UBC statement: "Serious" allegations of breaches of academic freedom to be investigated

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      UBC provost pro tem Angela Redish and interim president Martha Piper issued the following statement today (August 17) in response to a blog post by Prof. Jennifer Berdahl:

      The allegations of breaches of academic freedom in a recent blog post are serious and UBC has the processes to appropriately address such allegations.

      Universities serve society but are also established to question society and academic freedom is the bedrock on which a university exists. The role of critic can only be accomplished in an environment that is free from administrative, political or religious constraint.

      The collective agreement confirms that members of the University have the freedom, within the law, to pursue what seems to them be fruitful avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints. Suppression of this freedom, whether by the institutions of the state, the officers of the University or the actions of private individuals, would prevent the University from carrying out is primary function.

      All members of the UBC community recognize and value this fundamental principle, and must share responsibility for supporting, safeguarding and preserving it. Academic freedom is balanced by the scholar’s commitment to academic integrity that requires intellectual honesty and objectivity, unfettered by personal gain or financial or political considerations.

      The principles of fairness and due process are also fundamental to the UBC community, and we must respect the law to ensure all members of the university community are enabled to contribute fully to their endeavours. As such, UBC has rigorous processes in place – established with the agreement of the Faculty Association – to investigate any allegation of breach of academic freedom. It is imperative that we follow this impartial process embedded within and protected by the collective agreement before pre-judging unproven and untested allegations at this time.

      The facts will be gathered and all parties will be heard before reaching any conclusion. We welcome this process and it would be entirely inappropriate to comment further on the allegations until this process has been concluded.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      Fire The Board Chair

      Aug 17, 2015 at 4:08pm

      Fire the Board Chair for his...;

      1. replaceable comment of University Presidents,

      2. his calling a tenured Professor to lecture her about her blog (only an idiot would do that),

      3. for his perceived power trip because he is a Donor for that Chairmanship

      * UBC gets most of it's funding via Government both Federal & Provincial don't need a big headed Chairman who puts his foot in his mouth *

      But I expect this won't lead to that. Waiting and watching as the rest of the Public.

      both sides of mouth

      Aug 17, 2015 at 4:39pm

      The role of critic can only be accomplished in an environment that is free from administrative, political or religious constraint....
      it would be entirely inappropriate to comment further on the allegations until this process has been concluded.

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      Disgusted

      Aug 17, 2015 at 9:12pm

      This is going nuclear.

      I read her piece, didn't agree with it---but she stated clearly it was only supposition.

      This is clearly a witch hunt, now. Just like in any big, machiavellian organization.

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      Disgusted

      Aug 17, 2015 at 9:31pm

      Hey, hey!
      Ho, ho!

      Montalbano has to go!

      Hey, hey!
      Ho, ho (repeat)

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      only moi

      Aug 18, 2015 at 10:25am

      I'll start off by saying that I've no love for UBC.

      I'm genuinely surprised by how many people are supportive of Berdahl stupid and ill-advised comments, which have only served to muddy the waters further. Her throwing around unfounded accusations of racism and sexism on a blog was inflammatory and will likelywean we'll never get the truth. And blog posts don't exactly seem like academic work to me. So why all the noise about 'academic freedom'? She shot her mouth off by making unfounded allegations, got several important facts wrong, and ran to the media with it when she was called to account. Like it or not (and I don't) Berdahl's job is part-funded by a bank in a department that bears an oligarch's name. She obviously forgot that.

      If what Berdahl did is considered academic work, then it's high time for academia to take a long hard look at itself.

      From where I'm standing, this is about some rich, privileged people arguing with other rich, privileged people and no-one comes out looking good because it looks so petty to the rest of us. We live in a very odd world where people who earn six-figure salaries are considered 'oppressed' by other people who earn six-figure salaries.

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      Is it a witch hunt?

      Aug 18, 2015 at 1:54pm

      The media is only reporting one side of the story, and not asking very specific questions. Did Berdahl follow the mechanisms in place at UBC regarding academic freedom first, or did she go immediately to the media with her feelings? Also, how many times has she talked with Montalbalno in the past? Given that he funds her position, was there already a relationship established from previous conversations? I don't think it's right if he phoned her out of the blue to raise his concerns, but if they already knew each other, it has a bearing on how this matter is approached.

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      Professor UBC

      Aug 18, 2015 at 10:24pm

      Any intimidation of a faculty member or breach of academic freedom must be taken seriously. I have lost faith in the Chair and the Board for sticking with him. The time is now to resign. The Board must give the public some rationale for its decision-making in this case.

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