Some time prior:
Policy #3, the Discrimination and Harassment Policy was an academic policy that listed the activities UBC had to protect for academic freedom and their discrimination policy.
Despite being an academic policy under the control of the VP of Academics, the Board of Governors allowed the UBC to remove the protections from the protected activities and the complaint process to make academic freedom complaints without properly assessing the risk to the institution’s reputation for having done so.
Controlled documents are living documents. That means nothing to the UBC, obviously, but a living document means every edit is still a part of the document. That the document now says that academic freedom is unprotected doesn’t matter because the intention for the policy was to protect academic freedom. The protection for academic freedom and the process of taking academic freedom violation complaints must have been moved to another controlled document or the requested edits must have been denied.
The UBC — being an institution that had to protect its controlled documents to operate as an institution that is given public funding — had no other options. No publically-funded university may legally serve its University Persons’ interests first.
That the UBC “allowed” itself to substitute the protection for activities necessary for Academic Freedom with just the Respectful Environment Statement that only protects office workers was a controlled document handling error. Any edit done in error cannot change the document’s controlled intention.
But the UBC didn’t care. The Law Society of British Columbia’s Code of Conduct states the following:
3.1-2 A lawyer must perform all legal services undertaken on a client’s behalf to the standard of a competent lawyer.
 Incompetence, negligence and mistakes – This rule does not require a standard of perfection. An error or omission, even though it might be actionable for damages in negligence or contract, will not necessarily constitute a failure to maintain the standard of professional competence described by the rule. However, evidence of gross neglect in a particular matter or a pattern of neglect or mistakes in different matters may be evidence of such a failure, regardless of tort liability. While damages may be awarded for negligence, incompetence can give rise to the additional sanction of disciplinary action.
The UBC University Counsel wrote a lawyer’s note that forgave policy violations. It could not have been a legal opinion because policies are a non-legal matter. Instead of consulting a policy expert as per that code of conduct, the UBC university counsel gave the UBC permission to redefine “improper conduct”, “UBC Persons” and ignore its obligation to academic freedom.
The last time I think the UBC knew it had to respect Academic Freedom was in 2015 when a UBC board of governors member violated a professor’s academic freedom.
In her Summary, Honourable Lynn Smith found the following:
-That the UBC community is not aware that academic freedom is required to be protected
-That lack of action is an action that violates academic freedom
– That the UBC has a positive obligation to defend academic freedom.
Dr. Martha Piper, the interim President at the time, said that the UBC will do the following:
-Hire an Academic Freedom Specialist that would work with the university to ensure academic freedom is respected.
-Train new hires and promoted UBC Persons to the importance of defending academic freedom
-Create a system to record and track academic freedom violations
-Train board members specifically on the importance of understanding academic freedom.
None of these steps were completed. Instead, in 2016 the UBC hired Dr. Santa Ono who left an error report that involved the institution’s academic freedom open for all six years of his presidency. Not one of the actions that UBC promised it would do was done.
Fast forward to 2018. A student enrolls in the UBC Creative Writing MFA. They enrolled assuming that the UBC understood its obligations to the University of British Columbia’s institution, academic freedom as a concept, and it respected all its UBC Persons. Because — on paper — that was what the UBC was pretending to be.
In February 2020, I filed a complaint against my director. Her actions had violated the following policies and statements:
-The Respectful Environment Statement
-The Academic Freedom Statement
-The Scholarly Integrity Policy
-The Retaliation Policy
-The Discrimination Policy
But Director Narain told me that the only policy the institution “had to care about” was the second half of the former Discrimination and Harassment Policy that talked about discrimination. Even a respectful environment “wasn’t legally required.”
The UBC was so incapable of operating as an institution that it believed that if discrimination was against the law and ignoring policies wasn’t, the UBC could ignore the multiple policies and dismiss my complaint based on my harasser not violating the law.
Narain — whose department was responsible for explaining policies to students — didn’t know “protected” was a protected term. She understood what a “protected characteristic” was but didn’t care what a “protected activity” was.
But she had been promoted to her position between 2015 and 2020. Had the UBC completed its obligation to her to train promoted people on the importance of respecting academic freedom, this wouldn’t have happened.
But because the UBC failed to complete its obligations to train UBC Persons to know lack of action was an action that violated academic freedom and that they had a positive obligation to defend it, Director Narain got a “team” together to ensure that when she denied a UBC Person their rights for being a UBC Person, that she was doing it legally.
Legally, Director Narain had no obligation to serve the institution’s interests above the interests of my director to make the academic freedom complaint against her go away. Director Narain should have known that in a controlled environment, giving incorrect policy advice is a live policy error. If she was signed off to give proper policy advice, she would have known that a live error is the worst kind of error to make.
Legally, non-Board of Governor members of the UBC could ignore any policy they wanted. By working for an institution, the institution has paid millions of dollars to ensure that every member of their institution knows what they should do in any situation.
It doesn’t matter if a UBC Person decides to violate UBC policies despite their training or because they weren’t trained to know they couldn’t. It is the UBC’s responsibility that they did. It’s why violating policy is legally allowed. An institution holds the responsibility that its Persons understand its policies and know that they must be followed.
It’s why any institution invests millions in the training documentation of its employees. So when shit goes down, the institution absolutely knows what its Persons signed off that they understood the proper way of doing things.
The UBC Person’s choice to do it any other way risks their continued employment.
But the UBC didn’t even want to understand that UBC Persons not being legally punished for violating policy doesn’t mean there are no institutional consequences for the UBC. It can’t ignore its UBC Persons committing vast amounts of institutionally-defined and institutionally-applicable “improper conduct.”
As an institution, the UBC doesn’t have eyes. But that doesn’t mean it can turn a blind one to its Persons abusing their authority.
And as soon as Dr. Ono was made aware of the situation and didn’t act to preserve the UBC’s best interest over his own best interest to keep the complaint off the record, the UBC was legally in trouble. As the University Act makes clear in section 19.1:
Best interests of university
19.1 The members of the board of a university must act in the best interests of the university.
Dr. Ono is most certainly innocent until proven guilty that he violated the university act by ignoring the UBC’s best interest to serve his own.
But he certainly violated multiple aspects of his Code of Conduct for his Board of Governor’s position and the Board of Governor’s Mandate. He ignored his Roles and Responsibilities to the UBC. He disregarded every one of his Duties to his position and he pretended there was no highest ethical consideration he had to hold himself to in the Manual.
But whether doing all that illegally served his interests over the best interests of his university will have to be determined by someone else.