Thursday, October 15, 2015

Academic freedom still not dead in Canada

At least for those fortunate academics who are actually tenured, which is a fraction that gets a little smaller every year. Canada is still a few years behind the US in filling virtually all teaching posts with "adjuncts" or "sessionals," and God knows that "academic freedom" is a total non-starter for that crowd.

But for the lucky few on the grav.. oops, I mean the tenure track, the corpse of academic freedom rose zombie-like from the grave this week. John Montalbano, chair of the Board of Governors at UBC, fell on his sword for his perceived breech of the secret code of academic freedom.


This should give that .5% of the population who give a shit some cause for hope. Montalbano, who formerly made a living as a TV pitchman for the Chrysler Cordoba (remember those genuine Corinthian leather seats?), got to be the chair of the board of governors at UBC for the same reason anybody gets to that spot at any Canadian university; political connections and the old-boy network.

If you've followed the story at all, UBC, one of Canada's premier institutions of higher learning, has been going through a spot of turmoil. It's most recent president, one Arvind Gupta, quit after just one year into a five year contract. That's not necessarily a big deal in my book; hell, I've quit jobs midway through the first day!

Anyway, some lowly plebe in the (tenured, fortunately for her) ranks had the gall to suggest that Gupta was pushed out because he was less than welcomed by the aforementioned old boys club with political connections. In short order Professor Jennifer Berdahl was visited not only by a couple of Vice-Presidents of this or the other thing, but by Chair of the Board of Governors, Mr. Montalbano himself!

Seems many well-paid noses were askew at her insinuation that Mr. Gupta was squeezed out of his job due to his outsider status. He was deemed not a made member of Canada's post-secondary illuminati.

On the face of it, I initially assumed there had to be less to the story than met the eye. After all, brownish folks with third-world names have held top-drawer posts at other big schools, like York and Western and Waterloo.

But maybe those schools just stuck that brownish person in that post to fly the flag of diversity in full public view, while behind the scenes, it was still the old boys calling the shots...

Who knows?

No comments:

Post a Comment