Michael Korenberg, Board of Governors (BoG) chair, reaffirmed his support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement after several UBC community members criticized him for tweets he had liked. One faculty member said it would be “appropriate” for him to resign.
In light of the university’s recent messaging committing to anti-racism, the chair’s liked tweets contained posts from multiple Republican figures, with tweets supporting United States President Donald Trump and disparaging anti-fascist and BLM protests.
In an interview with The Ubyssey, Korenberg said he isn’t an active Twitter user and was unaware of what was viewable on his profile.
“I wasn’t actually familiar with the fact that people can look at my Twitter account, so I do regret that.”
One of the tweets expressed support for Trump’s response to Antifa, short for anti-fascist, in which the president announced the country will be labelling Antifa a terrorist organization.
“I am concerned, now that I’ve actually read the tweets, [that] it lumps both Antifa and Black Lives Matter together,” he said.
At the time of reporting, Korenberg has unliked many of the tweets in question.
But is Korenberg even more problematic than Ono?— UBC Students Against Bigotry (@ubc_students) June 18, 2020
Look past the standard platitudes about diversity and inclusion. Check out the tweets Mikey4493 likes, including support for Trump's attacks against anti-fascists. 2/6 pic.twitter.com/cwEDRN5d4c
Backlash was swift after student group Students Against Bigotry posted a Twitter thread of screenshots of Korenberg’s liked posts. Many faculty members retweeted the thread.
Dr. Jennifer Berdahl, a professor in the department of sociology, criticized Korenberg’s liking of the tweets, tweeting that there’s “not a time of day that excuses liking racist tweets.”
In an interview, she said, “It’s pretty shocking, especially given the number of tweets like that he seemed to have endorsed. I personally couldn’t believe it.”
However, Korenberg maintains his intention by liking the tweets was to save them to look at later.
It gets worse and worse. @jjhorgan, isn’t your govt responsible for appointing the Chair of #UBC’s Board of Governors? Given all that UBC’s been through in recent years, including a no confidence vote in its BOG, why appoint a Trumpite? Is this consistent with the @NDP’s agenda? https://t.co/4fLAxGwL6l— Dr. Jennifer Berdahl (@JBerdahl) June 18, 2020
When asked how UBC could balance the incident with its anti-racist commitments, she said it would be “in the best interest of UBC” for Korenberg to resign.
“You can reconcile it by getting rid of him as the chair of the Board of Governors. I don’t really think you can recover from this as that high of a leader of an organization,” she said.
“I don’t know if he’s really confused — if he thinks that he can have his cake and eat it too, like support Black Lives Matter and also support white supremacy.”
Korenberg did not provide comment about resignation by press time.
He posted a statement in response to the allegations against him where he reiterated his opening statement at the June 16 BoG meeting, outlining support for BLM activists and honouring the deaths of prominent Black people whom police officers have killed.
“I feel compelled, by recent events, to issue personal statement in support of Black Lives Matter and opposing racism and discrimination in all of their forms,” he tweeted on his account that has since been made private.
“As I said in the statement, I support Black Lives Matter. I think that the movement is an essential one.” Korenberg said.
“ … I was worried about evidence of thuggery that was going on. I think it’s contorting the movement. Just as I am repulsed by the police brutality, the police brutality has clearly got to stop and that’s the main thing — the essence of the statement I was trying to make.”
Some faculty members replied to Korenberg’s tweet and expressed support for his statement.
“Thank you for this statement, Michael,” tweeted Dr. Emma Cunliffe, an associate professor at the Allard School of Law. “What I have observed of your actions as Chair speak to the sincerity of your commitment to equality and inclusion.”