The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the UBC faculty association are calling for Chair of Board of Governors of the University British Columbia John Montalbano to step down over accusations that he interfered with the academic freedom of a faculty member. Montalbano is alleged to have criticized Jennifer Berdahl, Professor of Leadership Studies in Gender and Diversity at the Sauder School of Business, over a blog post she wrote on the sudden resignation of UBC President Arvind Gupta.
Berdahl suggested that Gupta had “lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC, as most women and minorities do at institutions dominated by white men.” In an email to Berdahl, Montalbano said that the post had “harmed the reputation of the Board, raised questions about her academic credibility, and jeopardized her funding from the Royal Bank of Canada.” Montalbano is vice-chairman of RBC Wealth Management, and he funded the professorship now held by Berdahl.
“In contacting Professor Berdahl to discuss her posting, Mr. Montalbano certainly displayed poor judgement, but he may have also crossed the line on academic freedom,” said Daniel Robinson, Executive Director of CAUT. “If the allegations against him are true, they raise serious questions about his suitability to continue as Board Chair of a university.”
The UBC Faculty Association also sent a letter to UBC’s Acting President, Angela Redish, calling for Montalbano’s immediate resignation. The UBCFA has been a leading voice seeking an explanation for Gupta’s departure.
UBC has initiated an investigation of the Montalbano allegations. CAUT has said that Montalbano should step aside while the investigation is underway.