Arvind Gupta’s resignation controversy: UBC’s Montalbano steps down for duration of investigation into Prof. Berdahl’s allegations


Arvind Gupta
Arvind Gupta

THE UBC Board of Governors on Tuesday announced that they accepted a request from their Chair, John Montalbano, to ask the Vice Chair, Alice Laberge, to assume the duties of Acting Chair for the duration of the fact finding process agreed to by the university and the Faculty Association to investigate how Montalbano and / or individuals in the Sauder School of Business identified by the Faculty Association conducted themselves following a blunt blog written by the school’s Prof. Jennifer Berdahl on August 10 regarding the August 7 resignation of UBC president Arvind Gupta.

In a statement the board said Montalbano intends to fully participate in the process that will be undertaken by former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith and wants to ensure the integrity of the process is not hindered by his performing the duties of the chair.

Laberge has agreed to assume the duties of Acting Chair of the board.  Montalbano continues as a member of the board.

Smith will investigate whether Montalbano and / or any other individual from the school conducted themselves “in a manner that violated any provisions 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.”


ON August 7, the UBC’s Board of Governors announced that Gupta had resigned to return to the pursuit of his academic career,

UBC Faculty Association President Mark MacLean in an email on August 10 to faculty members demanded to know the real reasons behind Gupta’s stepping down.

Then a blog by Sauder School of Business Prof. Jennifer Berdahl on August 10 stirred massive controversy as she wrote: “I believe that part of this outcome is that Arvind Gupta lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC, as most women and minorities do at institutions dominated by white men.”

She added: “President Gupta was the first brown man to be UBC president. He isn’t tall or physically imposing. He advocates for women and visible minorities in leadership – a stance that has been empirically demonstrated to hurt men at work.”

Berdahl was allegedly pressured to shut up by Montalbano and administrators at the school. In her August 16 blog she noted: “I was recruited to the University of British Columbia last year with a mandate to help organizations advance gender and diversity in leadership. I interpreted this to also mean UBC, which is lacking in gender and diversity in its leadership. For example, at its Vancouver campus, 11 of the 12 deans are white and 10 are men.”

She then detailed how Montalbano and others allegedly tried to pressure her to stop expressing her views on this topic.

MacLean in a letter on August 17 demanded full disclosure, noting: “Given the conflicts of interest, and the missteps that that have come to light this week, we believe it is even more imperative to have the full story behind the resignation of Professor Gupta as President of UBC. Full disclosure is the only way to restore trust in the governance of the University of British Columbia.”

UBC’s acting president, Piper, then announced that the school was investigating claims that Berdahl was intimidated over her blog post.