Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and over 80 others have signed an open letter to UBC demanding that Steven Galloway, UBC’s former creative writing chair, be afforded the “right to due process.”
On November 18 of last year, it was announced that Galloway had been suspended pending an investigation into “serious allegations.” When this memo was sent out, it encouraged students who had concerns about their safety and well-being to contact counselling services. According to the letter, this encouragement, along with interviews conducted after the announcement, led to a “a cloud of suspicion over Professor Galloway.”
“[They] created the impression that he was in some way a danger to the university community,” read the letter.
The letter criticizes the university’s actions, saying that they severely damaged Galloway’s health and reputation, despite the fact that criminal charges had not been laid against Galloway.
On June 22, Galloway was fired after an “irreparable breach of trust.” In response, the UBC Faculty Association issued a statement citing concerns with the “University Administration’s misleading public and private comments regarding Professor Galloway.”
“We wish to clarify that all but one of the allegations, including the most serious allegation, investigated by the Honourable Mary Ellen Boyd were not substantiated,” said Mark Mac Lean, the Faculty Association president, in a written statement.
The letter cites this as a serious problem.
“There is growing evidence that the University acted irresponsibly in Professor Galloway’s case. Because the case has received a great deal of public attention, the situation requires public clarification,” reads the letter.
“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.”
UBC’s response to the letter notes that this is already happening.
“Like any former faculty member, Mr. Galloway has the right to challenge the university’s decision and the Faculty Association has filed a grievance and arranged for senior legal counsel,” said UBC VP External Relations Philip Steenkamp in a written statement. “His grievance will be heard by an independent and experienced arbitrator that UBC and the Faculty Association have mutually agreed upon.”
The university also raises some concerns with the attention that the case has been getting from the public.
“When there is significant public interest in a private employment matter, it creates difficulties for all the parties involved, including Mr. Galloway, the complainants, who were students at UBC, and the university,” said Steenkamp in the same written statement.
“UBC remains bound by privacy law from detailing the allegations against Mr. Galloway unless he waives his right to privacy, which he has not done.”
“We are not requesting that privacy be violated and understand that there are grievance proceedings in process,” reads the letter. “Justice, however, requires due process and fair treatment for all, which the University appears to have denied Professor Galloway.”
UBC, however, notes a commitment to “fairness” and to further clarifying their decision making process.
“We can reassure those who have raised concerns that the allegations will be tested again through an independent arbitration, agreed to by the UBC Faculty Association and the university,” said Steenkamp in a written statement.
The list of authors in support of the letter will be updated every 24 hours.