Last month, The Runner received an anonymous letter containing two emails allegedly sent from Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis, informing recipients of the departure of KPU provost and VP academic Sandy Vanderburgh, and associate VP academic and former dean of health David Florkowski.
The emails, which were sent on Oct. 1, stated that both of the former administrators would no longer be serving the school “effective immediately” and thanked them for their service. Vanderburgh started in his position at the university in 2019, while Florkowski began at KPU in 2017 as the dean of the Faculty of Health, and was elected to the VP position last year.
According to KPU senate membership documents, Vanderburgh was meant to stay in the position until at least 2024 and Florkowski until August 2023.
The provost and VP academic and associate VPA responsibilities are managing the university’s learning experiences for students and ensuring the integrity of academic affairs through collaboration with other faculty, deans, vice presidents, and the senate at KPU.
Florkowski was also a part of KPU’s COVID-19 Action Team, which was responsible for creating plans to ensure the school could continue operating through the pandemic.
In an email sent to The Runner on Oct. 26, Vanderburgh indicated that he signed a release letter from KPU which prevents him from speaking publicly about the departure. Florkowski has so far declined to comment on his departure from the university, but told The Runner he has been speaking to a lawyer about the situation.
On Oct. 27, when Florkowski was asked when he would be available to speak about his departure, he said, “Not sure, as my lawyer and I are chatting about next steps this week.”
“I can say that I know that I was not involved in any wrongdoing,” says Vanderburgh, who confirmed that his last day at the university was Oct. 1.
Diane Purvey, former dean of the arts, has since taken over as provost and VP academic, and Gregory Millard will take over as the new temporary dean, according to KPU.
The anonymous letter sent to The Runner said Purvey has been in the new position since Oct. 1 and that “an announcement of an appointment of an interim VP Academic will follow shortly” regarding Florkowski’s position.
According to KPU’s university executive page, senate vice-chair David Burns has taken over Florkowski’s position temporarily.
KPU declined to answer questions about Vanderburgh and Florkowski’s abrupt departure and on Purvey’s new position. The university also did not respond to requests for comment to confirm if President Alan Davis sent the emails on Oct. 1.
“For privacy reasons, KPU cannot comment further,” wrote a KPU staff member in an email response to The Runner on Oct. 25. “Dr. Purvey feels it’s too early to talk about her new position,” they added in a follow-up sent on Oct. 28.
John O’Brian, the advocacy coordinator for the Kwantlen Student Association, says Vanderburgh and Florkowski’s departure is concerning.
“It implies that maybe there’s something that could have been disclosed,” says O’Brian. “It leaves you to speculate, and that’s probably the worst place for the university community.”
O’Brian says that KPU’s decision not to communicate with students about the reasons surrounding Vanderburgh and Florkowski’s departure can lead to confusion and a lack of confidence in the university.
“The particular positions that we’re talking about [are] ones that, in general, are ultimately very important to the university,” says O’Brian.
“And if there’s anything wrong there, which it sounds like there might be, that raises a question about the wisdom and safety of the university’s COVID response. I’m worried about student safety and about the academic mission of the university.”
O’Brian says the KSA is currently in the process of reaching out to KPU about Vanderburgh and Florowski’s departure to find out more information.
“It’s always concerning when there’s a lot of turnover in the university administration,” said O’Brian in a follow-up email to The Runner. “Transparency and communication is always important in a university, especially during a prolonged crisis where lives are still on the line and the future is very uncertain.”