One year later: #UBCaccountable revives discourse on Galloway affair

On November 14 — the two-year anniversary of sexual assault allegations against a UBC professor that made national headlines — public response was revived through the use of the #UBCaccountable hashtag on Twitter.

Steven Galloway, the former dean of UBC’s creative writing program, was suspended in November of 2015 and fired in June of 2016 for what was then described by the university as an “irreparable breach of trust.”

This time last year, a public letter was posted that called for due process for Galloway and decried UBC’s handling of the communications surrounding the case. The letter argued that UBC had acted too swiftly and mishandled the situation, “severely damaging Professor Galloway’s reputation and affecting his health.”

Over 80 people signed the letter, including several notables in the writing community. Canadian author Margaret Atwood said that UBC’s handling of the situation “failed both sides” of the allegations against Galloway.

Galloway was also critical of the university’s handling of his investigation, soon after releasing a statement noting that he has “grave concerns with the investigative process followed by UBC, including but not limited to the manner in which UBC chose to communicate to the public.”

The woman who submitted the complaint spoke out one day later with her own statement.

“Mr. Galloway has issued an apology. But he wouldn’t appear to be apologizing for the finding he has admitted was made against him by Ms. Boyd, which was misconduct for ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour with a student’: conduct which is an abuse of trust and his position of power,” read the statement.

“The so-called ‘secrecy’ of the investigation process has protected Galloway, perhaps more than anyone else.”

At the time, #UBCaccountable was a breeding ground for debate. One year later, community members are using the hashtag mainly to remind the public that much like the letter remains online, the issue of sexual assault survivor silencing is not one that goes away.

At UBC, faculty-student relationships are not a fireable offence — the exact reason that Galloway was terminated remains unclear, and UBC said that they were unable to elaborate due to confidentiality preservation and privacy law. As of this summer, Galloway was undergoing an arbitration process to appeal his termination from UBC, but there have been no updates.

This past June, Alix Ohlin was named the new chair of the creative writing program.