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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2015

UBC launches academic freedom investigation

The University of British Columbia administration has launched a fact-finding investigation into whether professor Jennifer Berdahl’s academic freedom was violated.

Former UBC law faculty dean and retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith will lead the inquiry into the case that made headlines across the country in August.

“Academic freedom must include the right to criticize the institution, and freedom from institutional censorship or interference,” said David Robinson, executive director of CAUT.

Berdahl alleges her academic freedom was violated after she posted a blog entry that discussed the departure of former UBC president Arvind Gupta.

She said John Montalbano, chair of UBC’s board of governors, contacted her and suggested her blog post harmed the reputation of the board, raised questions about her academic credibility, and jeopardized her funding from the Royal Bank of Canada.

Montalbano is vice-chairman of RBC Wealth Management. In 2014 he and his wife established the Montalbano Professor of Leadership Studies: Gender and Diversity position held by Berdahl.

Following intervention from CAUT and the UBC Faculty Association, Montalbano has vacated his position as UBC board chair for the duration of the investigation.