For over a year now my feelings and opinions on the topic of Steven Galloway have been misinterpreted numerous times by people pontificating on social media about imaginary intentions that simply do not apply to my experience or thinking. Many people believe they know my intentions so well that they are willing to state them for me. So please let me take this opportunity to clarify.
I did not come to sign my name to the letter because I’m Steven Galloway’s friend. I’m not from his inner circle. We are what I would call acquaintances. I know Steven like I know so many in the literary community.
Steven Galloway’s life is in tatters. In my opinion he has been punished many times more severely than Jian Gomeshi and people have inflicted that punishment without knowing the basic facts or even the nature of the accusations that were levelled against him. The social shaming was directly born out of the poor processes and malignant release of information by UBC that happened to coincide (in the early stages) with a Fifth Estate exposé criticizing UBC for its previous handling of sexual assault allegations.
The Open Letter we signed is not about guilt or innocence and it is certainly not about restoring Galloway to any position of patriarchal power. The letter is about ensuring that someone who has been deemed Persona Non Grata can at the very least hold on to his basic right to due process so that he may navigate the complaint process with a basic amount of dignity and justice.
From my view the social media shaming became so intense that within 24 hours of Galloway attempting to end his own life I could not convince a group of writers to stop calling him a rapist on social media (again before they even knew what the allegations were.)
I was told that “where there is smoke there is fire” so he must be a rapist based on the number of allegations. I’m deeply troubled that anyone would cast judgment over another person based solely on the quantity of “mystery” allegations.
This is of course even more troubling now that we know that Galloway was actually only accused of one count of sexual impropriety (which was dismissed by Madam Justice Boyd) and that none of the other allegations were even complaints of sexual assault. In fact many of the ancillary complaints read like student gripes one might find on Ratemyproffesor.com, such as Galloway’s comments about a “Grumpy Cat meme” and the fact Galloway undervalued a student’s poetry that had been submitted to his fiction workshop.
Steven Galloway had an affair with a student. I don’t support this behavior and I think he should have been held accountable on those terms and that a proper procedure would have worked through the information and placed this action somewhere on an appropriate spectrum of misconduct.
He should not however have been thrown into a social media maelstrom where he was being accused of unspecified and potentially violent sexual crimes, directly before a critical TV expose on UBC sexual assault, amidst a highly emotional Gomeshi trial where women were subjected to intense scrutiny and at a time when the UBC campus was being terrorized by a violent sexual predator, who some on social media had suggested was in fact Galloway.
Galloway should have been able to deal with the actual allegations in a just manner, as I believe the main complainant should have been able to negotiate the system with procedural fairness and with her rights and privacy fully respected. In fact the rights of both complainants and respondents are mutually important in that the final claim of a just process depends on both of them. The process has to be fair for all or it will be fair for none, as clearly we have seen here.
It is important to note that the open letter was also born out of the circumstances of social media mobs attacking and shouting down anyone who defended Steven Galloway in any way over the last year and PRIOR to our open letter. To even defend his basic right to due process was to receive hateful messages, as I can attest to and to which Raziel Reid eloquently described in his thoughtful piece in THIS Magazine.
UBC also did the Main Complainant a huge disservice by actually tasking one of the complainants with the job of rounding up additional complainants. This created a hugely problematic procedural bias that I believe is the cause of much of the tension we are now experiencing in the literary community.
And again I must stress that social media has played a horrible role in this entire debacle and that this was the primary factor for my involvement. The last thing anyone needed was for this sad situation to be used as jet fuel in social media streams to divide us all.
The entire process was destined to implode as soon as UBC put the process on that path. This is why my name is on the letter and why I want to hold UBC Accountable.