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University of British Columbia’s firing of Steven Galloway draws criticism

UBC announced this week that Steven Galloway, the award-winning author of novels including The Cellist of Sarajevo, was no longer employed by the university after an investigation into “serious” allegations

The opaqueness surrounding the University of British Columbia's firing of Steven Galloway as head of its creative writing program and tenured associate professor is drawing criticism from both supporters of the acclaimed author and a woman who was among the complainants who participated in the investigation.

The university announced this week that Mr. Galloway, the award-winning author of novels including The Cellist of Sarajevo, was no longer employed by the university after an investigation into "serious" allegations. When it announced the firing, UBC cited "a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of … trust" but specified nothing about the nature of the allegations.

The Globe and Mail has spoken with several complainants, whose allegations include sexual harassment and creating a toxic environment at the program.

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UBC's announcement prompted the school's faculty association to express "serious concerns" with what it called "misleading" comments about Mr. Galloway by the university administration.

The association revealed that a report prepared for the university by retired judge Mary Ellen Boyd concluded all but one of the allegations against Mr. Galloway were "not substantiated," including "the most serious allegation" – although it did not elaborate.

Now some supporters of the Canadian novelist say they feel the university has been deliberately cagey about the way it has communicated its decision, while a complainant is taking the faculty association to task for its response.

"By them making this broad, sweeping statement that only one complaint was substantiated, they're basically saying that all the other complainants were lying," one of the complainants in the case, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Globe and Mail on Thursday.

"Which is not true; nobody is lying here."

The woman was also upset about the process.

"We weren't told by the university whether any of the allegations were upheld. And then we have to open up the paper and have to see that the faculty association is claiming only one was."

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She urged the public to be critical when reading the faculty association's claims about what is in the report.

"What does 'unsubstantiated' even mean?" the woman said. She called it an "abuse of power" for the association to make such a claim and then cite privacy laws as a reason not to explain further.

Supporters of Mr. Galloway were also critical. In a statement to The Globe, Hal Wake, the artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Fest, called for full disclosure on how the matter was investigated.

"In my opinion, the information that the university has provided publicly is partial, selective and intended to create a particular narrative," wrote Mr. Wake, who stressed he was not speaking for the writers' festival but as a friend of Mr. Galloway.

"I have concerns that the handling of the matter may have been deeply flawed. I would encourage the university to release the judge's findings, with all due respect to privacy issues."

Author Raziel Reid, who was hired by Mr. Galloway as an adjunct professor, told The Globe he felt the university has been "calculated" in its public relations surrounding the case from the beginning.

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"They failed the complainants, and have allowed the defamation of one of Canada's most eminent authors," Mr. Reid wrote in an e-mail from Prague, where he is promoting his Governor-General's Literary Award-winning young-adult novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies.

"By silencing faculty and students throughout the prolonged inquiry, which didn't culminate until the school year had been completed and many people were already on holiday, they have attempted to create distance for themselves, meanwhile allowing the denigration of Galloway to persist."

Mr. Reid said anyone who feels they have been victimized should file a police report rather than pursue a complaint through the media or the school.

"There must be order to justice if it is to prevail. I look forward to Galloway's next book."

Ms. Boyd reiterated to The Globe on Thursday that she is unable to provide background information for privacy reasons. "It would be inappropriate for me to discuss or to comment upon the report, the matters addressed, and whether the University's decision is in accord with the findings made," she wrote in an e-mail. "To be clear, my mandate in this investigation did not include making any recommendations."

As for the decision itself, complainants, which included people who worked with Mr. Galloway as well as former students, were pleased.

One complainant, who also asked to remain anonymous, expressed great relief. "I heaved a very big sigh," he said.

Mr. Galloway has not responded publicly to his dismissal or to allegations reported by The Globe.

The faculty association did not respond to The Globe's questions on Thursday. The university said it was unable to comment further.

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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