Dean’s Message

Dean of Arts Gage Averill

Welcome to the Faculty of Arts at the University of British Columbia.

Arts is an incredibly lively and diverse Faculty. It includes:

  • 15 departments in the Humanities, Social Sciences, the Creative and Performing Arts, plus many exciting interdisciplinary programs.
  • Five schools—the Vancouver School of Economics, the iSchool@UBC: School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, Journalism, Music, and Social Work
  • Four institutes – the Institute of Asian Research, Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and the Liu Institute for Global Issues
  • Many arts and culture venues including one of the world’s great museums of world arts and cultures at the Museum of Anthropology; the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery; the AHVA Gallery at the Audain Art Centre; and five theatres and auditoriums that support our performing arts communities.

We’re located on traditional Musqueam territory, on the edge of the continent overlooking the Pacific Ocean, amidst forests and mountains, and in one of the world’s most livable and multicultural cities. We’re a Faculty of distinction and excellence, with many of our departments regarded as leaders in Canada and ranked in the top 20 or 30 in the world. We believe deeply in a commitment to both research and teaching.

Etched in concentric rings, in a ripple-like pattern, on the floor of the reflecting pool in one of our main outdoor student spaces—the Buchanan Courtyard—are great sayings from the history of humankind. We’ve taken that pattern and made it our logo, symbolizing the kind of effect that we hope all of our students will have on the world and the ways in which we believe they will make a difference in the world.

The Faculty of Arts engages in student-centred planning and has put in place a set of commitments that make the Faculty a unique home for study.

Key components include:

  • The Faculty of Arts aspires to be internationally recognized for innovative, student-focused pedagogical practices and transformative education. We will prepare creative, adaptable, research-informed, “life ready” students through flexible and personalized learning pathways. Each of our students will be exposed to enriched educational experiences.
  • To produce the best student experience, we will create a seamless advising and information system for students, help build small-scale student communities, foster a creative and healthy campus life, and provide support for student wellness and health.
  •  We are providing international experiences for all students who desire them, so that students understand the global dimensions to their areas of study.
  • We are expanding educational opportunities with and for Aboriginal peoples to increase understanding of Aboriginal cultures and histories and to supportively and respectfully engage with Aboriginal peoples.
  •  We are creating an aptitude for intercultural understanding amongst our students through study, reflection, debate, and action across cultural differences, and these aptitudes will serve our students well as they emerge as leaders in their chosen fields and their communities.
  • Our faculty and students research and debate the economic, social, and cultural footings for a sustainable society.

We are increasing the quality and impact of research and scholarship in Arts; building areas of research strength; and furthering the mobilization, transfer, exchange, and dissemination of our research to enhance the quality of life and human understanding.

An Arts education helps to foster critical thinking, communication, reasoning, and intellectual curiosity. We want our students to be aware individuals, capable of making sense of the world, and ready for a lifetime of learning.

We’re proud of our students, faculty, and staff—we believe that Arts is an inspiring community in which to live, work, and study.

-Gage Averill


Letter from the Dean re: free speech

A Message to UBC’s Faculty of Arts Community


Recently many members of the UBC community received material, distributed by a UBC student, related to free speech and academic freedom, referencing the Heterodox Academy; this material was distributed as an email and as flyers left in offices. The messages contain an invitation to report “truth or social justice type” issues [italicization mine] to the President, Santa Ono, and to the Senior Advisor on Academic Freedom, Neil Guppy.  Some colleagues have found the messaging to be disturbing, evoking memories of campuses with blacklists and a climate of intimidation.


Colleagues need to know that UBC works to promote an effective and open community for discussing complex, difficult, and contentious issues.  The student’s actions fall within free expression, but the invitation to report on what others are doing and saying could be interpreted as an effort to stifle the expression of ideas.


UBC’s commitment to academic freedom appears in both our Academic Calendar and in the Collective Agreement with members of faculty and librarians.  The full statement reads as follows:


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 seem to them fruitful avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion.  This freedom extends not only to the regular members of the University but to all who are invited to participate in its forum.  Suppression of this freedom, whether by institutions of the state, the officers of the University or the actions of private individuals, would prevent the University carrying out its primary functions.  All members of the University must recognize this fundamental principle and must share responsibility for supporting, safeguarding and preserving this central freedom.  Behaviour which obstructs free and full discussion, not only of ideas which are safe and accepted but of those which may be unpopular or even abhorrent, vitally threatens the integrity of the University’s forum.  Such behaviour cannot be tolerated. [Approved by Senate in December, 1976]


As the Dean of the Faculty of Arts I want all colleagues – faculty, staff, students, and visitors – to know that we fully support responsible, constructive debate and discussion.  Speaking out publicly and forcefully about important issues is imperative and colleagues should not feel intimidated in doing so.  The President has heard me on this, as has Professor Guppy.  They assure me that they will not be party to any campaigns to thwart free and open dialogue on campus.


Some of the messaging from this student, as quoted in a Ubyssey story and within the web links provided in the distributed material, targets specific groups of people and they may, understandably, feel threatened by this.  In a climate in which social divisiveness is on the rise, the University will not tolerate threats to safety and security.  Should any member of this community experience such threats, I encourage you to alert Campus Security and the RCMP.




Gage Averill

Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UBC – Vancouver



Professor Santa J. Ono, Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Neil Guppy, Senior Advisor to the Provosts, Academic Freedom

UBC Vice-Presidents

UBC-Vancouver Deans


[posted: August 21, 2017]


ARTS AND MINDS – A blog by Dean Averill