Ex-president of BCIT paid $400,000 in severance

By Stanley Tromp, Globe and Mail. Aug. 3, 2077



Tony Knowles, the former president of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, was paid a severance of $397,568 when he resigned last May, ending a stormy term.

The settlement also released and indemnified Dr. Knowles from any legal action arising from his BCIT employment, and, in turn, he gave the same release to BCIT.

Details of his settlement were obtained through a freedom-of-information request after BCIT refused to release it.

Dr. Knowles's appointment began in 2000 and was due to end in June, 2009. He announced on May 17 that he was stepping down "to pursue other interests and spend more time with family and friends."

In 2005-06, Dr. Knowles earned $248,642 with $21,049 in expenses.

During his term, the amount BCIT spent on legal fees climbed from a low of $278,176 in 2000-01, his first year in office, to $979,495 in 2006-07, - a grand total of $4.38-million. The forestry industry also deplored BCIT's termination of its forestry program.

A report on BCIT from summer, 2006, by external consultant Mel Weinstein said, "There have been precipitous departures over the past few years, primarily of managers: There is a climate of uncertainty, especially among associate deans."

Staffers' estimates of the numbers of senior managers who left BCIT in those years varies from 40 to 70. BCIT records say that there were 38 severance agreements made from April, 2001, to March, 2006. The figures for 2006-07 have not yet been published, but the BCIT freedom-of-information office says it expects there will be five severances.

The Globe and Mail also obtained an internal BCIT employee opinion survey of 145 people completed in April, 2007.

In a chapter on BCIT's "culture," 48 respondents voiced pride and happiness in their jobs, while "30 comments talked about high levels of workload and the accompanying effects, e.g., burnout and stress; 24 comments expressed concern regarding the termination of employees, usually managers, with little understanding by others for the rationale. A further 20 comments described an environment characterized by mistrust of management, fear of penalty for unsuccessful innovation, and safety though silence."

Verna Magee-Shepherd is acting as BCIT president until a new one is appointed.