A short time after Steven Galloway was suspended due to “serious allegations”, Linda Svendsen invited me up to teach for a few days in Creative Writing. My wife and I had been planning to donate to the University after a conversation with Steven Galloway about how we might do that in a way that most benefited the program. I had no idea what the allegations against Galloway were; Linda was not allowed to tell me.
Was Galloway accused of coming to work stoned? Of ripping donuts in the quad? Of tagging? Of racist comments? Of sexual transgressions? What? (Full disclosure: I’d met Steven Galloway a few times, I liked the man, he was encouraging about my novel, and I hoped he wouldn’t turn out to be some kind of sexual offender but I’ve been fooled before.)
A few months later, Galloway was fired for an “irreparable breach of trust” — another of UBC’s abrupt public proclamations. UBC announced the availability of counseling for those students who felt they might need it — the inevitable conclusion was that he’d been accused of sexual impropriety. Who needs counseling if the petty cash is rifled? The rumor mill ground out a rape narrative and in the public consciousness, Steven Galloway was in the same league as Bill Cosby.
In hindsight, UBC did nothing to allay that even though, given the investigation by Judge Boyd, they knew the truth! Even writing that makes me sick.
The University allowed their silence to affirm that Steven Galloway was a sexual predator.
I only know what Steven Galloway was actually accused of and what he was found guilty of because Galloway himself made a public statement. Today. Apparently, Galloway was married and carried on a two year affair with a married student. Whatever you think of that, it’s not rape. Of course, I didn’t know any of that when I wrote nine University luminaries including the President, the Board of Governors, and the Alumni Association the University and asked if the University was satisfied that Steven Galloway had done something so heinous that it merited not only the loss of his teaching job but also obliterated any chance to get another job in academia and damaged his reputation as a human being so badly that his career as a writer was also ruined?
I expected from UBC some kind of statement of policy informing me what Galloway had been accused of, the process by which he’d been found guilty, and, if guilty, whether or not it was a firing offense. More importantly, I wanted to know how the Faculty of Arts was justified in announcing to the press that Steven was accused of a vague offense — an “irreparable breach of trust” — followed by an offer of counseling to students which led to an inevitable conclusion that he was guilty of sexual impropriety. (How many students require counseling after the petty cash has been rifled?)
I received an anemic response from Dr. Herbert Rosengarten in the President’s office which was — the word I’m grasping for here is “bullshit” — stating that I should accept his reassurances that the University had behaved in an exemplary manner, very professionally, and couldn’t say more due to confidentiality requirements.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the completely reasonable conclusion that by letting the public “rape” narrative stand uncorrected, the University seemed to want me to think the worst of Galloway.
I unequivocally support the anonymity of victims of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. I wasn’t asking for names or details. All I wanted to know is if UBC was doing its job because from the outside, it looked unlikely, particularly in light of UBC’s abysmal history of dealing with those issues.
As of today, UBC in no way admits to fault. That’s just nuts. An external investigation is required to set the groundwork for a policy which encourages the reporting of sexual transgressions. Student safety is paramount. I believe in due process. I believe in accountability and consequences for actions which hurt actual human beings and protect institutions. Until that happens, I cannot support UBC in any way. I hope other alumni will take a stand for substantive change in the university culture.