“Did these writers...not think about the implications of their words?”
November 17, 2016 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Prominent Authors Face Backlash Over Letter to UBC Over Steven Galloway Firing [Toronto Star] “A rift in Canada’s literary community has deepened after dozens of prominent authors called for an independent investigation into the University of British Columbia’s firing of Steven Galloway. Joseph Boyden wrote and circulated an open letter [UBC Accountable], signed by Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel and others, which raised concerns the university’s process to investigate “serious allegations” against Galloway was secretive and unfair. Galloway, who was chairman of the school’s creative writing program, was fired in June. The letter has sparked an online backlash, with former students who say they witnessed misconduct by Galloway and outside observers expressing concerns it would silence and intimidate complainants.”

Under A Cloud: How UBC’s Steven Galloway Affair Has Haunted A Campus And Changed Lives [The Globe and Mail]
“For nearly a year, the two women have been embroiled in the Galloway investigation. Distraught over what they’ve experienced, the complainants – both graduates of the program – have come forward to voice their concerns with the system, their treatment by UBC and their disappointment with what they believe was in Ms. Boyd’s final report – which, to obtain, the women had to submit requests under freedom-of-information legislation. They say they have felt misled, mistreated, kept in the dark and silenced by the university. They cite concerns about breach of confidentiality and say they were given inconsistent information. And they were shocked – even “disgusted” – at what they understood was missing from the final report; they feel their complaints were not accurately reflected.” [...] The women fear their rocky experiences throughout this process could deter others from reporting inappropriate behaviour on university campuses – or beyond.“I have seen, heard and experienced things I never thought possible for an enlightened institution,” Ms. Gemma wrote in a letter to UBC. “Isn’t the university supposed to be a place for ethical, critical, and progressive thought?”
Rape Culture, CanLit, and You: Collated Tweets Regarding the Letter Signed by CanLit, Who's Who Calling For an Investigation of How UBC Handled Investigation Into Allegations Re: Steven Galloway by Zoe Todd [Storify]
“So I turn here to addressing the person who spearheaded this letter, Mr. Boyden. As an Indigenous woman professor, as someone who has experienced extensive harassment (misogyny, racism) in the academy in the past for speaking out about racism and misogyny in our classrooms and conference hallways, and for someone whose first duty is to stand in solidarity with students who face incredible barriers to support and due process when they DO face harassment of all kinds in the academy, I have to ask Mr. Boyden how he can reconcile his role in spearheading this letter in its current form (specifically the way it is written such that it excludes any acknowledgement of the trauma that complainants have faced) with his very public writing and support of issues regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit Persons, including your role in editing the book Kwe. Joseph, the message your letter sends is that survivors are an afterthought. Your letter makes Indigenous women in Canadian literature and scholarly spaces feel unsafe. The signatories to the letter are now a list of people that Indigenous women in Canadian literature and arts cannot trust to dismantle heteropatriarchy in the spaces where we hit the glass ceiling with such unfailing frequency. ”
L'Affaire Galloway: Whatever the Star UBC Prof May Have Done, the University Made Things Worse [The Walrus]
“In the wake of the Ghomeshi scandal, institutions that grant male employees the presumption of innocence risk looking as if they’re enabling abusers. More than half a million sexual assaults occur each year in Canada, but only a fraction result in charges against the attacker. This, for victims’ rights activists, is the result of a judicial system that too often puts the burden of proof squarely on the victim. Officials are now more inclined to trust the odds that the allegations are true—a core principle of the “Believe Women” movement—and act before they find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. ubc suspended Galloway within days. Eight months later—despite his having been largely exonerated by the report it commissioned—he was fired. Galloway has reportedly filed a grievance against ubc and has been warned that commenting on any aspect of his case would violate a confidentiality agreement that he signed. But while he may not be able to defend himself, his friends can argue on his behalf—and do.”
Madeleine Thien's Open Letter Asking Administration to Remove Her Name as Member of UBC Creative Writing Community and UBC Alumni [.PDF]
“I cannot, in good conscience, be aligned with a Program that has intentionally misrepresented the findings of the University’s own report, and that has chosen to erase a person’s life and history in order to safeguard the reputation of the institution. [...] The University has taken a tragedy and turned it into (an) ugly, blame-filled, toxic mess, destroying lives in the process.”
Hashtag: #ubcaccountable.
posted by Fizz (88 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read the Walrus piece (which may or may not be accurate) but it seems to me that Galloway really did cross over the line by having affairs with students, and allegedly slapping a female student at the Legion.

This open letter is so confusing to me. Is Galloway's alleged behavior acceptable? He was in a position of power, allegedly having sex with students.

I attended UVic Creative Writing in the early 90's, and there were similar things going on. The chair of the department was, at the very least, having sex with students. At the time it wasn't considered strange at all for a teacher to "date" students. My friend's sister was dating one of my Philosophy instructors.

But times have changed, haven't they? I don't quite understand what Canada's writing community is protesting. Firing a tenured professor for cause?

I mean, this would (theorectically) happen in any other workplace where a member of the leadership was having sex with subordinates, and the subordinates complained.

I really don't understand that letter, especially after Jian Ghomeshi.
posted by My Dad at 2:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's sad that these authors felt the need to “defend” Mr. Galloway. I was surprised by many of the prominent Canadian writers on that list and it stinks of a 'we protect our own' mentality. Ugh.
posted by Fizz at 3:15 PM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Do any of these links have something like a clear timeline? There's a lot of text and it's hard to get an overview of things.

It seems like:

1. Galloway was accused of misconduct.
2. Galloway was fired.
3. An independent investigation said that the accusations of misconduct were unsubstantiated.
4. The accusers say that the process was too slow and public.
5. The letter writers (famous people whom one is tempted to believe are social justice minded) say that the process was to fast and secretive.

Is that the gist of it?
posted by sparklemotion at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Related: Margaret Atwood says UBC's Handling of Galloway Affair Like 'Salem Witchcraft Trials' [Vancouver Sun]
“To take the position that the members of a group called “women” are always right and never lie — demonstrably not true — and that members of a group called “accused men” are always guilty — Steven Truscott, anyone? — would do a great disservice to accusing women and abuse survivors, since it discredits any accusations immediately. Those accusing Joseph Boyden, Madeleine Thien, and all the other signatories of the letter in question, of rape culture and intimidation of young people because they have objected to a university’s flawed and high-handed process should give some thought to the consequences. And they should note that the university’s flawed process, if not amended, could well — in future — be applied to them.”
posted by Fizz at 3:19 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's sad that these authors felt the need to “defend” Mr. Galloway.

They're not “defending Mr. Galloway”. They're arguing against “a university’s flawed and high-handed process” as your quotation indicates.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:25 PM on November 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


"There was a sense that this was unheard of and really quite unusual,” says Holmes. “It was very difficult for a faculty member to not think he must have done something terrible—involving violence or theft—because you don’t fire people for no reason. And yet what I have heard since is that it was an affair with a student. That is a breach of trust. That should not happen. But, you know, it just seems amazing to me that a faculty member at ubc would be fired for that reason.”
I'm confused - why is she amazed by this? When I was hired as a visiting professor at the University of Delaware, it was made abundantly clear during our orientation that anyone who slept with a student would be fired, which is as it should be. Surely any professor knows this. This is not a "flawed and high-handed process" - it's absolutely normal for an academic position.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:28 PM on November 17, 2016 [30 favorites]


They're not “defending Mr. Galloway”. They're arguing against “a university’s flawed and high-handed process” as your quotation indicates.

Yeah, but if you read the Walrus article, it does seem like there is some truth to the allegations. On top of that, at least two of the women said that UBC ignored what they had to say about Galloway.
posted by My Dad at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


They're not “defending Mr. Galloway”. They're arguing against “a university’s flawed and high-handed process” as your quotation indicates.

I call bunk on this. I know that is what these authors are claiming in their letter but as I wrote above, it feels very much like a "protect our own" mentality. And there's far too much of that going on when it comes to issues of: rape, sexual assault, abuse of power/position, etc.
posted by Fizz at 3:30 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fizz you're kind of arguing your own op here.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:42 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I posted from a variety of sources/links/articles/authors. I did that so MeFites would be able to read as much about the topic as possible to form their own views on the subject at hand. And then I stated my own. I'll back off from the rest of this discussion though. I've stated how I feel. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 3:46 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


UBC is the most supportive environment for white men I've worked in. More supportive of their emotions and right to act as they wish than even Silicon Valley companies I worked for years and years ago. I have no idea of what happened here, but I find it difficult to believe that the system wasn't automatically tilted
In his favour based on an enormous amount of personal observation of what white male professors get away with on a regular basis. This is not unknown in Canada. So...given that I am incredibly disappointed in this letter and the signers and their complete lack of regard for the complainants.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:56 PM on November 17, 2016 [22 favorites]


I don't really know enough about this specific issue to comment knowledgeably, but I will say if there is a piece in The Walrus defending the conduct of a white man in the Canadian lit community, I'm basically going to assume the worst.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:09 PM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't find this difficult to believe at all. In English Departments at three different Canadian Universities I personally knew profs that slept with students/t.a.s etc. and students that slept with TAs and TAs that slept with Profs. The behaviour is normalized in the places I've been. It's gross... but normalized. Even eroticized. Ask me how I know!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:11 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


UBC doesn't have a policy stating that faculty cannot date students, though they are considering banning such.

Their latest FAQ on Discrimination and Harassment I could find is here. One highlighted section states:

When power differentials exist amongst or between faculty, staff, and students, those holding positions of authority shall not abuse, nor seem to abuse, the power with which they are entrusted..... Anyone who enters into a sexual relationship with a person where a professional power differential exists must realize that, if a charge of sexual harassment is subsequently lodged, it will be extremely difficult to defend the conduct on grounds of mutual consent.
posted by grimjeer at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I call bunk on this.
Yeah, but.... Margaret Atwood. Margaret Bloody Atwood!

She's pretty-much at the top of my "would not protect abusive men" list.
posted by Leon at 4:30 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


It boggles my mind that this can still be a thing. When I started grad school in 1993 the one thing that was drilled into us more than any other was "don't date your students", because of the power differential. FFS, people!
posted by heatherlogan at 4:34 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's pretty hard to make a good, simple policy about faculty dating students, because the power relationship can be anything from the very bad (profs dating their own grad students, faculty dating people in their own classes) to the totally irrelevant (people dating students in other departments or on other campuses with whom they'll never professionally interact).
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2016


She's pretty-much at the top of my "would not protect abusive men" list.

Like a lot of other senior members of Canada's exceedingly small and rather parochial literary tribe, Atwood has the tendency to be pompous and arrogant from time to time.
posted by My Dad at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's pretty hard to make a good, simple policy about faculty dating students

No it's not. You don't date anyone with whom there's a power differential at the time of the relationship. Once the power relationship no longer exists, you're free to have at it.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:39 PM on November 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


heatherlogan: No it's not. You don't date anyone with whom there's a power differential at the time of the relationship. Once the power relationship no longer exists, you're free to have at it.

That's not really simple, and you have to go to a lot of effort to figure out what constitutes a power differential (do miscellaneous faculty in your department, but who aren't your teachers or advisors, have power over you?)
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Reading into this a bit more, it seems like if you assume that every allegation that has both been made public and substantiated is true, the worst that Galloway did was sleep with a middle-aged student of a program of which he was the chair.

It seems like the middle-aged student* (MC) told Rooney and Gemma that Galloway had sexually assaulted her. Rooney and Gemma went to the school with that second hand information, as well as first hand information that Galloway was a creeper.

During the investigation, Galloway got information about who was accusing him of what, and was pretty loose with it (so besides MC, the women who testified against him were outed).

For whatever reasons, the investigator (a former judge) found the sexual assault allegation unsubstantiated. MC doesn't want to talk publicly, and apparently did not take her claim to the police. But Galloway was still fired with no cause given.

Given all of that, the ask in the letter seems reasonable to me:
We therefore request that the University of British Columbia establish an independent investigation into how this matter has been handled by the Creative Writing Program, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the senior administration at UBC.
Even if this is about "protecting their own," if Galloway is a rapist bringing more details of the allegations to light will have the opposite effect.

If this is about "protecting their own" and Galloway is just a horny idiot who wasn't violating the policy** that was in place at the time, bringing more details of the allegations to light still won't make him look all that good, but might at least lift the "rapist" stigma from his head.

*my brain is having trouble seeing the same power differential issues between a professor and a teen aged/early twenties student as between a professor and a middle-aged student. I fully believe that they exist (or even could just have been perceived to exist by MC), it's just not as BRIGHTFLASHYLIGHTS egregious to me, as a younger-than-middle-aged woman who has been to grad school.

**the policy of "don't sleep with your students***" is not a complicated one, and also shouldn't be necessary, but here we are.

***I think this easily extends to "don't sleep with current students of programs that you chair, even if they are not your student.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's not really simple, and you have to go to a lot of effort to figure out what constitutes a power differential (do miscellaneous faculty in your department, but who aren't your teachers or advisors, have power over you?)
If they have any say over things like funding, prizes and TAships, then yes, they do.

My experience in US universities is that there is generally a very clear policy against professors having relationships with students, and there is an equally clear understanding that there will not be any consequences for professors who ignore it. There are often serious consequences for the students, but students don't matter.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


My FB feed has been filled with expressions of dismay over Atwood's response.

I found this letter, from Dorothy Palmer, extremely helpful. It's on Facebook, so if the link isn't working for everyone, I could copy and paste it here.
I’m deeply disappointed by writers who take it upon themselves to decide for, and speak for, the literary community. Without permission. Without evidence. With no credentials but a personal friendship with the accused. Writers who claim to value due process did not use it. They did not draft a public petition for all writers to consider. They signed a clandestine group-mind dispatch. They substituted their literary celebrity for our democratic literary community.

Since they’re claiming insufficient evidence for a fair decision, how do they make their judgement? Based on their own celebrity. If "the stars of Can Lit" know Mr. Galloway for "a good writer and a good guy," of course that should carry more weight than the testimony of his accusers and a seven-month union process. They don’t need a Faculty Association. Or a contract. Or decades of labour and privacy law. They call for their own new process precisely because they don’t like the outcome of union due process. Either they don’t understand it, consider themselves above it, or both.

They prove it by demanding a dangerous precedent: the release of private information. What an ill-conceived request. We weren't there. We don’t know what transpired with students or co-workers. Nor should we. It’s not our business. It would violate the rights of accusers and accused, Such details cannot be made public unless Mr. Galloway waives his right to privacy which he has not done. With advice of union counsel, he has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
posted by jokeefe at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


The open letter says he has been barred from speaking publicly while his union grieves his dismissal.

I have never come across "grieve" used that way before.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


To grieve in a union context means to file a grievance in a formal labour-law process. It may be a Canadian usage.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2016 [20 favorites]


"Grieve" means "in the process of filing a grievance".

*my brain is having trouble seeing the same power differential issues between a professor and a teen aged/early twenties student as between a professor and a middle-aged student. I fully believe that they exist (or even could just have been perceived to exist by MC), it's just not as BRIGHTFLASHYLIGHTS egregious to me, as a younger-than-middle-aged woman who has been to grad school.

Besides the allegations of stalking and assault (a slap to the face at the Legion hall), if we're talking about a power dynamic, it's important to remember that this is a prestigious creative writing program, and Galloway wielded tremendous influence as a member of the Canadian literary establishment. Indeed, much like a McDonalds or a Pizza Hut, UBC's writing program produces a carefully manufactured product--MFA fiction writers. There's a lot of them, so people like Galloway help open doors. The reason why students shell out the money to attend the program is to get published, after all.
posted by My Dad at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Mitrovarr: "It's pretty hard to make a good, simple policy about faculty dating students, because the power relationship can be anything from the very bad (profs dating their own grad students, faculty dating people in their own classes) to the totally irrelevant (people dating students in other departments or on other campuses with whom they'll never professionally interact)."

I dunno -- I don't think it's really so difficult to make a simple and clear policy. I don't see much wrong in Stanford's, for example:
Sexual or romantic relationships are PROHIBITED between:
  • teachers and undergraduate students -even if the teacher does not teach, evaluate, or advise the student, currently or in the future.
  • teachers and any students, when a teacher has had -or might be expected ever to have-academic responsibility* over the other party.
  • staff in certain authority roles (coach, academic adviser, residence dean or fellow, etc.) and undergraduate students.
*See sidebar for examples of activities included in the term "academic responsibility"
NOTIFICATION and RECUSAL are required in sexual or romantic relationships between:
  • students, when one is teaching and/or evaluating the other.
  • adult employees (including faculty) when one has authority over the other, even if the relationship is consensual.

posted by crazy with stars at 5:01 PM on November 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


Galloway wielded tremendous influence as a member of the Canadian literary establishment

Stardom is, unfortunately, also a power differential. As in, when you're a star you can do anything and they just let you.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


The big issue I see with Stanford's is that it either doesn't address what graduate students are, or is too broad (if it bars TAs from having relationships with undergraduates).
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:10 PM on November 17, 2016


Are you saying that it would be too broad if it barred TAs from sleeping with undergrads?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:25 PM on November 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


Following the Stanford link, it goes into greater detail to cover graduate students and TAs. Seems pretty simple to me.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:27 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Following the Stanford link, it goes into greater detail to cover graduate students and TAs.

Thanks GhostintheMachine. That's exactly what we were taught in the '90s at University of California. (And also that you can just wait till the term is over.)
posted by heatherlogan at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2016


>Galloway wielded tremendous influence as a member of the Canadian literary establishment

Stardom is, unfortunately, also a power differential. As in, when you're a star you can do anything and they just let you.


I have CW degree (undergrad) and I never really understood the point of it. The workshopping was great, as were the theory classes, and the community support is also critical.

However, the main benefit of attending UBC seems to me to be getting into teaching. Because there is no real career path for writers. You don't make any money writing fiction or doing creative non-fiction. The way to pursue a writing career is to support yourself teaching at the university level.

So once again Galloway could wield tremendous power over students, no matter what age difference might be.
posted by My Dad at 5:37 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that profs want to protect him because no one wants fingers pointed at them, or their friends. Seriously: am I the only alumni here that didn't see this ALL THE TIME? The power imbalance fuels these relationships, it doesn't stifle them. When a prof wants his (and it's almost always his) students/t.a., he will find a way to justify it.

(again - not always a man - I did know one woman who became physically involved with her undergraduate student)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:43 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that it would be too broad if it barred TAs from sleeping with undergrads?

Any undergraduates in their school at all? Yes, I think that would be too broad. And apparently they agree with me, because it doesn't actually prohibit that.

Ultimately I think Stanford' policies look pretty good, but there is some complexity involved and I think that's necessary to have a good policy.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:45 PM on November 17, 2016


However, the main benefit of attending UBC seems to me to be getting into teaching.
I think that in general, the main benefit of attending a prestigious MFA program is that it can grant you access to the literary establishment. If the right professor takes a shine to you, they can introduce you to their agent and someone at their publisher and the submissions editors of the kind of publications that might publish your writing. Your prof can mention at cocktail parties that the reviews editor of a major publication really should take a look at your first novel. The thing that Galloway had to offer was access to the precise network that is closing ranks around him.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:49 PM on November 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


Yeah, but.... Margaret Atwood. Margaret Bloody Atwood!

She's pretty-much at the top of my "would not protect abusive men" list.


I read her graphic novel and am worried that Margaret Atwood is no longer Margaret Atwood.
posted by srboisvert at 6:29 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Atwood has the tendency to be pompous and arrogant from time to time.

Atwood has the tendency to be blunt and outspoken, and many people (often men) have been highly critical of her honesty speaking out about various issues over the past half-century or so. I may not always agree with her, but I take her seriously.
posted by ovvl at 7:44 PM on November 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is not a "flawed and high-handed process" - it's absolutely normal for an academic position.

Surely a professor not completely in the grips of ivory tower ideology would also see that the two conditions, one descriptive the other prescriptive, are not necessarily inconsistent.
posted by polymodus at 7:56 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of other senior members of Canada's exceedingly small and rather parochial literary tribe, Atwood has the tendency to be pompous and arrogant from time to time.

An illustration (of similar gravity) would be required not to mock the language of this assertion.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:05 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


No it's not. You don't date anyone with whom there's a power differential at the time of the relationship. Once the power relationship no longer exists, you're free to have at it.

Wait--how far is this logic supposed to go? Poor people can't date rich people? Black people can't date white people? Celebrities can't date non-celebrities? Women can't date men? This seems like a really childishly reductive and impractical bit of ideology...
posted by saulgoodman at 8:15 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


People are concerned about the power differential between a professor and their students, for good reason.

I read the Letter signed by Atwood et al, as raising a concern about the other power differential, that between a university and their professors. The Globe and Mail piece mentions the concurrent dismissal of several of Galloway's colleagues by the Faculty which seems awfully like retaliation.
posted by storybored at 8:44 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wait--how far is this logic supposed to go? Poor people can't date rich people?

Jesus Murphy, use your head. We're talking about the Galloway case at the University of British Columbia (UBC). So the discussion here is that teachers and faculty should not date or fuck or stalk students, no matter the age difference.

It's a pretty simple concept.
posted by My Dad at 8:53 PM on November 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


An illustration (of similar gravity) would be required not to mock the language of this assertion.

Okay, in plain language: there is a small community of Canadian authors. They think highly of themselves, even though nobody has ever really heard of them. They tend to spout dumb opinions from time to time. The difference between Atwood and me, by the way, is that nobody is going to report what I say on the front page of the Globe and Mail. I don't have any moral authority whatsoever. Nobody cares about what I say. But people in the small country of Canada do care what Atwood says.
posted by My Dad at 8:55 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I find this shocking. I mean, I was a student and a university employee on the Canadian West Coast around that time. And we were *explicitly* told that we could not date students, that professors should not be dating us, that TAs could not date us, etc. I even know people who have worked in senior levels at both the UVic Writing program and UBC and they all knew this too. People are making it sound like 1993 was the Dark Ages. The human rights code was already in place. Universities were bringing in harassment officers. None of this was okay then. People might be trying to make it sound like it was 1954 or something, but I even remember my prof joking, in 1993, that he had married his TA and how you're not allowed to do that nowadays, but, ha, in the ancient 1970s, it was okay. I worked for two universities during that time and this stuff was not okay then. I'm pretty sad to see Atwood defending this guy.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:01 PM on November 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Thank you Fizz for the link roundup. I wasn't aware of this story, and it seems to me that for all the good things these writers brought us, this letter, and even more so Atwood's follow up, are pretty awfully written, and very little actual thought for the victims have gone in them.

I'm sad that 2016, besides everything else, managed to ruin atwood a little bit for me.
posted by motdiem2 at 9:51 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wait--how far is this logic supposed to go?

You're being disingenuous, Saul. You know exactly how the policy is supposed to work.

But it's amazing how quickly men will leap up to try to confuse the issue of men having sex with people they have power and influence over.
posted by happyroach at 11:21 PM on November 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


A lot of mind readers on this thread.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:43 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


"The decision to copulate in an intellectural environment is intrinsically not a simple concept."
-Jesus Murphy
posted by mannequito at 1:23 AM on November 18, 2016


But people in the small country of Canada do care what Atwood says.

Few.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 AM on November 18, 2016


Are you saying that it would be too broad if it barred TAs from sleeping with undergrads?

I think the motive behind this rule is sound, but it's too general. The real issue is when one person in the relationship has institutional power over the other. This is not true of all undergrads and TAs, and it can also be true between TAs and other TAs.

I was a non-traditional student at a large university, and I was an undergrad at the same time that some of my friends were TAs. I didn't sleep with any of them, but it should have been allowed because we had no institutional relationship. Then later, as a grad student, some of my graduate-level classes also had TAs. Now, sleeping with them shouldn't have been allowed, even though we were all TAs.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:23 AM on November 18, 2016


I think the motive behind this rule is sound, but it's too general. The real issue is when one person in the relationship has institutional power over the other.
Jesus fucking Christ. GhostInTheMachine posted the actual policy above, and it's completely reasonable:
The current policy applies when undergraduate or graduate students or post-doctoral scholars are serving in the teaching role as teachers, TAs, graders or research supervisors. The policy does not prohibit students from having consensual sexual or romantic relationships with fellow students. However, if such a relationship exists between a student teacher and a student in a setting for which the student teacher is serving in this capacity, s/he shall not exercise any evaluative or teaching function for that student. Furthermore, the student teacher must recuse himself or herself and notify his or her supervisor so that alternative evaluative, oversight or teaching arrangements can be put in place. Failure to notify and recuse in this situation will be subject to discipline under the Fundamental Standard.
So basically: TAs and other grad instructors can't have sexual or romantic relationships with people over whom they have power. If you're a grad TA and your undergraduate boyfriend gets assigned to your section, you have to tell your supervisor so you can all figure out a way for you not to be grading your boyfriend. That's it. It's not that complicated.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


One interesting note from Margeret Atwood's letter:

"To take the position that the members of a group called “women” are always right and never lie — demonstrably not true — and that members of a group called “accused men” are always guilty — Steven Truscott, anyone? — would do a great disservice to accusing women and abuse survivors, since it discredits any accusations immediately. "

She had to reach back to the Truscott case - to find a memorable false conviction case for her and her intended audience. That was from 1959 with the conviction was overturned in 1975.

Now I must wonder why she didn't choose a more recent case like say Donald Marshall, an aboriginal who was railroaded the year Truscott's conviction was overturned.

Unconscious bias and presumptions about who is a worthy victim and who isn't play out in weird and subtle ways.

That said in Ontario at least, where I have first hand experience, Canadian universities have full court authority without the 'officers of the court' having legal training or much regulation or frankly competence. They are instead run by faculty and administrators and are easily cowed and out maneuvered by outside legal representation for either the victim or the accused. I don't think that particular cases should merit outside investigation. I think ALL cases should be outside the university's purview. There is no good reason for allowing them self policing.
posted by srboisvert at 6:22 AM on November 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


This characterization from The Walrus piece surprises me.

In Galloway’s world, claims Thorkelson, women were kept in strict categories. There were those he was kind to, those he found attractive, and those he ignored. “I tended to be ignored,” she says.

It implies that he was kind only to women he didn't find attractive, which while possible would be rather uncommon.
posted by layceepee at 6:52 AM on November 18, 2016


They're not “defending Mr. Galloway”. They're arguing against “a university’s flawed and high-handed process” as your quotation indicates.

Dunno. On its face, it's arguing against the process. But the process has been largely hidden, and we only know parts of it, and its result.

Aside from Boyden, do the signatories have any real connection to UBC? Do they know enough about UBC's internal procedures to have an opinion on them? If someone comes up to you to ask you to sign a letter condemning the internal review procedures of an institution you do not have any real connection with, are you comfortable signing that letter? Even if you do have some connection to the place, do you have enough information on that particular process to form a definite opinion on it?

But if your friend Joseph Boyden comes up to you, and asks you to sign a letter on behalf of his friend Galloway who was railroaded by the system, do you sign then?

Both are possibilities, but I find the latter one much more likely.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:07 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's time we made dating the students you advise, supervise, or teach an cause for instant and non-negotiable dismissal throughout the academy. There's nothing that prevents academic senates from making this happen, except misogyny and or cowardice.

The "it was consensual" loophole is too wide, and the power imbalance between students an faculty too great, to make the idea that there's manageable conflict of interest here absurd. Forcing students to prove in public that their sexual encounters with their advisors were inappropriate, rather than the entirely appropriate sex-with-subordinates that all the old boys engage in is grotesque.

Really, guys, it's not that hard to avoid engaging your students in sex. By any reasonable metric, it's ahead of "publishing fake data" and "hacking into your competitors server" on the list of things ethical professionals shouldn't do. The world is full of people you can attempt to seduce in good conscience. Targeting the few hundred who you have have power over is an indefensible choice.

Yeah, I know your mom seduced your faculty dad while she was a first year grad student. I'm glad it worked out for them. It's still a shocking breach of professional ethics, and it's a shame your dad wasn't fired and replaced by someone equally skilled who was also able to take his job seriously and not fuck his students. If you include all the predatory assholes who have benefited by the system that gave your dad the benefit of the doubt, it's very hard to claim the occasional case of respectful, mutual love across ranks is worth all the suffering.
posted by eotvos at 7:12 AM on November 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


Canadian universities have full court authority without the 'officers of the court' having legal training or much regulation or frankly competence

I think it's more accurate to say universities have the same powers that other employees have... to fire in cases of abusive behaviour after investigation. A court could then overturn that if the employee sued. Or a grievance might.

Am I missing something about that goes beyond this?
posted by chapps at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Am I missing something about that goes beyond this?

Yes. Universities in Ontario have full court authority. Or at least the did when I was a witness in a university case. They can at least subpoena and charge contempt of court for failure to comply. It is well beyond ordinary employee/employer power relations.
posted by srboisvert at 8:07 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Galloway affair is one in a series of incidents that have rocked universities in Canada. UBC had another case at UBC where an investigation intoultiple complaints about a grad student assisting many fellow grad students took years and garnered national attention for mishandling.
It has been such a big issue that the BC government passed a law requiribg a revision of policies at all BC post secondary institutions, and established mandatory reporting to the province about cases heard on campus. It a process which is now ongoing at my university, and it is a major focus of the university administration.

The rules so far do not prohibit all relationships, but speak to abuse and it's repercussions, and also require adjustment of teaching duties where there is a conflict of interest.

Overall I think ths is proving to be a positive change.
posted by chapps at 8:11 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh.
Well there is no full court authority equivalent in BC, if that means a replacement of courts and ability to compelling witnesses etc.. There are hearings possible but they are administrative and could be appealed to the courts or the BC ombudsperson. Or a student could appeal being kicked out for low grades if there are policy violations to the Senate.

I have never heard of subpoena power for a university in Canada, I'll have to look that up!
posted by chapps at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Galloway’s world, claims Thorkelson, women were kept in strict categories. There were those he was kind to, those he found attractive, and those he ignored. “I tended to be ignored,” she says.

It implies that he was kind only to women he didn't find attractive, which while possible would be rather uncommon.


I can see an emotional logic like this: paternal feelings towards very young-behaving or -appearing students, and resentment towards those who he felt were, yeah, maybe unattractive - or "challenging" ("crazy", for him, according to one account, apparently?).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:39 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I must wonder why she didn't choose a more recent case like say Donald Marshall, an aboriginal who was railroaded the year Truscott's conviction was overturned

Truscott was a fourteen-year-old sentenced to hang. Obviously there have been more recent or egregious miscarriages of justice, but that one's a biggie.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This, from a related Jezebel article:

"We finally have people listening; we are finally in front of a set of wider cultural values that make it possible to end the era of the important, inappropriate literary man. And it’s not fair in a larger sense that women bear the procedural responsibility I’m asking for. It’s horrifically unfair that so much more is asked of victims than rapists, who, as one blogger pointed out, get to be “anonymous guerrillas” no matter what."

So yeah, I don't think we can end "inappropriate literary manliness" but surely we can make them completely unwelcome as employees of arts institutions whose mandate is to nurture creativity in all people.

I find the list of signatories to the letter distressing. Christine Fellows and John K. Samson signed it! Geez!
posted by kneecapped at 9:55 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


If anyone believes that Margaret Atwood is advocating for "getting to the bottom" of the allegations, and is not standing in support behind Galloway--if you think she just wants "the truth" to prevail--consider why she used the words "witch hunt." It's pretty obvious who she believes has been wronged.
posted by My Dad at 11:02 AM on November 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have never heard of subpoena power for a university in Canada, I'll have to look that up!

I tried to find something but it is a damn awkward google search to narrow down thanks to universities having law schools. My bools failed.
posted by srboisvert at 11:35 AM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


As an undergraduate at a Canadian university (not UBC), I had a TA who did ask my close friend out on a date after our class was over at the end of semester. She shared this with me and we kind of laughed about it but were also pretty disturbed. Finding out that someone is attracted to you makes you reevaluate your interactions with that person - you question whether the praise you received was really for work well-done, or if it was all just a ploy to butter you up for what was coming. You feel conned. In a teacher-student relationship, this can be really corrosive of your own developing sense of academic ability. Universities should strive to be inclusive, safe spaces for everyone, and condoning romantic propositioning of students by teachers is counter to that mission, and frankly unprofessional (at the very least, and outright abusive in many contexts as well), even if all interactions remain consensual when viewed outside an academic context.

In general I'll also add - I am a researcher and this kind of shit goes down EVERYWHERE, across all departments, and DOES destroy careers and lives. I have been warned against working with particular colleagues who are KNOWN predators many times in my career. It's rampant, and universities should 100% be cracking down on this shit with zero-tolerance.
posted by aiglet at 12:19 PM on November 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh and I'll add - shame, shame, shame on Margaret Atwood, who is an author and (I thought) feminist that I loved. If she was really just trying to criticize UBC's handling of the situation, she should have stuck to that - snidely pointing out that women can be liars too is where she crossed a line into victim-blaming IMO.
posted by aiglet at 12:23 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Regardless of the ultimate outcome and merits of this firing, the initial handling of this was not great and the Faculty Association did raise a good point at that time about the university making the suspension public before the disciplinary process was complete: university making the suspension public before the disciplinary process was complete.

It has been a festival of controversy at UBC the likes I've rarely seen...

In the past couple of years, the President stepped down in a dispute with the Board of Governors, then the Board chair had to step down after interfering with a faculty member speaking out about the presidents' resignation ... then the (seriously amazing) student journalists [who are the source of much of the good info in the national papers on these cases but never seem to be credited] of UBC obtained a bunch of internal Board email that showed them seeming to actively work against the president due to an FOI request being completely bungled, and this resulted in a total review of the BOG because the democratic governance, including faculty involvement, was apparently being undermined.

During this, as I mentioned above, a different sexual assault case warranted a full hour documentary on the Fifth Estate.

It has got to be the worst possible environment for the Faculty Association and UBC Administration to try to have a productive resolution of a dispute about sexual harassment. And it is never easy to arbitrate these cases.
posted by chapps at 1:10 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]




Thanks for posting that Alvy Ampersand. Lawrence Hill is amazing and that is an awesome op ed.
posted by chapps at 5:36 PM on November 18, 2016


Camilla Gibb made a statement on Facebook about her decision to withdraw her name from the letter.
posted by girlpublisher at 3:56 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


It has got to be the worst possible environment for the Faculty Association and UBC Administration to try to have a productive resolution of a dispute about sexual harassment. And it is never easy to arbitrate these cases.

You can add to that a number of negative studies on the status of women working at UBC, including a huge row over unequal pay that UBC had to settle by giving a bump in pay to all female faculty. That one featured immortal comments from one administrator about how it was all the fault of women who did not know how to negotiate, which I don't believe were ever walked back.

So, between that and our almost all white male administration, it's not got an environment that is exactly friendly to open and frank discussions of gender issues and power imbalances. Again, I don't think this is very hidden in the Canadian university system or among Canadian intellectuals, so it blows my mind that none of the signatories even felt like they had to address that in the letter.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:45 PM on November 21, 2016


For the people imploring us all to "read everything" and "understand the full story" about this "witch hunt" against Galloway, blah blah blah:

Canadaland: Sheila Heti talks about signing, then retracting her name from a letter

and

The former University of British Columbia student who accused Steven Galloway of sexual assault says her complaint against the acclaimed author was not about a “consensual affair.”

Atwood et al are so out of touch. What's worse, in their arrogance, the CanLit insider's club made a bad situation worse.
posted by My Dad at 3:46 PM on November 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


The canadaland interview is worth listening to, but the host really doesn't get why Galloway can't talk. Surely he knows that's normal during an ongoing grievance?!
posted by chapps at 9:34 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't fully understand, given the legal proceedings etc, how Galloway had the freedom to make the statement that he did the other day.
posted by My Dad at 9:55 PM on November 24, 2016


Atwood has been having a lengthy give and take discussion on Twitter about the letter and Galloway case. @MargaretAtwood
posted by Rumple at 9:11 AM on November 25, 2016



posted by
My Dad at 10:47 AM on November 25, 2016


Atwood has been having a lengthy give and take discussion on Twitter about the letter and Galloway case.

Thanks, I'll check it out. I think the best thing for Atwood to do, as well as the other signatories of the letter, is to apologize for interfering in the process, apologize for attempting to silence the women who made complaints about Galloway, and then just STFU.

It's like the Canadian intellgentsia learned entirely the wrong lesson from the Jian Ghomeshi affair.
posted by My Dad at 10:49 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's like the Canadian intellgentsia learned entirely the wrong lesson from the Jian Ghomeshi affair.

I don't see how mentioning this supports your point. Some of Jian Ghomeshi's accusers were found to be fabricating (at least parts of) their testimonies. If anything it supports Margaret Atwood's argument.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2016


Some of Jian Ghomeshi's accusers were found to be fabricating (at least parts of) their testimonies.

That's the fundamental question here, isn't it? Can women be expected to remember in detail the exact details of the assault in a court of law? And if they cannot, are they then "fabricating" testimony?

For example, in the Ghomeshi case, a lot was made out of the fact that one plaintiff claimed that an assault occured in a yellow VW bug. But it turned out Ghomeshi didn't purchase the yellow VW Bug until after the relationship had ended.

So the plaintiff was "fabricating" evidence. However, it turns out Ghomeshi had owned a *different* model of VW at the time.

Once again, I think wrong lesson -- that accusers often lie -- is being learned here.

I say this having been a part of the "culture" of Creative Writing back in the day, and generally understanding the dynamic that can occur between male teachers and female students. And I also have witnessed first-hand, as a bystander, sexual harassment in the workplace, between the CEO and the receptionist.
posted by My Dad at 6:18 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can women be expected to remember in detail the exact details of the assault in a court of law? And if they cannot, are they then "fabricating" testimony.

They weren't lying about "exact details" and
No behaviour was more damaging to the case than the incessant communication between two witnesses. DeCoutere and the third complainant exchanged some 5,000 emails between Oct. 29, 2014 (the day DeCoutere went public with her allegations) and September 2015, some discussing the specifics of their allegations—contrary to denials made on the stand. The charge of possible collusion prevented the Crown from mounting a “similar fact” case, one that would use the similarities of the three situations to contend that Ghomeshi had a propensity to act in the ways described by the complainants.?— Macleans
Once again, I think wrong lesson -- that accusers often lie -- is being learned here.

I say this having been a part of the "culture" of Creative Writing back in the day, and generally understanding the dynamic that can occur between male teachers and female students. And I also have witnessed first-hand, as a bystander, sexual harassment in the workplace, between the CEO and the receptionist.


It sounds like you've already decided what lesson should be learned here (based on your experience). And that's exactly why people are calling for fair processes rather than condemnation based on prejudices like yours. I'm sure you realize that your preconceptions are not evidence.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:38 PM on November 25, 2016




It sounds like you've already decided what lesson should be learned here (based on your experience). And that's exactly why people are calling for fair processes rather than condemnation based on prejudices like yours. I'm sure you realize that your preconceptions are not evidence.

There is a process ongoing. A legal process called a grievance. These writers are interfering with that process and they should stop.

As to prejudices and preconceptions, you need to remember that not being found guilty based on a standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt with the onus on the Crown is different from the legal burden and standard applied outside the criminal process. So, details (and yes, they are details, some more significant than others) that are inconsistent may well add up to reasonable doubt, that doesn't make the complainants liars. It is not the case that a complainant is either consistent and therefore truthful or she is inconsistent and therefore a liar. In a criminal context, given the correspondence between the women (which is not wrong, but makes the evidence hard to preserve), acquittal was inevitable. But it doesn't make them liars necessarily, and the lesson to be taken should not be that complainants lie.
posted by girlpublisher at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


These writers are interfering with that process and they should stop.

They're not "interfering" insomuch as just protesting as they have no power except the power to express themselves?— just as with any protest. It's one thing to disagree with their position, but it's completely different to be totally intolerant to the expression of contrary positions. That intolerance ends discussions, and prevents mutual understanding, and it's motivated by what, finally? I've seen no good reason that they shouldn't even express themselves.

…details (and yes, they are details, some more significant than others) that are inconsistent may well add up to reasonable doubt, that doesn't make the complainants liars.

The complainants were asked if they had any contact with the other complainants. They said no. In fact, they had exchanged 5000 emails. That's not a "detail"; that's a lie. Ultimately that case was lost because the complainants lied.

I don't think we need to reduce cases to "lessons" as if only one thing can be learned from an experience and we should decide to only learn uncontroversial things.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:03 PM on November 27, 2016


They're not "interfering" insomuch as just protesting as they have no power except the power to express themselves — just as with any protest.

Sure. But given the nature of a grievance (where the information is confidential) it is uninformed protest and therefore not worthy of their intellect.
posted by chapps at 10:22 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


...not that I haven't personally read everything I could find, and my own comments here are equally based on speculation, I grant.

I'm a little surprised by how many people writing petitions and reporting on this seem to think they should know everything in a grievance process they are not party to. For me the big shock is how much was said publicly by the employer (by news release!) that could have been handled at a department level as need-to-know information. Does all of Canada need to know where to bring complaints about the profit question, or just students in the departmemt, for example.
posted by chapps at 10:45 PM on November 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


* That should read "prof in question" not "profit question". We should all ask who profits, of course! When will I give up on posting by my phone?
posted by chapps at 11:07 AM on November 28, 2016


wow. how did I miss this until now? ... as I seem to know pretty much everyone involved (at UBC, that is -- can't say I'm a CanLit insider). I was a student in the program when much of this was going down ... though rather "outside the loop" for most of it as I was wrapping up my thesis.

I just took a long walk on what has been the first decent day in months here in the Pac-North-West ... and this whole clusterf*** (as I've come to think of it) kept forcing itself into my thoughts, getting in the way of all the peace and beauty.

Which is a shame. The whole thing's a shame. I could go into depth, but I won't, because that would take a bloody book length post. That said, I suspect I'd end up concluding something similar to what John Vaillant (who signed the letter) does here:

This situation illuminates the tips of a much larger, multipeaked iceberg. Power, ambition, alcohol, maturity and gender (I urge readers to notice how and to whom they assign these words) are just some of the peaks showing above the surface here. I am sure there are more. In any case, real damage has been done, and the longer it festers in the half light, the more toxic it risks becoming for all concerned.

I have no qualifications to recommend a solution beyond the fact that I have done a lot of therapy, and I have been involved in a number of challenging intergenerational, interracial and intercultural group processes. When I try to envision a way forward for this community – our community – I keep returning to the restorative justice model: small circles, and then a larger circle, with skilled therapist-facilitators. This, coupled with a sincere commitment from participants to summon the courage to examine, not only their pain, but their respective roles in the dynamics that led to it.

It’s a lot to ask, but I can say from experience, it’s worth it. There is no short cut to healing; the only way out is through.

posted by philip-random at 4:44 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


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