The Chair of the University of British Columbia’s Board of Governors has temporarily stepped down pending the findings of an investigation on whether he infringed on a professor’s academic freedom.
A statement released by the Board on Tuesday night indicated John Montalbano will step down as Chair and Vice-Chair Alice Laberge will assume his duties while the school administration continues its ‘fact finding mission’. Montalbano will continue to be a member of the Board of Governors during the investigation.
“Mr. Montalbano intends to fully participate in the process that will be undertaken by the Honourable Lynn Smith, Q.C. and wants to ensure the integrity of the process is not hindered by his performing the duties of Chair,” reads the Board’s statement.
Earlier this month, UBC Sauder School of Business professor Jennifer Berdahl alleged Montalbano had threatened her after she wrote a blog post on UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Arvind Gupta’s sudden resignation. The post suggested that Gupta had lost a “masculinity contest” with the leadership of the institution.
Montalbano denies any allegations of wrongdoing, although he admits that he contacted Berdahl about the post to hear her concerns.
“I’m deeply concerned with the way in which my interaction with Professor Jennifer Berdahl about her recent blog post (August 8, 2015) has been portrayed,” Montalbano wrote in response to the controversy. “My intention in contacting Professor Berdahl, who has been a trusted colleague for two years and with whom I have regular contact, was to discuss her blog post and to further understand the professor’s concerns.”
“I asked the professor if she would be comfortable with discussing the blog and, in particular, I asked if she thought the discussion would in any way compromise her academic freedom. I asked her to stop me at any time if she felt uncomfortable. She agreed to the call and said that she welcomed the discussion and would not see it as affecting her academic freedom.”
There have been demand for Montalbano’s resignation by the UBC Faculty Association. A total of 21 members are in the Board of Governors, with 11 appointed by the provincial government. The remaining seats are elected by faculty, students and staff.
UBC Board Chair