The Canadian Association of University Teachers is calling for John Montalbano to "step aside" as UBC board of governors chair while the university investigates allegations that he violated the academic freedom of a professor.
A day ago, Montalbano vowed to stay on as UBC chair. He also denied that he breached the academic freedom of Jennifer Berdahl, the Montalbano professor of leadership studies in gender and diversity at UBC's Sauder School of Business, who has claimed she felt "institutional pressure to be silent" after writing a blog post about the resignation of Arvind Gupta as UBC president.
“In contacting Professor Berdahl to discuss her posting, Mr. Montalbano certainly displayed poor judgement, but he may have also crossed the line on academic freedom,” CAUT executive director David Robinson said in a news release today (August 19). “If the allegations against him are true, they raise serious questions about his suitability to continue as Board Chair of a university.”
Meanwhile, the UBC Faculty Association is asking for the immediate resignation of Montalbano as UBC chair.
"He has shown an inability to allow proper procedures to proceed and has used his office as Chair of the Board to engage personally and publicly with the issues under investigation. This behaviour is ill judged and threatens the integrity of ongoing processes," Mark MacLean, president of the faculty association, stated in a letter today.
"We did not take this decision to request Mr. Montalbano’s resignation lightly. His handling of Professor Gupta’s resignation and his mismanagement of subsequent events are now compounded by breaches of standard protocols, and lead us to believe that his resignation will be in the best interests of the University and the public."
On August 18, Montalbano asserted in a statement that he and UBC are committed to academic freedom.
"At its August 17, 2015 Board meeting, the Board of Governors reaffirmed their confidence in me as Chair, which I respect and appreciate. It is an honour to volunteer my time as Chair and I will continue to serve," Montalbano said.
In the CAUT release, Robinson explained the importance of academic freedom.
“Academic freedom is the right of faculty to teach, research, and publish without reprisal or censorship,” Robinson stated. “It is the defining value of universities and everyone has an absolute obligation to defend and protect it.”