CUFA BC Calls on UBC and Ministry of Advanced Education to Respond to Report

Created 16 October 2015 12:10

(Vancouver – October 15, 2015) The Confederation of University Faculty Association of British Columbia (CUFA BC) calls on the University of British Columbia and the Ministry of Advanced Education to respond to today’s report from the Honourable Lynn Smith Q.C.

The report details numerous failures by the University of British Columbia to protect the academic freedom of Jennifer Berdahl, Professor of Leadership Studies in Gender and Diversity at the Sauder School of Business. Smith found that several senior leaders at UBC interfered with Berdhal’s academic freedom and that the University of British Columbia did not live up to its “obligation to protect academic freedom.”

“The report outlines a systemic failure to prioritize the academic freedom of Dr. Berdahl and uphold the values of free and unfettered academic inquiry. The University must commit to ensuring that this never happens again ” said Michael Conlon, Executive Director of CUFA BC.

Today’s report by Smith lays out the chronology of events and concludes that Montalbano’s actions in the case were “unprecedented and unwise.” Smith was retained by agreement of UBC and the Faculty Association to investigate claims that academic freedom was breached by UBC Board Chair John Montablano when he called Dr. Berdahl to complain about her blog posting discussing the abrupt departure of former UBC President Arvind Gupta.

Montalbano, who funded the very position of Professor of Leadership Studies in Gender and Diversity at the Sauder School of Business held by Berdahl, has resigned his position on the UBC Board in the wake of the report.

“It is appropriate that Montalbano has resigned from the UBC Board but today’s report also points to a larger failure of governance at our institutions and calls for an examination of Board structures to ensure they reflect and serve the communities they represent” said Conlon.

British Columbia, unlike most other provinces, has a majority of political appointees to the Board of Governors of its institutions. In its recent submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance, CUFA BC notes that the province now contributes less than 50% of the funding for our member institutions and should reform the current Board appointment structure to reflect that reality.

“The Government of British Columbia needs to use this regrettable episode as a wakeup call to start a meaningful dialogue with CUFA BC and our member institutions on the issue of Board governance and the autonomy of BC’s research universities” concluded Conlon.

Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson has rebuffed invitations for a meeting with both the UBC Faculty Association and CUFA BC.

For further information contact: Michael Conlon, Executive Director, 604-646-4677 (o), 778-994-2616 (c). The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia represents over 5,400 professors, lecturers, instructors, and librarians at the five research intensive universities in British Columbia.