a GallantU university. They knew they had to collect annual disclosures so that all UBC Officers are within one year of signing off on what they have been trained to know. The UBC Conflict of Interest policy was brilliantly written in particular. So much so that had Szeri followed it and taken the time to read all the policies he was about to violate by closing down an academic freedom violation complaint against himself, he would have been a fool to think he could attempt to get away with it.
But GallantU would know never to ask their lawyers “hey, how can we *not* treat all our GallantU Persons equally?” It wouldn’t matter that they would never hire lawyers who assumed their professional code of conduct as lawyers had the same legal teeth as Barbossa’s Pirate Code.
According to the policy, Szeri’s attempt to get away with closing the investigation without a conflict-of-interest plan in place declared his intention of getting away with his conflict of interest. A conflict-of-interest advisor would have not even allowed him to be involved in an investigation as to whether he wrote “Our pedagogy is the total control of what our learners can say in a publicly-funded university.”
But the government makes it very clear that the UBC has expectations beyond those it refuses to hold itself to here:
“This mandate letter, which I am sending in my capacity as Minister responsible for Advanced
Education and Skills Training, on behalf of the Executive Council, communicates expectations for
your institution.” It begins by repeating expectations it had from the 2021 Mandate letter, which includes:
“Putting people first: We are committed to working with you to put people first.”
The UBC has only ever put its star-bellied UBC Employees first in my entire experience trying to work with it to keep my head down and graduate. It took learning that the harm being done to the learners in the program was being done for no pedagogical reason but for the glowing student evaluations the methodology produced for me to decide I couldn’t walk away.
The government reminds the UBC that Mandates must be given out every year here: “This Mandate Letter confirms your institution’s mandate under the University Act.”
The Chancellor and the Board Secretary are or should be aware that Dr. Ono allowed his institution to turn over its policies to its university counsel to decide which ones they “really” have to follow. I’ve certainly told them as much.
If the Chancellor and the Secretary do not follow the UBC Conflict of Interest Policy and report Dr. Ono for his suspected conflict of interest, it will violate section 19.1 of the University Act as much as Dr. Ono’s actions have already violated the UBC COI/C policy for not reporting Szeri’s suspected conflict.
The 2021 letter goes on to say how important it is that UBC programs have a workable pedagogy that can assist the average learner in their professional goals here: “The role of higher education is more than a pathway to opportunity for some; it is a prerequisite for anyone who wishes to access and succeed in most career-building jobs in our province.”
My program was a program designed to teach learners to keep doing what they had done before. Only now, they’ve learned how to discuss finishing techniques. If an underpublished writer was only publishing the very best of their work before enrolling in the UBC program, not having enough finishing techniques discussions isn’t what keeps them from their future careers as writers.
My MFA was tied to the cost of an M.Ed. I invested more than just my tuition into it. I gave it my time and my mental health. I never knew when I was going to get another email from Dr. Ono’s administration or one of my instructors that was going to violate my UBC policy protections or my academic freedom.
The institution should have been training its star-bellied Persons to know not to violate Academic Freedom before I even enrolled. GallantU would know completing the actions in an acceptance of findings from the last time it had violated academic freedom was not optional. By ignoring those actions, UBC made itself institutionally negligent when it allowed the same error to be made against a student dozens of times.
Once I finished the course work and thesis, I learned that the entire institution was run by an ethically and administratively challenged administration that believed it had lawyerly dispensation to ignore all of its obligations to UBC Persons it wanted to ignore.
Between Dr. Ono’s administration and lawyers who couldn’t lawyer their way out of a wide-open tunnel made of paper bags, the UBC expected a student to pay tens of thousands of dollars to enforce controlled document compliance in a publicly-funded institution.
The UBC never considered for a second that is a job they’re paying themselves a small fortune to do to be allowed to take taxpayer’s money. I’m sure they still believe that as long as my complaint isn’t on the official record, they haven’t done anything wrong. It was like being administered by children who didn’t want to know what they didn’t know and didn’t let that stop them.
But let’s go onto the 2022 letter:
“Work with the Ministry and your communities, employers and industry to implement postsecondary education and skills training for British Columbians, particularly those impacted by COVID-19 and vulnerable and underrepresented groups, to participate fully in economic recovery and growing career opportunities.“
Writers have been very hard hit by COVID over the past few years. Many of my professional friends have lost their usually reliable side-work that kept a roof over their head with a good health insurance plan. My classmates invested tens of thousands of dollars through the pandemic, adding on more debt or taking tens of thousands of dollars of their family budget. For that amount of money, the provost of my institution put in writing that the program never intended to teach most of their learners what they will need to learn to have that professional career.
None of my instructors could answer the question of where the learner was going to learn craft if the program taught it wasn’t needed. Without allowing open discussion of what may require revision, learners learn that no work needs any revision but polish.
GallantU would know this paragraph is more than just window dressing:
“Continuing our best practice to publicly post Crown Agency mandate letters and letters of direction,
you are asked to sign this letter upon approval of your board, to acknowledge Government’s direction to your institution. The signed letter is to be posted publicly on your institution website.“
The UBC took almost three billion dollars from the government since they decided they had the legal right to no longer operate as a public institution. If the UBC had wanted to run their School of Creative Writing like a cash-generating private business, it should not have been offered at a public university.
“On behalf of the Province, I would like to recognize the significant efforts post-secondary institutions
have made to sustain in-person learning and services, while keeping students, faculty, staff and the
broader community safe.”
Who is going to tell the provincial government that a respectful environment necessary to keep their learners safe isn’t a legal requirement that the UBC felt it had the obligation to provide?