A university is not a bunch of old buildings in the middle of a very expensive neighbourhood. It’s not any one group of professors, instructors or learners. It’s not even the board, president or senior administration. A university is the ideals it holds that make operating an organization as a public academic and research institution possible. To be worth that amount of public trust, any university must hire meatsacks who will fulfill the duties of their office beyond reproach.
University of British Columbia’s officers only serve as officeholders. While meatsacks are hired because they can do the job their position requires, they are interchangeable when it comes to the duties of their office. Any meatsack who holds the provost’s office must have investigated my complaint to the best of their ability. The Investigations Policy does not give UBC provosts permission to come to a conclusion before investigating it.
The University of British Columbia did not care what Andrew J. Szeri thought about my complaint. As a legal entity, it only cared if the complaint had merit. The only policy-mandated way to determine if a complaint had merit is to investigate it. My complaint involved the damage of a methodology that violated academic freedom and was not designed to allow its learners to learn anything that they didn’t think they knew when they enrolled.
Szeri could complain to the cows coming home that he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong. Most people in his salary range and position of power usually rely on the “I was completely incompetent!” defence when their attempt to get away with improper conduct fails.
But to believe Szeri was “completely incompetent”, the University of British Columbia would have to accept he randomly orchestrated the exact sequence of events that allowed him to silence a nonemployee’s criticism. And, of course, officers at his previous salary band and authority are held to what they should have known.
And let’s not forget, those sequence of events required UBC lawyers who had already determined lawyers get to decide how institutional definitions are interpreted went looking for legal justifications that said they could make policy changes without going through the very controlled process of making controlled policy changes in a controlled environment.
When looking for the lost spirit of a policy, the recorded reason *why* a policy change was made matters as much as the change in wording.
Neither British Columbia nor the federal Canadian government have an opinion on how public organizations may define their terms. So University of British Columbia’s university counsel decided they had legal permission to change UBC’s institutional definition of “improper conduct” to only its legal definition IRL.
If I had known the whole story and the proper legal jargon, I could have told the Law Society that the University Counsel treated a limited scope retainer as full service without indicating the limits of their professional opinion on a non-legal matter they knew less than nothing about. But let’s be honest. All they ever would have heard is “interpersonal conflict” and “didn’t like way class was taught.”
UBC defines spreading malicious lies/rumours that cause lasting harm as personal harassment even as a single event but well-written policies only matter if well-trained people follow them.
All I knew in April 2022 was that Mark Crosbie decided an officer who had violated multiple policies could decide his decision was unappealable. Any lawyer who worked for the University of British Columbia has a professional code of conduct expectation to serve that institution’s best interest. When Crosbie backed off like an obedient dog, he only served Andrew J. Szeri’s interest to keep a complaint against himself off any official record.
And since UBC had to report errors on the official record to outside regulatory agencies, Szeri’s potential “I didn’t know what I was doing” defence still managed to accomplish the exact outcome he needed so that no one knew what he wrote. No one officially knew he told the student in writing that UBC’s program’s “pedagogy” was total academic freedom violation. He gave himself the authority to have the final say that the student’s official complaint was just not liking the way class was taught and then worked the system to ensure no one would listen.
No employee should be blamed for following what their boss and their university counsel advised them. UBC and the Law Society of British Columbia stood behind the improper conduct they advised other UBC Officers to commit.
But that’s why PFO letters must never be read at face value. I wasn’t allowed to have my say at any point because — as the Lackey Who Should Have Listened assured me — I did not have the academic freedom to be heard. All I could expect from the University of British Columbia was the Freedom of Expression to tell my truth to a void that did not have to listen or respond.
However, “A non-employee student does not have the academic freedom to have their side of the story heard in any official capacity” didn’t show up on a single PFO. They said that Andrew J. Szeri and UBC itself did their best to assure this student that their complaint boils down to not liking the way class was taught.
That’s not against any institutional policy UBC has.
But due to the legion of institutional policy errors UBC created that dated back to the 90s, its officers believed they had permission to control who can speak.
Even if UBC wasn’t an academic institution that was supposed to give academic freedom to anyone participating in its forum, it would still have violated its policies by refusing to investigate my original complaint. Assuming what an investigation would have found and acting as an institution on that assumption would not have been permissible in any controlled environment no matter what it produced.
But this controlled environment was expected to hold itself to this expectation:
The members of the University enjoy certain rights and privileges essential to the fulfilment of its primary functions: instruction and the pursuit of knowledge. Central among these rights is the freedom, within the law, to pursue what seems to them as fruitful avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, and to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion.