UBC Update for August 19
by Adam Goodwin | 2015 | Last Updated: August 19, 2015
Earlier Blog Post
This is a link to an earlier blog post I wrote on August 17, 2015 about the current issues at UBC, with a focus on key people and events (see here).
Some of my Thoughts
In the August 17 post I suggested that I would not comment until I knew more. Since following the series of events, I have tried to inform myself about some of the issues. Below, I try to outline some of these concerns based on specific events, and then the situation as a whole.
Global TV Interview on August 18, 2015
On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, UBC’s Board of Governors Chair, John Montalbano, conducted an interview with Global TV (interview here). Here are some specific issues with the interview (times are from the extended interview):
- 2:46 – Mont. found comments personally hurtful in a blog post by UBC Professor, Jennifer Berdahl (blog post here). This is good that he has feelings – all humans do! However, this is not the first blog post ever written about the issues at UBC. This does not explain why Mont. decided that this would be the blog post he would actually contact the author about after there have been many prior letters. Major issue: Why did Berdahl’s blog set off Mont.? Why had he not contacted other authors with less than positive viewpoints about UBC administrators (e.g., UBC Insiders)?
- 2:54 – Mont. reminds everyone that he is a large donor to UBC. Major issue: The interview was meant to be conducted by the Chair of BOG, not Mont., in his personal capacity. Therefore why is he mentioning personal fluff during the interview? Has he confused his chair role from his personal life?
- 5:07 – Mont. says that rather than go to the school and complain about Berdahl’s blog post, he decided to call her. However, he says he called her in his capacity as Chair of BOG (Board of Governors) because he was worried about the reputation of the university. Therefore he did not call her in a personal capacity (e.g., friend of colleague). Major issue: Why was he going to UBC/Sauder? This basically suggests he would go to them to complain so they could make her take down the blog post, or get her in trouble, or? This comment was a slip up by him, and shows that he was prepared to get the troops together.
- 5:38 – Mont. recalls very specific parts of the conversation between himself and Berdahl. However, at 7:13, he suddenly is vague about specific details of the conversation (“I probably asked her 2 or 3 times”). Major issue: Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he slipped up, but to make concrete claims about specific parts of some of the conversation, then to forget other parts seems a bit mysterious… Psychologists? Help?
- 6:08 – Mont. begins saying that Berdahl ended the telephone call with (paraphrase): asking her to take the post down or a retraction, taking away her funding (Mont. funds the Professorship Berdahl currently holds), or direct her research. Major issue: Just because Mont. never said that he would do any of these three things does not mean her academic freedom was not breached. If Berdahl felt intimidated from the phone call because of the conservation, it doesn’t matter what was actually said or not said during the conversation. As soon as Mont. dialed Berdahl’s phone number to discuss a public statement, he breached her freedom. Furthermore, the fact that the purpose of this phone call was because he felt she harmed the reputation of UBC, is a breach of her academic freedom. Academic freedom means she can suggest reasonable theories/findings/arguments without the fear of retribution from her university. Mont. already gave the public the evidence it needs – the call was to discuss how she harmed him (the BOG Chair) and the university.
- 10:10 – Mont. explains that although the UBC Faculty Association has lost faith in him (its letter), the BOG members are still standing by him. 13:00 – this is touched upon again during the conversation. Major issue: The board is self-serving. This is fine, but UBC has typically taken a very collaborative and open approach to decision making. Is this about to change if the Board doesn’t care about what members of the UBC community say?
- 10:20 – Mont. explains that the BOG is made up of elected faculty, staff, and students. He then goes on to explain the remaining members are all members of the private sector. Major issue: The way UBC has approached the situation is very corporate-like, and not based in the educational values of being collegial and fostering a community of diverse individuals working together in the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
- 10:59 – Let’s all hold hands, and move forward, and forget this ever happened. Major issue: Trying to say, without saying, that there have been mistakes made but let’s all forget this and not get anyone fired… If Mont. still thinks the issues are about Gupta, he is misguided.