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UBC has never explained the allegations against Steven Galloway in detail. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
UBC has never explained the allegations against Steven Galloway in detail. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Steven Galloway's firing causes donor to rethink gift to UBC Add to ...

A Hollywood TV producer and writer says he is rethinking plans to make a sizable donation to the University of British Columbia after the school fired Steven Galloway, a high-profile Canadian author, as head of its creative writing program over allegations UBC has never explained in detail.

Mr. Galloway was suspended with pay last November and later fired after an investigation into complaints against him from former students and others. The university’s handling of the case has been questioned by both complainants and supporters of Mr. Galloway, who is a bestselling author.

Hart Hanson, creator of the long-running Fox series Bones, is a graduate of the department and a former instructor there. He met Mr. Galloway last year, when Mr. Hanson received an honorary degree from UBC.

Related: Author Steven Galloway fired from UBC after investigation of ‘serious allegations’

Related: UBC and literary community in turmoil after Galloway suspension

Mr. Hanson said he is “extremely uncomfortable” with the lack of information about the firing, and cannot contribute to the university until he is satisfied Mr. Galloway was treated fairly.

“Something stinks in the way this is being handled, and I don’t know enough to know what it is,” Mr. Hanson said on Tuesday during an interview from his home in Venice, Calif.

When contacted by e-mail, the university declined to disclose specific facts of the case, citing legal obligations and privacy concerns.

Complainants have told The Globe and Mail the concerns they took to the university and an investigator included sexual harassment and creating a toxic environment at the program.

One complainant, who has asked to remain anonymous, said she believes the university did the right thing in firing Mr. Galloway – but said that throughout the process she has felt misled, kept in the dark and intimidated into silence.

Mr. Hanson, who said he is “very friendly” with Mr. Galloway and has been in touch with him – but does not know him well – is also concerned about the silence around the case.

When the university suspended Mr. Galloway, it cited “serious allegations.” When he was fired, UBC spoke of “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of ... trust.” But it did not provide details.

“I think it was tremendously irresponsible of [UBC] to blurt that and then say, ‘But we’re bound by confidentiality and can’t go any farther,’ ” Mr. Hanson said.

“And then no context, nothing. So we are all left to conjecture about what the hell had he done . . . All of a sudden it had the feeling that Steven was Bill Cosby.”

Mr. Galloway, best known for his novel The Cellist of Sarajevo, declined to comment on Tuesday, as he has since his firing. The UBC Faculty Association, which is representing Mr. Galloway, has said all but one of the allegations were not substantiated and has declined to comment since.

Mr. Hanson, who was born in the United States and raised in Canada, attended the creative writing program in the 1980s, then was an instructor there in the early 1990s. He left the position to write for television full time. He did not meet Mr. Galloway until the UBC event last year. Afterward, Mr. Hanson asked Mr. Galloway to have a look at a crime novel he had written; the author encouraged the screenwriter to get it published.

Mr. Hanson said his concerns arose after Linda Svendsen, acting co-chair of the program and a friend of Mr. Hanson, asked if he would come to UBC to work with students for a few days this academic year. He thought, “Oh my God, I can’t. I have too many questions about what has happened to the chair of this department.” He declined, regretfully, he said.

Mr. Hanson said he felt that voting with his feet was not enough; he sent a letter to nine higher-ups at UBC, including president Santa Ono, chancellor Lindsay Gordon, the chair and vice-chairs of the Board of Governors and several alumni engagement officials. In the letter, Mr. Hanson said he was no longer comfortable making a “considerable donation” to the university that he and his wife had intended to make this year.

Mr. Hanson said he had planned to donate the funds in his UBC pension – he is not sure of the amount, but said it is “six figures” – to the creative writing program. “I couldn’t possibly give them that money until I was assured that they were behaving well,” he said.

Mr. Hanson said he will probably donate the funds to the University of Toronto, where he completed his undergraduate degree.

In his letter, Mr. Hanson wrote that he is unequivocally against sexual harassment, that he does not know Mr. Galloway well and does not know what led to his termination – but noted the lack of criminal charges or civil suit.

“I realize there are confidentiality issues, but I find myself unable to donate money or time to an institution which can so cavalierly ruin the teaching career of a human being and smear the reputation of one of the best novelists in the country,” Mr. Hanson wrote.

“Did Steven Galloway deserve to have his life and reputation ruined?” he added later in the letter.

Mr. Hanson sent the e-mail on Aug. 26. By Sept 23, he had still not received a response. So he took to Facebook, explaining what he had done and why.

“I’m getting big Kafka vibes off UBC,” he wrote in his post.

That night, he received what he calls an “anemic” reply from Herbert Rosengarten, executive director of the office of the president, explaining that issues of confidentiality prevent the university from releasing details. He wrote that he understood Mr. Hanson’s decision to “stand by” Mr. Galloway.

Mr. Hanson said he is not standing by Mr. Galloway; he simply wants transparency.

“It just seems nuts and wrong and bad to me, the whole way it’s been handled,” he says. “Honest to God ... I hope that whatever Steven did won’t change my mind about him. But that’s almost not the point. It will be important in the end, of course, to me and him and others and whoever was making the allegation, but the university has to be better.”

When contacted by e-mail on Tuesday, UBC did not directly respond to a question about whether anyone else had withdrawn support as a result of the Galloway case.

“We can reassure you that UBC’s creative writing program ... continues to thrive,” read a statement attributed to Philip Steenkamp, vice-president of external relations, adding that it “continues to attract donors, visiting lecturers and top-notch faculty” and that enrolment is stronger than ever.

The Driver – the novel by Mr. Hanson that Mr. Galloway read – will be published next year by Dutton Books/Penguin out of New York. Mr. Hanson wrote the acknowledgments the other day. He would have liked to include something about his time at the creative writing department at UBC, he said, but could not.

“I feel awful about this; I feel just terrible. But until I know that a novelist has not been treated in a draconian and Kafkaesque manner, I just can’t be a booster for UBC right now.”

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