16 October 2015

Dear Colleagues:

The Faculty Association is disappointed with and surprised by UBC’s statements at yesterday’s press conference on the Honourable Lynn Smith’s findings.

In keeping with the language of the Collective Agreement, the terms of reference established a fact-finding process to investigate whether Dr. Berdahl’ s academic freedom was "interfered with in any way." The Investigation concluded that it was.

The University, however, repeatedly stated that Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom was not infringed. This communication is not entirely consistent with the Summary Report.

While the Summary Report concludes that no single individual alone is responsible for the infringement, it clearly communicates that the cumulative effect of the actions as well as inactions of the University amounted to interference with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. To quote directly from the public Summary Report, Professor Smith found 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.

Further, because the question of whether interference occurred was foreseeable, the University and the Faculty Association had a phone conversation with Professor Smith to clarify the matter. Professor Smith explicitly confirmed for the Parties that one of her findings was that Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom had indeed been interfered with.

It is therefore disappointing that despite such explicit clarification the University failed to acknowledge this important finding of fact in the press conference yesterday and instead simply repeated that there was no infringement of Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. In essence, the University has only acknowledged part of the problem.

The Summary Report contains an effects-based analysis and finds that it was a series of acts and omissions on the part of the individuals involved that led not only to the failure to support and protect academic freedom, but which also cumulatively constituted interference with Dr. Berdahl’s academic freedom. These acts and omissions, as reported by Professor Smith, had the effect of making Dr. Berdahl feel “reprimanded, silenced and isolated” and further that “the events had a significant negative impact on her.” UBC has not yet acknowledged either the effects on Professor Berdahl or the fact that she reasonably felt silenced.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s events constitute further neglect of Dr. Berdahl. Given the findings in the Summary Report and the fact that UBC failed to support her, we find it remarkable that UBC did not apologize to Dr. Berdahl for the impacts that the events under investigation have had on her, or even acknowledge that there were in fact significant negative effects.

Regrettably, UBC has missed another opportunity to vindicate academic freedom and show support for its faculty. It is inappropriate to condone missteps and misjudgments of the university actors involved, especially given their leadership roles in the university.

While the infringement is the result of collective acts and omissions, the harm that resulted has been to a specific individual. Collective wrongdoing requires individual redress and apology.

Finally, the Faculty Association respects Mr. John Montalbano’s decision to step down from the Board of Governors and we acknowledge the contributions he has made to UBC.


Mark Mac Lean, President
On behalf of the UBC Faculty Association Executive Committee

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