The University of British Columbia released today the summary of the fact-finding process and conclusions reached by Hon. Lynn Smith, QC. UBC accepts and will be guided by these findings.
The terms of reference for the fact-finding process, which were signed by the university and the Faculty Association, guided Smith’s impartial investigation of the following matter:
Whether John S. Montalbano, Chair of the Board of Governors, and/or individuals in the Sauder School of Business identified by the Faculty Association, conducted themselves in the events following Professor Jennifer Berdahl’s publication of her blog on August 8, 2015 in a manner that violated any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any applicable university policies including whether her academic freedom is or was interfered with in any way.
Smith concluded that:
- UBC failed in its obligation to protect and support Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. The Collective Agreement Preamble creates a positive obligation to support and protect academic freedom. Through the combined acts and omissions of Mr. Montalbano, the named individuals in the Sauder School, and others, UBC as an institution failed to meet that obligation with respect to Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom.
- Montalbano, on his own, did not infringe any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any of the applicable university policies.
- No individuals in the Sauder School of Business identified by the Faculty Association, on his or her own, infringed any provision of the Collective Agreement, the UBC Statement on Respectful Environment, or any of the applicable university policies.
UBC will be guided by these conclusions and will take the following actions:
- Hire a specialist who will proactively work with faculty, staff, and governors to ensure that academic freedom is safeguarded and preserved at UBC. This person will provide advice, education, and counsel regarding all issues involving academic freedom, including the obligation of all members of the university to protect and support this central freedom.
- Create an education program that would be aimed at all new faculty members, heads, directors, administrators and deans, regarding how to fulfill their obligation to protect academic freedom.
- Develop an online tool to allow people to access information on what academic freedom is, how to manage academic freedom issues, and answers to frequently asked questions.
- Develop a more formalized module on academic freedom as part of the orientation/on-boarding process for all new governors and senators.
“On behalf of the University of British Columbia, I would like to sincerely thank the Hon. Lynn Smith for undertaking this thorough and independent fact-finding process and for delivering a thoughtful report,” said Interim President, Dr. Martha Piper.
“UBC’s positive obligation to support and protect academic freedom is not well understood by our university community. In essence, this positive obligation means that it is not enough to tacitly endorse academic freedom, but rather, we must proactively express our commitment and intention to support and protect academic freedom.”
“Academic freedom is at the very heart of the university’s ability to do its job; it is written – I hope indelibly – into the social contract between Canadian society and our institutions of teaching, learning, and research. One of our most important functions, at UBC and at other post-secondary institutions, is to question – to interrogate the status quo, from the nature of our social and political assumptions to the details of our scientific understanding. It is part of a long academic tradition that every opinion – every imagined ‘fact’ – must be open to rigorous analysis and tireless review. Only by such scrutiny do we come to a better understanding of what we know, and of what we may yet learn.”
“It is the responsibility of every member of our university community, not just our academic leaders, to support and defend this basic value, a cornerstone of universities. If we falter, our collective creativity, our productivity, our democracy may be at risk – thereby endangering the very strength and security of our society.”
On behalf of the UBC Board of Governors, Douglas Mitchell, QC, Chair of the Governance Committee said, “As noted in the Hon. Lynn Smith’s report, no individual intended to interfere with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. However, while the UBC Board of Governors reaffirmed its confidence in John Montalbano’s leadership, he advised the board last night that, in the best interests of the university, he is stepping down from the UBC Board of Governors both as a member and as its Chair, effective immediately. Demonstrating the leadership qualities which have garnered him much respect among his board colleagues, Mr. Montalbano has made this decision in order to ensure that the university is able to have a positive relationship with all stakeholders.
“The Board of Governors collectively expresses their gratitude for Mr. Montalbano’s service to UBC and his support for the Sauder School of Business, and are unanimous in thanking him for his many contributions and strong leadership.”
- Hon. Lynn Smith Summary Report: http://president.ubc.ca/files/2015/10/Summary-of-Process-and-Conclusions-Final.pdf
- Terms of Reference: Fact-Finding Process: http://president.ubc.ca/files/2015/08/tor_fact_finding.pdf