The University of British Columbia has responded to growing discontent over its handling of allegations against Steven Galloway, saying a grievance to be heard next year will essentially act as a review of the case.
Complainants and supporters of Mr. Galloway have raised differing concerns about an investigation that led to the firing of the bestselling author from his position as chair of the creative writing program last June. This week, more than 80 Canadian authors signed an open letter that called for due process and an investigation into how UBC handled the case.
A four-paragraph statement attributed to Philip Steenkamp, vice-president of external relations at UBC, confirms the faculty association has filed a grievance. "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." The grievance is scheduled to be heard next March.
Mr. Galloway was suspended with pay last November and fired in June over what the university described as "serious allegations." UBC never gave details. The Globe and Mail has reported that the allegations included sexual assault and sexual harassment. But the faculty association has revealed that only one complaint was substantiated in an independent investigation conducted by retired B.C. Supreme Court judge Mary Ellen Boyd – and it was not the most serious. So why was Mr. Galloway fired, his supporters want to know. Meanwhile, some complainants are unhappy with the process and what they have seen of Ms. Boyd's report.
In its statement on Tuesday, UBC says "we would like to take this opportunity to confirm our commitment to fairness and to shed some more light on the decision-making processes followed in such matters. UBC reached its decision only after a thorough, deliberative process conducted in accordance with the requirements of the B.C. Labour Relations Code, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and UBC's collective agreement with the UBC Faculty Association."
In addition to Ms. Boyd's report, that process included a review by dean of arts Gage Averill (currently on sabbatical), followed by a review by then-president Martha Piper – who herself interviewed complainants and Mr. Galloway before the final decision was made to fire him.
The statement from UBC follows the posting of an open letter demanding due process and an investigation into how the university, Prof. Averill and the creative writing program have handled the case. The letter also calls for transparency, arguing that the university's handling of the case "cast a cloud of suspicion" over Mr. Galloway, severely damaging his reputation and affecting his health. The letter suggests the findings of Ms. Boyd's report were misrepresented by the university, but notes that UBC has refused to make the report public.
"There is growing evidence that the University acted irresponsibly in Professor Galloway's case," states the letter, written by acclaimed Canadian author Joseph Boyden. "Because the case has received a great deal of public attention, the situation requires public clarification." The letter was signed by more than 80 members of the literary community, including authors Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Yann Martel and Madeleine Thien.
"The letter reads like a high-minded manifesto calling for due process," says Chelsea Rooney, a graduate of the program who was one of the complainants – but not the main one. "To the complainants, however, who have been going through this investigation for a year, it reads like Canada's most powerful authors saying 'Be quiet, we don't believe you. And we don't care.'"
In its statement, UBC says "it is important to note that a review of the university's decision is already under way. 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."
But the university is also once again emphasizing privacy concerns. "UBC remains bound by privacy law from detailing allegations against Mr. Galloway unless he waives his right to privacy, which he has not done." When asked if the report could be released if Mr. Galloway did waive his right to privacy, UBC responded that more information could be released regarding the allegations.
But Mr. Galloway has signed a confidentiality agreement – at the university's insistence, according to a source. He has declined to be interviewed by The Globe for this story or previous stories.