Alma Mater Society not calling for resignation of UBC chair John Montalbano

UBC Vancouver student union declares "institutional stability to be paramount"

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      Earlier this week, the UBC Faculty Association let it be known it has lost confidence in UBC board of governors chair John Montalbano and called for his immediate resignation.

      But the unprecedented faculty revolt at the University of British Columbia in the wake of the mysterious departure of president Arvind Gupta hasn't won the backing of the student union at the Vancouver campus.

      Aaron Bailey, president of the Alma Mater Society, issued a statement today (August 21) declining to add the organization's voice to those want Montalbano out.

      The statement reads:

      With the controversy surrounding Arvind Gupta’s resignation, the AMS expresses concerns regarding recent speculation by the media and the UBC Faculty Association.

      As students of UBC, we are most attentive to the stability of our university and the effective function of institutional governance structures as we enter into our centennial year and a new era of UBC.

      As elected student leaders on campus, we would like to state the following position on recent events:

      1. Considering institutional stability to be paramount, we do not currently call for the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Governors during this turbulent time due to a lack of public information.
      2. We demand a fair, unbiased, transparent, and independent investigation into allegations of infringement upon academic freedom, and encourage that public judgement await the release of the findings.
      3. As the body elected to represent UBC students, we call on the media and members of the university to avoid speaking on behalf of the student community in regards to academics and the student experience.
      4. Lastly, we are dedicated to ensuring that the Board of Governors is held accountable to the students whom they serve, and will continue to work towards improved transparency and representation of the student voice.

      We reiterate our gratitude to Arvind Gupta for his service to UBC, and look forward to engaging with Dr. Piper on student issues in the coming months. As always, you can reach me in my office, at, or join me in the Pit for a pint on Friday afternoons.

      The AMS statement came two days after the Canadian Association of University Teachers called for Montalbano to "step aside" as UBC chair while the university investigates allegations that he violated the academic freedom of a professor.

      A day earlier, Montalbano vowed to stay on as 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.

      "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 a statement on August 18.

      Berdahl has claimed she felt "institutional pressure to be silent" after writing a blog post about the resignation of Gupta as UBC president.

      In an August 19 letter, Mark MacLean, president of the UBC Faculty Association, asserted that Montalbano's resignation would be in the "best interests of the University and the public".

      "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," MacLean stated.

      On August 17, UBC provost pro tem Angela Redish and incoming interim president Martha Piper announced the investigation into alleged breaches of Berdahl's academic freedom.

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

      In an August 19 news release, CAUT executive director David 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.”

      Meanwhile, the Graduate Student Society at UBC Vancouver asked its members on Twitter today for input on its pending response to the UBC board's handling of the "change of leadership".




      Aug 21, 2015 at 12:00pm

      If this is a statement of the President, why does he keep saying 'we'? Is this the royal we?

      poat flane

      Aug 21, 2015 at 12:16pm

      finally some grown-up and balanced commentary on this issue. this is a university not a whelk stall. get on with it.

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      Aug 21, 2015 at 1:05pm

      The AMS taking a more measured view than the FA: that tells us something important.

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      AMS related person

      Aug 21, 2015 at 1:20pm

      Hey! The President says "we" because the spirit of the statement (aka the general principle of the 4 stances) were also signed off by the entire Board of Director of the Student Government (42 individuals, all of whom are students.)

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      @AMS related person

      Aug 21, 2015 at 2:01pm

      It's really easy to do that sort of thing when you're forced to join as a condition of being a student---sort of tangential, but the AMS doesn't represent me; I haven't pushed the issue because higher-ups have told me that they won't let students resign without forcing the issue in Court, and I don't have the war chest that the AMS does, from drafting students and forcing them to pay through the nose for decades.

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      Aug 21, 2015 at 3:52pm

      Standing up to a witch hunt is always commendable.
      Spurious accusations should never be taken as facts.

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      Well Done!

      Aug 21, 2015 at 6:56pm

      Good for the AMS for being sensible. The student society representing graduate students will hopefully follow suit.

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      So disappointed

      Aug 21, 2015 at 10:37pm

      Students in the past would have stood up to the board and asked why the president so abruptly resigned, demanded answers, accountability and the reinstatement of the president to put pressure on the administration to act swiftly.

      The issue isn't academic freedom but how a board with no experience in education or research making decisions about the direction of the university.

      If there was a clash between the president and the BofG as only can only imagine there must have been then do we want to follow the president or a money manager? And do I wanted the AMS deciding for me? Absolutely not.

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      UBC Alum

      Aug 22, 2015 at 10:41am

      The AMS has become quite lame. The 'stability' argument was the same line of thought that Chretien presented to defend Suharto's appearance at UBC years ago. UBC students didn't believe it then and shouldn't believe it now.

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      @UBC Alum

      Aug 22, 2015 at 12:27pm

      Agreed. This is why I would resign and not give them one cent of my money; they're not a union that defends student interest, they're a bunch of keeners padding their resumes.

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