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.