UBC Board chair steps aside amidst ongoing controversy

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On Tuesday, August 25, 2015, Chair of the UBC Board of Governors voluntarily “stepped aside” while the university investigated claims that he had violated the academic freedom of a professor. It is alleged that Montalbano intimidated Prof. Jennifer Berdahl in a phone call, after Berdahl made critical comments about the sudden resignation of UBC President Arvind Gupta. As well as being the Chair of the Board of Governors, Montalbano also funded the position that Berdahl currently occupies.

Both the UBC Faculty Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) had called for Montalbano to step aside. The Board of Governors have appointed Lynn Smith, former UBC Law School dean and a former BC Superior Court Justice, to conduct a “fact-finding” mission about the allegations. According to her terms of reference, Smith cannot recommend any actions or remedies based on her findings.

The Globe and Mail has published an in-depth account of the events leading up to Arvind Gupta’s resignation.  While the exact reasons for Gupta’s departure are protected by non-disclosure agreements, the Globe article does a good job exploring several potential causes, including conflicts with the Board and privileging the perspectives of faculty over those of senior administrators.

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