Prof describes how UBC officials expressed displeasure over blog post about Arvind Gupta losing masculinity contest

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      A Sauder School of Business faculty member has claimed that she felt "institutional pressure to be silent" after writing a blog post about the resignation of UBC president Arvind Gupta.

      In her initial blog post, Jennifer Berdahl wrote that she believed Gupta had "lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC, as most women and minorities do at institutions dominated by white men".

      In a subsequent blog post on Sunday (August 16), Berdahl revealed that in the aftermath, several senior UBC officials, including the chair of UBC's board of governors, contacted her to express their displeasure. 

      "As someone whose first faculty appointment was where the free speech movement began—the University of California, Berkeley—I am simply stunned by this behavior on the part of the leadership at this university," Berdahl wrote. "I have never felt more gagged or threatened after expressing scholarly viewpoints and analysis of current events."  

      Berdahl researches gender and diversity in organizations, power and status in groups, and harassment.

      Formerly with the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, Berdahl was brought to UBC in 2014 the Montalbano Professor in Leadership Studies: Gender and Diversity.

      In her August 16 post, she noted that the chair of UBC's board of governors, John Montalbano, funded her professorship and is on the faculty advisory board of the Sauder School of Business.

      She stated that Montalbano called her to complain that the first blog post was "incredibly hurtful, inaccurate, and greatly unfair to the Board" and was "greatly and grossly embarrassing to the Board".

      "He said my post would cause others to question my academic credibility," Berdahl continued. "He repeatedly mentioned having conversations with my Dean about it. He also repeatedly brought up RBC, which funds my outreach activities, to say that people there were on 'damage control' should the media pick up on this."

      Berdahl stated that she told Montalbano that she had never intended to embarrass him, noting that the answer might be "no" to the question she raised in her initial blog post: did Arvind Gupta lose the masculinity contest?

      She also revealed in her August 16 post that her division chair informed her that her associate dean of faculty wanted to speak to her.

      "She said Mr. Montalbano would be calling and that the dean’s office had received communications from a variety of people concerned about my blog post," Berdahl wrote. "She advised me to call Sauder’s Associate Director of Communications & Media Relations to get advice about how to handle media inquiries." 

      In addition, Berdahl claimed that at a reception, the associate dean of equity and diversity brought her into a room with the division chair.

      "They proceeded to tell me that my blog post had done serious reputational damage to Sauder and to UBC, and that I had deeply upset one of the most powerful donors to the School who also happened to be the Chair of the Board of Governors," Berdahl wrote. "They said they had heard he was even more upset after talking to me on the phone that day."

      Berdahl stated that she was "instructed to call Sauder's Associate Director of Communications & Media Relations to get advice on how to handle likely media inquiries in the morning, and to 'minimize' my engagement and the impact of my blog post".

      "At this point I realized that the purpose of this conversation was not just to scold me but to discourage me from speaking further," she wrote.

      Next, Berdahl stated that she received a request to meet alone with the dean.

      "When I informed my Dean that I would be bringing representation, he cancelled the meeting," she claimed on her blog.

      Because Berdahl is a full professor, she stated that she can't be fired for exercising her "right to academic freedom and expression, free of intimidation and harassment".

      In the first paragraph, she noted that all 11 UBC deans "at its Vancouver campus" are white and that 10 are male. (In fact, Rickey Yada, who's of Japanese descent, is dean of the faculty of land and food systems; Catherine Dauvergne is dean of law and Susan Porter is vice-provost and dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies.)

      "As someone who studies a controversial subject, it is inevitable that some of the things I have to say will upset some people, perhaps especially those who have risen to power in current systems," Berdahl wrote.



      Check Your Facts

      Aug 17, 2015 at 10:19am

      There are 12 deans. Catherine Dauverne in Law and Susan Porter in Graduate Studies are both female. Ricky Yada in Land and Food Systems is Japanese-Canadian. One of the deans is gay. Three of the five Vice Presidents are women, one of whom is also a lesbian.

      If you're going to claim diversity is an issue, you really should do a better job of fact checking.


      Aug 17, 2015 at 10:26am

      Agree 100% with Berdahl.

      Also UBC has a serious Deficit of about $400+ Million. The UBC Board is responsible for this.

      The firings and/or redundancies of VP's, middle management and other staff recently under Gupta's watch but not his fault he inherited this mess.


      The firings and redundancies are to reduce the Debt burden and get the Deficit down.

      Those being fired the very mostly white faculty & privileged staff kept running to the Board which was forced to become more engaged.

      UBC Board had to do a bit of Work over Spring Break & Summer gasp shock horror.

      Here the Board has to interrupt their holier than thou Spring & Summer breaks & gasp actually do a little real work, dealing with some firings and complaints from people losing their kushy overpaid jobs at UBC.

      The Board getting more involved in the daily operations when they expect to collect their checks and not have to do that type of work which is beneath them in their little minds.

      The Board and Chair than gave Gupta his walking papers via a negotiated settlement allowing him to come back as a Prof in 2016 all very nice.

      The Debt / Deficit cutting of staff the Board knew that it would blow back so they needed a convenient fall guy, what better than a nice Brown guy to take the fall as President for their mess accumulated over the last decade.

      Deficit Cutting mandated by the Board and the Fall Guy Gupta.

      "Disposable as Swift Duster Presidents" UBC Chair, Sacrificial Lamb = Gupta.

      The Board gets to deflect blame offer the sacrificial lamb in this case Gupta and continue on Deficit cutting via chopping payroll making staff redundant while keeping their nice gold plated pay checks, expenses and pensions.

      Thus the Disposable statement by the Board Chair & Gupta "quitting".

      My Recommendations.

      Fire the entire Board and Chair, start fresh.

      UBC Deficit and Financial position by Standards & Poors Analysts sourced here via UBC Treasury website circa 2014...

      UBC Professor

      Aug 17, 2015 at 10:58am

      To Check Your Facts, I am very impressed with your inside knowledge of sexual orientation of UBC administrators - is this something they post on their webpages?

      @UBC Professor

      Aug 17, 2015 at 11:15am

      Both have spoken openly of their sexual orientation - it's hardly a secret.

      Poor Choice

      Aug 17, 2015 at 12:06pm

      I assume then that Martha Piper's successful tenure as President was totally due to her being white? I don't believe for a second her feigned surprise that her employers would be upset after being accused of racism and sexism. If she was really concerned why didn't she go through other channels instead of spouting tabloid-tinged allegations in a blog? She sounds like she's looking for fame.

      Good Old UBC

      Aug 17, 2015 at 12:13pm

      I'd use my real name, but the level of vindictiveness at UBC makes that impossible.

      When I was a UBC doing a PhD, the Department had graduate students soliciting corporate investment for their projects without going through Research Services, and the Department was signing confindentiality agreements with the corporate investors, also without telling Research Services.

      I felt that the undergraduates volunteering for these corporate projects (where there was danger of injury) might encounter liability issues without Research Services being involved. I didn't go public, but I brought it up with the head of Dept., the Associate Dean and the Academic Provost.

      I was shunned by every faculty member in the Department. My advisor asked to see me. He explained, "We've had a departmental meeting. I'm afraid we've decided that we do not have the expertise to strike a committee to hear your dissertation."


      Academic Freedom

      Aug 17, 2015 at 12:39pm

      Academic freedom is a rare gift that enables tenured professors the ability to speak truth to power. I fully support Jennifer Berdahl being able to use academic freedom, but she has abused it by stating inaccuracies in a bid to stir-up the diversity issue. If she got her facts wrong - shame on her for either being too lazy to do the research, or for intentionally being misleading. Great example she's setting for her students.

      the answer might be no?

      Aug 17, 2015 at 12:43pm

      What a load of baloney...

      Lots of Deers in the headlights?

      Aug 17, 2015 at 1:06pm

      It's obviously wrong in a university environment for a person like Montalbano who is Chair of the BOG to call to complain about Jennifer Berdahl 's blog post, as it gives the clear impression he seems to think that since he donated a few million to the Sauder Business school to pay her salary that he can influence what she writes and pressure her to be kindly to the BOG. Let's see the donor contract for the chair position --did he fund it in full? Did UBC allow the donor special privileges? Did the contract explicitly reaffirm academic freedom to comment? Sure, Montalbano can disagree with her blog post--why doesn't he write an open letter to address these speculations instead of this "backdoor diplomacy" ; the "diplomacy" of the Sauder Deans is pathetic and worrisome to say the least; on the other hand, Professor Berdahl accepted a donor chair not a taxpayer one--did she do due diligence in understanding what was expected of her? I wouldn't assume it's a given that donor chairs are in reality on the same level as a taxpayer funded chair. Clearly, the BOG chair doesn't think so. And the absence of public comment from the faculty and student elected reps on the BOG would seem to make them also exposed to the current ridicule. The irony is that Sauder is aware of their own gender and diversity problems; brings a professor in to discuss them, and doesn't like it when the research/opinion is trained on them! You couldn't make this stuff up.

      Innocent Moose

      Aug 17, 2015 at 1:35pm

      It's kind of interesting that her reporting of what they did in it's aftermath will be far more embarrassing to them than her original post