If you want more transparency from UBC, ask for it.

There’s been a lot of talk about university transparency and the need for more disclosure at UBC, not just about our mysteriously disappearing president, but generally with how the university’s Board and Administration works. Instead of talking about it for one more second, please, please do something about it.

UBC is a public body, and is therefore subject to BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Any person can ask them for records, and UBC must make an effort to provide them. Sure, they might come back with redactions, but you’ll probably get something back. On the other hand, not asking at all carries a 100% guarantee of getting nothing. The best part is that literally all it takes is an email. If you don’t care enough to fill out a single form, or send a single email, then I’d argue you don’t actually give a rat’s ass about transparency or finding out more.

UBC has published their own guide about how to file an FOI request with them, or you can follow…

The UBC Insiders Handy Guide to filing an FOI request with UBC

  1. Using that ancient technology known as email – sorry kids, they don’t accept FOI requests via emojis or snapchat yet – compose a new message to
  2. Be nice to UBC’s Access and Privacy team, Paul Hancock, Courtney Waverick, and Tiffany Fan. Say something like “Good morning! You are all fine and wonderful people. While thinking about what fine and wonderful people you are, it occurred to me that I’d like to file a Freedom of Information request with the university!”
  3. Tell them what records you want to request. The request should be fairly specific and have time period attached. For example, asking for “All emails about Arvind Gupta’s resignation” will be interpreted as a request to have every single person working for UBC search their email for messages about Arvind Gupta’s resignation since the beginning of time until the present. This is not a reasonable request. Asking for “all emails mentioning ‘Arvind’ or ‘Gupta’, sent or received by Susan Danard or Reny Kahlon, between July 30 and August 31, 2015″ is specific and could be fulfilled fairly easily.
  4. Include your full name, and ways to get in touch with you (email, phone number, mailing address).
  5. Press send.

Under BC law, there is no fee to make a request as long as your records can be searched for and found in three hours or less, so that should be an incentive to keep your request relatively narrow so you’re not asking people to scour the whole university to find a needle in a haystack. The time spent redacting the records don’t count against you.

But wait, there’s more!

Are you of the opinion that the provincial government might have had their sticky paws in Arvind’s resignation? You can also request records from them! Click on this link, say what records you want and from which ministry (Advanced Education, most likely, but Office of the Premier if you think this goes all the way to Christy) and send in the request.

Finally, if you do make some requests, please send us the records when you receive them? There’s nothing we like more than curling up with a hot mug of tea and hundreds of pages of FOI’d documents.


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  1. UBC Insiders is spot on about this and I really appreciate the in-depth coverage of the resignation story. We’ve been trying our best over at Workplace to cover this and gently mock the resolve of the institution to merely speculate.

    On FoI, yes submitted a request. But let’s not kid ourselves that this is an ‘ask and ye shall receive’ logic or prayer. I’ve been caught up in FoI requests on various other matters at UBC, sometimes for years on end with multiple requests to BC’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to put pressure on UBC to deliver. Often, one receives more redacted text than readable.

    So FoI has to work hand in hand with straight-forward requests to Offices within UBC and with requests that may dissipate into the blogosphere and sink into the twitter stream.

    Thanks again UBC Insiders!

    Posted by Stephen Petrina | September 11, 2015, 4:56 pm
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