I appreciate the opportunity to make a statement about my signing of the joint letter urging UBC to be accountable for its actions in the Steven Galloway case.
I am deeply sorry this letter has made women feel silenced. Nothing could have been further from my intention. I believe in the testimony of women. All my life I have struggled against a deeply misogynist culture. I am outraged at the constant vigilance this requires of us. I am heartbroken to see my grand daughters come of age into a society that I thought by now would be so much fairer.
A group letter necessarily puts one in a group, and it has been painful to see the labels attached to me as a result: supporter of rape culture, participant in the muzzling of women, defender of Steven Galloway. I want to be clear: I have no comment on the guilt or innocence of anyone involved in this situation. I am not personally associated with any of the parties.
I was an adjunct at UBC many years ago and have since encouraged many of the students I mentor privately to study in the Creative Writing Program there. Over the past week, I have had many wonderful, difficult conversations with them. My heart goes out to everyone who is studying and teaching there right now. I signed this letter because I believe in the principle of accountability. My concern is with the process, which slammed shut the doors of discourse, creating a well of silence that was quickly filled with innuendo and opinion. The timing of the university’s measures seemed to me to have more to do with protecting its institutional reputation than with the well-being of either its students or its teachers.
Trading opinions on the specifics of this situation will not move us forward. This particular event will be resolved, one way or another, but these situations are not going to stop any time soon. As women we know this. Universities—and all of us—must find a new approach. Not silence. Justice. Dalhousie University has led the way in instituting a restorative justice pilot project, an approach that focuses on harms, needs, obligations, and inclusion. One that treats all parties with respect, allows for the possibility of change, and encourages an openness that promotes real discussion in the larger community. To learn more: http://bit.ly/2g3HeVE
I signed the UBC Open Letter only because it stated explicitly: We, the undersigned, respect the principle of protection for individuals who wish to bring complaints. We also respect the right of an accused to fair treatment. I see now that the letter was too heavily weighted towards the particulars of this situation. That was a mistake. Yet I continue to stand behind the letter’s core request: that UBC establish an independent investigation into its handling of this situation, and I would add—with a view to creating a new approach based on the philosophy and principles of restorative justice. I trust in the integrity and good will of the members of the literary community to continue to work for change in whatever individual ways they can.