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UBC board chair resigns after being called out for liking 'regressive' tweets
VANCOUVER -- University of British Columbia board of governors chair Michael Korenberg stepped down Saturday amidst pressure from student groups and his colleagues for liking a number of tweets critics called racist.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Korenberg, who has served on UBC’s board since 2016, wrote that his “likes” on Twitter “supported regressive voices and took aim at thousands of brave individuals who are standing up against racism, hatred, and discrimination.”
“While I do not support violence of any kind, I understand how my actions created questions about who I am and what I believe in,” he wrote.
“To be clear, I support Black Lives Matter and I support the de-racialization of our educational institutions and our country.”
It appears that student group UBC Students Against Bigotry was first to draw attention to Korenberg’s social media activity, which the group pointed out included “likes” of Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump.
The student group also drew particular to attention to another tweet that it said Korenberg had given the thumbs up: a post by Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist. The fact that Korenberg liked the tweet was confirmed by reporting in in the Ubyssey, the Tyee and Press Progress.
In the Tweet, D’Souza refers to Black Lives Matter as paramilitary wing of the Democratic Party, then likened the movement to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
In a statement to CTV News Vancouver, a representative of UBC Students Against Bigotry wrote the group “was formed a year-and-a-half ago in response to the alarming number of hateful and discriminatory incidents taking place on our campus.”
The group declined a CTV News request for an on camera interview, asking for guaranteed anonymity, “due to the threat of reprisals from both violent right-wing extremists” and the university.
In a statement, UBC board vice-chair Sandra Cawley, called Korenberg’s actions “deeply hurtful” and wrote that “UBC has zero tolerance for racism and recognizes that real harm is created from both over and structural racism.”
Cawley, who will serve as interim chair, also wrote that as Board members, “we must also hold ourselves accountable.”
B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education, Melanie Mark, added: “Our government and UBC are deeply committed to inclusion, justice and equality for all.”
June Francis, a professor at Simon Fraser University who served on the SFU Board of Governors from 2012-2018 called Korenberg’s actions “troubling,” referring to them as “not a momentary lapse, but an insidious problem.”
“What does it tell us about [UBC]?” she asked. “What does it tell us about place of power and those who are occupying it?”
Korenberg’s resignation comes less than a week after a Black UBC student came forward alleging he was racially profiled on campus when a security guard refused to admit him to a building, even though he had a signed letter of permission from his supervisor.
UBC is investigating that incident.
“Can you imagine being a student, a Black student at the University of British Columbia today?” Francis asked.
“This is so troubling…a resignation is not enough,” Francis said.
Korenberg’s profile has been removed from the UBC website.
In his apology letter on Twitter, the founder of financial firm Wreath Group Holdings, wrote that he stepped down “because it [was] the right thing to do.”
Korenberg did not respond to CTV’s requests for an interview through Wreath Group and via Facebook by deadline.