VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The head of UBC‘s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) will be stepping down at the end of the day, following a controversial holiday trip to Hawaii despite COVID-19 health orders.
Dr. Peter Berman announced his resignation as director Friday, saying he deeply regrets “any actions” of his that caused distress and division in SPPH. He explains it’s impossible for him to provide effective leadership in his role.
“I also respect the many different views expressed by those in our wider community. I have read and heard much about the suffering our community has experienced due to the terrible pandemic of COVID-19 and the concerns of many that we stay the course to defeat this dreadful disease,” he writes in a statement.
— Lasia Kretzel (@lkretzel1130) January 15, 2021
This comes after backlash from the public as well as colleagues in the department chastising him for taking a trip as the COVID-19 cases surged.
“This disregard shows a lack of respect for SPPH staff, faculty, students and our broader community who have made many personal sacrifices during the pandemic in order to comply with public health guidelines. Working and learning during the pandemic is challenging, and a failure in leadership creates anger and distrust that we will have to work hard to redress,” reads a previous statement from faculty members.
Berman says he has been learning about the suffering in the community brought on by the pandemic and the importance of actively combatting the virus.
“Please see in my decision today my strongest and most sincere exhortation to come together to heal the divisions in our community,” he adds.
He had previously acknowledged his trip was an “error in judgement and behaviour,” especially as a public health leader.
Non-essential travel has been strongly discouraged during the pandemic by health officials across the country who urged everyone to stay local and reduce the number of people they visit.
Berman is one of many officials and politicians who took a trip despite the travel advisory, ranging from Ontario’s finance minister who travelled to the Caribbean to the mayor of Castlegar who travelled 200 kilometres to his cabin Okanagan.
Both of them resigned from their positions after their knowledge of their trips surfaced.