British Columbia

Head of UBC board of governors resigns after liking far-right comments on Twitter

The chair of the University of British Columbia's board of governors has resigned after liking posts on Twitter that promoted conspiracy theories and disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Michael Korenberg liked tweets disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement

In a statement Saturday night, the university said Michael Korenberg would be stepping down from his position on the board of governors immediately. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The chair of the University of British Columbia's board of governors has resigned after liking posts on Twitter that promoted conspiracy theories and disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Michael Korenberg's resignation comes after UBC Students Against Bigotry posted recent photos of his Twitter account. It showed tweets he liked included a link to a Breitbart article from Dinesh D'Souza, an American conservative commentator who has promoted conspiracy theories. The article in the far-right news website describes the Black Lives Matter protests as "the left's paramilitary," that D'Souza compares in the tweet to Mussolini and Hitler's regime. 

Other tweets he liked included a post from right-wing political commentator Ann Coulter, linking to an article about the supposed role of far-left anti-fascist group Antifa in spurring rioting during the BLM protests. 

Korenberg also liked tweets offering praise for U.S. President Donald Trump.

In a statement Saturday night, the university said Korenberg would be stepping down from his position on the board of governors immediately.

"The Board of Governors and Mr. Korenberg would like to recognize that this has been deeply hurtful to members of our community and that UBC has zero tolerance for racism and recognizes that real harm is created from both overt and structural racism," the statement said. 

The board manages the university's $2.3-billion operating budget across two campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna, including setting tuition for 65,000 students.

In a statement on the board's website, Korenberg said he "thoughtlessly" supported regressive voices that attempted to discredit "broad-based, legal and necessary protest."

"As a result, my interactions have been interpreted in a manner that creates questions about who I am and what I believe in," the statement said.

"I wholeheartedly apologize for them, particularly to the students, faculty and staff of UBC."

In his statement Saturday, Korenberg said he is committed to "erasing racism, hate and discrimination" from society.

On Twitter, he said he supports Black Lives Matter and that he hurt people in liking certain posts on social media. He acknowledged racism exists in Canada and that he wants to be "part of the solution," but did not say how he would contribute to doing this or what his next steps would be.

In an interview with The Ubyssey student newspaper, Korenberg said he was "not familiar" with the fact that his Twitter account was public and that anyone could see the tweets he liked.

According to the board of governors website, Korenberg was an adjunct professor in UBC's Allard School of Law for 24 years. He was a member of the Dean's Advisory Committee and participated in developing the university's strategic plan for the next century.

He was appointed to the board of governors in 2016 and chaired several committees. 

Sandra Cawley will now assume the role of chair of the board until a new chair is elected.

B.C.'s Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark said she learned of Korenberg's resignation Saturday.

"Our government and UBC are deeply committed to inclusion, justice and equity for all," she said in a statement. 

"The university has an inclusion action plan and has begun implementing it. I believe UBC will continue its work to provide a world-class education to all of its students in a safe and supportive community environment."

Corrections

  • The original version of this story said the tweets that Mr. Korenberg liked were "racist." In fact, the descriptor of the tweets as "racist" is not supported by the facts and the word "racist" has been removed. The story has also been updated to provide more information about the posts that Mr. Korenberg liked. The original version also suggested that a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. referred to protesters as "violent looters." In fact, the tweet only referenced "violent looters," not protesters.
    Jul 09, 2020 2:38 PM PT

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