A UBC Okanagan arts professor believes the concept of free speech is not being shared by his faculty brethren.
Peter Wylie is candidate for an executive committee of the UBC Faculty Association, which is comprised of faculty at both the Kelowna and Point Grey UBC campuses. He issued a critical analysis of the association’s actions.
That analysis elicited a rebuke from the present UBCFA executive, calling Wylie’s analysis as false and unfounded, saying it constitutes “bullying and harassment against our staff.”
As a result, Wylie has been blocked access to the email contact list for the faculty members, which some of Wylie’s faculty co-members feels undermines the legitimacy of the executive election process.
“I find this advisory from your committee to be extremely disappointing and disreputable,” said Wylie.
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Wayne Ross and Paul Quirk, Vancouver campus professors, publicly reprimanded the UBCFA executive committee for directly undermining Wylie’s candidacy.
“Whether or not the allegations of Dr. Wylie’s report are accurate, this response seems to confirm that the UBCFA is actively working against him,” Ross said.
“Instead of addressing his criticisms substantively, the association hides behind a bogus charge that he is harassing the staff. In fact, Wylie describes conduct of a few staff members—without mentioning their names—to substantiate his claim that the association has failed to support the Okanagan faculty.
“The charge of harassment is an attack on Dr. Wylie’s freedom of expression.”
Repeated efforts by the Kelowna Capital News, including emailing questions related to Wylie’s candidacy issues to the UBCFA office in Vancouver failed to generate a response.
UBCFA vice-president Vinayak Vatsal said he would attempt to get the submitted questions answered, but noted no one on the executive may want to make a comment, and he didn’t have authority himself to respond.
Wylie’s accusations stem from what he claims was “academic mobbing” of him by the UBCFA and UBCO senior administration and of a sweetheart unionism deal going on that both the faculty association and university don’t want disrupted, which Wylie claims is to the detriment of UBCO faculty members.
Wylie stated in his analysis—a 31-page document that presents a case-by-case accounting of his interactions with the UBCFA as a professor and member of the association’s faculty committee and member services grievance committee—this detriment has played out through consolidating power to staff, drawing out legitimate grievances until they’re dropped, and acting in UBC administration’s interests over the faculty they’re supposed to represent.
Because UBCO’s faculty make up small proportion of the UBCFA membership, Wylie says their grievances and workplace complaints get left in “a quagmire and quicksand of collusion and complicity.”
It’s a large part why Wylie is part of a group of 20 UBCO faculty who organized for eight candidates to run in the UBCFA executive election.
Wylie says the core of the lack of representation argument began when UBC Okanagan was created by the provincial government.
Some faculty from Okanagan University College and new faculty professors were adopted into the existing UBCFA rather than forming their own association, the result being their collective influence has been drowned out by their Point Grey campus counterparts.
The current furor, Wylie says, has been caused by the UBCFA hiding behind the ideal of the university being a respectful environment where bullying and harassment is not considered appropriate behaviour.
“So they are saying to me that offering criticism is considered being disrespectful. That is clearly dampening on our freedom of expression. Criticism is not bullying or harassment. It is freedom of speech,” Wylie said.
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