Award-winning Canadian author Steven Galloway has been fired by the University of British Columbia, which cited “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members.”
His dismissal – which comes without severance or a package – follows a months-long investigation by the university and a retired judge brought in to oversee the file.
But the faculty association released a statement late on Wednesday that said all but one of the allegations against Mr. Galloway were not substantiated.
Philip Steenkamp, UBC’s vice-president of external relations, indicated a principal complainant and then others came forward, but would not disclose the nature of the allegations, which were identified as “serious” when Mr. Galloway was suspended last November as associate professor and chair of the creative writing program.
“I’m absolutely bound by privacy legislation on that point,” Dr. Steenkamp told The Globe and Mail.
But The Globe has spoken over the past few months with several of the complainants, whose allegations include sexual harassment as well as creating a toxic environment at the program.
Those complainants – including former students – allege Mr. Galloway fostered a sexualized atmosphere, drank regularly with students and played favourites – bringing some students into his inner circle while casting others out.
All of the people with whom The Globe spoke requested anonymity, saying they were told the process must remain confidential, and citing concerns about their careers and continuing to operate in the inter-connected literary community.
“When I heard the serious allegations against Professor Galloway, I put in a complaint and gave evidence of sexual harassment and bullying,” one of the complainants wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. This complainant also spoke with The Globe.
When asked about the allegations on Wednesday, Mr. Galloway said he could not comment.
While The Globe has learned about the allegations that sparked the suspension and investigation, it is unclear what the findings were that led to the university’s decision to end Mr. Galloway’s employment.
Mr. Galloway is a successful Canadian novelist, best known for his 2008 novel The Cellist of Sarajevo. He became acting chair of the creative writing program at UBC on July 1, 2013, and chair on July 1, 2015.
He was suspended with pay on Nov. 16, 2015. The university received additional complaints in November and December. It hired retired B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mary Ellen Boyd to conduct an investigation. She interviewed “quite a number” of complainants, she said on Wednesday, but would not disclose the nature of the allegations.
Ms. Boyd’s investigation continued until April 25, when she submitted her report to UBC’s dean of arts, Gage Averill.
She said her report did not make recommendations. “You simply make findings and the issue of what will occur is entirely in the hands of the university,” she said.
But the faculty association in its statement said it has serious concerns with what it called the administration’s “misleading public and private comments regarding Professor Galloway.”
The statement continued: “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.”
UBC said it cannot release Ms. Boyd’s report due to privacy considerations, but added that it was a “critical element” in its decision.
Prof. Averill met with Mr. Galloway after reviewing the report and “Steven Galloway did not dispute any of the critical findings in that report,” Dr. Steenkamp said.
“And in addition to the allegations which have been investigated by [Ms.] Boyd, the dean also took into consideration other allegations which were not the subject of the investigation.”
Prof. Averill made his recommendation to UBC president Martha Piper on May 30. She met with Mr. Galloway on June 3.
“The president came to the conclusion that there was a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members by the university, its students and the general public,” said Dr. Steenkamp, who released a statement to the same effect.
Dr. Piper made her recommendation to the board of governors, which decided on Tuesday to terminate Mr. Galloway’s employment with the university. Mr. Galloway was paid up until that point.
UBC said in its statement “these kinds of cases are always very difficult for everyone involved.”
Dr. Steenkamp said the university has learned from previous experiences and how other institutions dealt with such issues. “While I’m sure this one hasn’t been handled perfectly, we’ve moved as quickly as we could and provided as much support as we could to complainants while at the same time making sure that we’ve had a fair and thorough process in place for the respondents as well,” he said in an interview.
An e-mail to students on Wednesday from Kathryn Harrison, senior associate dean, faculty and equity, announced that Mr. Galloway is no longer employed by UBC and thanked students for their patience.
“The process has been time-consuming because the University takes reports of faculty misconduct very seriously, and is committed to conducting a fair and thorough investigation when allegations arise,” it read.
The faculty of arts will put in place a process to select a chair or co-chairs.
Attempts to reach Mr. Galloway’s publisher on Wednesday were unsuccessful. In November, Penguin Random House Canada released a statement saying it was “proud” to publish Mr. Galloway’s work. “He is a friend to many of us here and we look forward to publishing more books with him in the future.”
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2016 2:16PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2016 10:15PM EDT