The abrupt, Friday afternoon announcement of Gupta’s departure has left people asking many questions, most of which the Board of Governors doesn’t plan to answer.
After calls for more transparency from the Faculty Association, Board Chair John Montalbano wrote a letter (again, released on a Friday afternoon) in effect saying they won’t be offering any more information, citing confidentiality agreements. But, why are there confidentiality agreements in the first place?
When former president Stephen Toope announced his resignation in 2013, he did it at a public meeting with a year’s notice, then openly talked about why he was leaving, where he was going and how his term in office went. The Board didn’t seem to think a gag order was necessary. In Gupta’s case, the Board seems to think the more secrecy the better.
The Board is effectively saying, “We can’t be more transparent because we planned, drafted and signed agreements preventing us from being more transparent.”
When a president of a public institution resigns one year into a five-year term, there needs to be more accountability. In a time when the university is struggling financially, they will pay over $1.3 million for one year of Gupta as president (two years’ salary, plus $430,000 for the search committee that chose him). And the money isn’t even the biggest issue here. This situation draws attention to the enormous amount of power, coupled with little desire for transparency that is concentrated in the Board of Governors.
Gupta’s resignation happened at a secret meeting. This summer, the Board discussed a policy that would prevent recording the public parts of their meetings (though the motion was deferred without notice). No contact information is publicly posted for Board representatives. No Board representative has publicly said anything about the “leadership change,” as they call it, and a professor hired through a donation from Montalbano has alleged Montalbano himself tried to prevent her from speaking about Gupta’s resignation.
In the process of taking a photo for this piece, we found out about a secret Board Meeting happening at that moment Monday morning (read from bottom to top).
Like most of the decisions they make, the Board of Governors is trying to keep Gupta’s sudden departure away from public scrutiny, but we shouldn’t let them get away with it. As students of this university, we deserve to know why to Gupta left, but more importantly, we deserve an open, accountable Board of Governors.