Bullying and sexual harassment alleged in case of UBC professor
VANCOUVER – Former students and faculty involved in the University of British Columbia’s investigation of its creative writing chair say the allegations against him included sexual harassment, bullying and threats.
The university announced Wednesday that acclaimed writer Steven Galloway no longer works there over what it called an “irreparable breach of trust.”
The school has not disclosed any details of the allegations Galloway faced or which complaints were found to be substantiated. A report produced by former judge Mary Ellen Boyd after a months-long investigation has not been made public and the faculty association said only one allegation against Galloway was substantiated.
There has also been criticism of the process used to investigate complaints made in the case.
The faculty association and members of the literary community have accused the university of being unfair to Galloway, while some complainants say the process lacks transparency.
When Galloway was suspended in November, the school only said he faced “serious allegations.” But since then, The Canadian Press has spoken with five people involved in the investigation, who described sexual comments, threats and bullying they allege they witnessed or experienced.
All spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fears about how speaking out against the best-selling writer could impact their careers or concerns about how the public treats women who come forward with allegations of harassment.
“I put in a complaint about sexual harassment and bullying,” said one woman, who declined to discuss the specifics of her complaint in an interview earlier this week.
Galloway has not responded to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment since November. Attempts to reach him this week by phone, email and through his publisher and faculty association were unsuccessful.
Penguin Random House Canada, which said after he was suspended it was “proud” to publish the author, has not responded to requests for comment since Galloway’s departure from the university.
Mark Mac Lean, president of the faculty association, said in November that UBC released “confidential information” and violated Galloway’s legal right to privacy when it announced his suspension.
After Galloway’s removal this week, Mac Lean issued a statement expressing serious concerns about the university’s “misleading public and private comments” about 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,” he said.
“Out of respect for fair and due process, a process which is ongoing, the faculty association will not be commenting further on this matter at this time.”
The association did not explain how it knew which allegations had been substantiated.
The Canadian Press does not know if any of the allegations from the complainants in this story were substantiated in the investigation by Boyd.
UBC spokeswoman Susan Danard said the university cannot comment on the allegations made against Galloway due to privacy concerns. She also said she cannot respond to other points of view on the process.
The university has said Galloway did not dispute any of Boyd’s critical findings when the dean of arts, Gage Averill, reviewed the report with him.
A professor said he filed a complaint alleging that he witnessed threats and instances of bullying by Galloway.
“It’s not just students who forwarded complaints. It was also faculty members, too,” said the professor, who asked not to be identified because he still works for the university, on Thursday.
A former student who filed a complaint based on what she witnessed said in an interview in November that Galloway used his powerful position to threaten and intimidate aspiring writers who clashed with him.
When she first arrived at UBC, she said she was told by other students: “You don’t want to make Steven Galloway mad. You don’t want to piss him off because he will retaliate … You are here because of his good will. He can make you go away.”
Another former student said he put forward a complaint alleging Galloway had threatened his career. He said Galloway actively befriended some students while being “cold and hostile” towards others.
“He created a really terrible working environment for growing artists and writers,” the former student said Thursday. “It’s kind of surprising that anything came out of that atmosphere.”
Another witness who filed a complaint said on a number of occasions Galloway displayed “questionable behaviour” in public, including making a sexual comment about a student’s breasts in front of others from the creative writing program.
On another occasion, Galloway made a bet with a student in which the winner got to slap the loser. When Galloway won, he waited until the student was unaware and slapped her hard at a bar in front of other students, said the witness.
“As kind and good as he was to many people, there were clear signs that he could abuse his power on occasion,” he said in an email in November.
The witness said in an email sent this week that he was “angry and sad” that many will continue to see Galloway as the wronged party and UBC will never reveal the allegations against him.
The way allegations of misconduct have been investigated by Canadian universities has come under greater scrutiny, with accusations that schools have not been open about what is happening on their campuses after some complainants say they were told not to publicly discuss their cases.
Meanwhile, some in Canada’s close-knit writing scene have raised concerns that the process at the University of British Columbia was unfair to Galloway.
Author Raziel Reid tweeted on Thursday: “Steven Galloway is a true visionary, and I look forward to his next book. He can be ‘unsubstantially’ inappropriate with me any day.”
Reid said in follow-up tweets that people with serious allegations should contact the police, not a university. The case is ambiguous and from that space has come “hearsay and persecution,” he said.
Hal Wake, artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Fest, who emphasized he is not speaking on behalf of his employer, said it is his personal opinion that the information provided publicly by the university is “partial, selective and intended to create a particular narrative.”
“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.”
© 2016 The Canadian Press