On August 8, 2015, a day after the University of British Columbia announced the sudden resignation of its president, Arvind Gupta, UBC’s Jennifer Berdahl, professor in Leadership Studies in Gender and Diversity, published a blog post in which she opined that “Gupta lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC, as most women and minorities do at institutions dominated by white men.”
Berdahl held the Montalbano Professorship, a position financed with a $2 million (all figures Canadian) donation from Board Of Governors Chair John Montalbano, specifically focused on “the advancement of women and diversity in business leadership.”
Montalbano called Berdahl directly and accused her of making him look like a hypocrite. He also told her that he had contacted her dean about the issue. Berdahl shot back with a second blog post that accused Montalbano of trying to silence her. “I have a right to academic freedom and expression,” she wrote, “free of intimidation and harassment.”
On August 18, the UBC board of governors convened a meeting to deal with the controversy. As Montalbano came out of the room, a reporter confronted him, followed him down the hall and out of the building to his car, while telling him he was incompetent and that it was unacceptable that he had nothing to say.
The next day, August 19, UBC’s Faculty Association published a letter, demanding that Montalbano resign. The university then appointed former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith to investigate the claims of infringement on Berdahl’s academic freedom.
All of this was front-page news: UBC sits at the heart of intellectual life in Vancouver, and is considered the finest university in western Canada.
In the meantime, Montalbano personally contacted former UBC President Martha Piper, who agreed to step in as Interim President in order to lead UBC through the crisis until a new president could be appointed. Piper had led UBC from 1997 to 2006, and was no stranger to controversy, having begun her original term dealing with the fallout from a 1997 conference at which police pepper-sprayed student protestors on campus. Within academic circles, Piper is widely seen as a respected university administrator, with 17 honorary degrees to her name. She served in her interim role till June, 2016, when she was succeeded by Santa J. Ono, who remains the school’s President and Vice-Chancellor.
On October 16, 2015, a month after Piper stepped in as Interim President, Madam Justice Smith released her report on Berdahl’s claim that her academic freedom had been compromised. Although no single person was to blame for what had happened, she concluded, the school as a whole hadn’t done enough to protect Berdahl.
“Sometimes,” Smith wrote, “several relatively small mistakes can lead to a failure of the larger system.” Montalbano resigned from the UBC Board of Governors the same day.
None of these events relate directly to famed Canadian novelist Steven Galloway, who was suspended from his position as chair of UBC’s Creative Writing program a month later, following the airing of thinly evidenced sexual assault allegations. But for reasons described below, they are crucial to understanding how and why UBC reacted in the disastrous way it did when the claims against Galloway emerged.
In normal times, UBC would have investigated and dismissed the claims against Galloway—as an independent investigator eventually did—while obeying something that at least approximated the norms of due process. But these were not normal times.
Thanks to the Gupta resignation, and the Berdahl-Montalbano meltdown, this had now become what was arguably the most tumultuous period at UBC since the university’s founding in the late 19th century, with the two top positions at the institution being vacated in just over three months. In addition, three Vice-Presidents had previously vacated positions under Gupta, including the Provost.
But Piper also had some good news to announce, if only she could prevent it from being overshadowed by scandal. A recently completed fundraising campaign, seven years in the making, would, by UBC’s claims, propel the university into the prestigious global ranks of Harvard and Princeton. The campaign raised $1.624 billion, exceeding the $1.5 billion goal declared a decade earlier.
Piper was set to make the announcement at the Vancouver Board of Trade on the morning of November 18. But as that date drew closer, two fresh scandals appeared.
* * *
First, CBC Television’s prominent investigative show, The Fifth Estate, announced that it would be airing an exposé called School of Secrets, which contained accusations that UBC had not acted on allegations of sexual assault leveled against a UBC history department PhD candidate from Russia. The segment was scheduled to air during the same week as the fundraising announcement.
Then, on November 13, the Friday before the scheduled Board of Trade announcement, Chelsea Rooney, formerly a student in UBC’s Creative Writing Department, came forward with the shocking claim that Galloway, who had served as the UBC Creative Writing Chair since 2013, had violently raped an unnamed student four years earlier. Rooney would also make the stunning claim that she was able to bring forth no fewer than 19 other former or current UBC students who also alleged abusive behavior at Galloway’s hands.
From this point onward, Rooney would become the face of the allegations against Galloway. The woman he stood accused of raping, a former professor in her 40s, would become identified in the media only as “MC” (or Main Complainant, a term used internally at UBC).
Rooney made a voicemail available to Creative Writing Faculty that, according to the accusation, featured Galloway apologizing for raping MC. (In a subsequent investigation, it was determined that, in fact, he was apologizing for his part in their lengthy consensual affair.)
In the message, Galloway stated that he was a changed man. He also requested that he be the one to break the news of his behavior—which he recognized as improper—to his mentor, former Creative Writing Department Chair Keith Maillard.
“I think actually what I’m asking for is maybe a chance, if you wish it, for me to turn myself in,” Galloway said on the voicemail. “Keith’s opinion of me matters a great deal to me, and I’m pretty ashamed of the way I used to be and act. I can assure you that I am no longer that way.”
This voicemail was presented as evidence to support MC’s claims. But it should also have served to arouse skepticism, even at this very early stage in the scandal. Under Canadian law, sexual assault is properly treated as a serious crime that can be punished with a life sentence. Would a university official such as Galloway confess to this crime over voicemail, while also asking permission to confess the same crime to his mentor, because he was worried about how the news might affect his reputation?
Few figures in the UBC community wanted to ask such questions at the time. Students and staff were horrified by the claims, and were understandably eager to express support for any woman who had suffered.
In retrospect, other questions should have been asked. No police report had been filed in regard to the alleged assault on MC. Nor had there been a police complaint in regard to unlawful confinement, or administering a noxious substance—both of which, as we shall see, could have followed from the claimed narrative.
Since 2015, MC has changed her story several times, including changing the date of the alleged assaults from 2012, when she was an MFA student in the UBC Creative Writing program, to 2011, when she wasn’t. She also originally alleged one assault and later claimed there had been three.
And, as for those other 19 victims of Galloway whom Rooney claimed she could bring forward, it turns out there is no evidence that they exist.
But it would be many months before Canadians would know any of this. And in the media, reports focused on Galloway’s suspension from UBC amid serious allegations. Rooney received sympathetic treatment from reporters, who presented her as a whistleblower with a tragic back story. “I had a rage-filled, alcoholic father who beat and raped our mother in front of us,” she said in an interview. “We spent several nights in women’s shelters, in fear of our lives.”
In this same interview, tagged to the launch of her 2014 book Pedal, Rooney candidly admitted that the act of writing had “forced two revelations on me: how narcissistic I am, and how much shame I carry because of my abuse…For me, narcissism describes a tendency to imagine myself at the centre. To imagine that the people in my life are doing things to me, and events are occurring because of me…It’s a terrible way to live. I still scan for threats, but more and more I catch myself doing it.”
It’s impossible to say whether this narcissistic tendency to “imagine herself at the center” of things is what caused Rooney to become MC’s most zealous champion, notwithstanding early signs that the underlying claims were unfounded. (Rooney did not respond to interview requests.) But largely as a result of her campaign on MC’s behalf, UBC officials would make a move that altered the lives of many people—all for the worse.
For what is believed to be the first time in its history, UBC would publicly announce a disciplinary action against a faculty member before any investigation had occurred.
“What I’ve always been mystified by,” says Andreas Schroeder, who taught in UBC’s Creative Writing program from 1994 to 2017, “was that faculty were assured [that] nineteen other women were coming forward with allegations—but it never happened.”
Schroeder remembers that during these events in November, 2015, no concrete information was presented to departmental staff. Instead, he says, the flow of information was conducted through gossip and second-hand claims that seemed to evaporate when you tried to track down the alleged source.
The UBC Creative Writing Department became a tense place. Schroeder said that there were rumors circulating that faculty emails were being monitored. A culture of fear had set in.
Things had been set in motion within the department on Sunday, November 15, when an emergency meeting of Creative Writing staff was held at the home of professor Linda Svendsen. Only select faculty were chosen to attend. One of the agenda items listed on the minutes was “Fifth Estate.” The Galloway voicemail was played to the room, and a decision was made to request that the dean suspend Galloway and remove him as department Chair.
Less than one business day had passed from the time that an unproven four-year-old allegation had been brought forward by Rooney on behalf of MC, yet Galloway’s fate was essentially decided in that room.
“I saw Steven called a rapist,” said a Creative Writing instructor who still works within the department, and spoke to me on condition that they remain anonymous. “I saw anyone who dared defend him called a rape apologist. I’ve watched the department go from a vibrant, welcoming place to a place full of cautiousness and fear and closed doors.”
* * *
At this point, it’s worth pausing to describe just how large Galloway loomed, as both a figure at UBC and in Canadian arts and letters more generally. He is one of the few first-tier novelists that his country has ever produced. His 2008 novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, was an international bestseller, listed for numerous literary prizes. When he became acting chair of the UBC Creative Writing program in 2013, he made his impact felt immediately, taking steps to improve morale and increase public exposure for the school and its students.
As his first act as Chair, Galloway installed a large brass marine bell outside his office, for students to ring when they handed in their thesis, thereby completing their graduation. Prior to that, a student would submit his or her bound work to the departmental secretary, which felt like an anticlimax. Once Galloway’s thesis bell was installed, ringing it became a major event, with the secretary going down the halls knocking on doors to let everyone in the department know someone was about to have their moment. Students and faculty came out into the hall to clap and cheer for the graduating student, who stood under the bell and rang it.
Following the claims against Galloway, however, signs of his presence were removed from the department. The university sent the bell to Galloway’s house in a plain brown box.
On the day after the meeting at Svendsen’s house, November 16, Galloway was informed of his suspension by email a few minutes before he was to speak at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. In a panic, he phoned Annabel Lyon, a novelist who taught in his department. He told her he’d been suspended pending an investigation, at which point, he recalls, she hung up on him. Hours later, she texted him, asking him to call her again. When he did, she put him on speakerphone with another professor, Nancy Lee, and the program administrator.
As in a novel by Kafka, Galloway had no idea of the specific allegations against him—although he guessed they were related in some way to MC. Galloway still felt remorse for his affair with MC, which had ended in early 2013. Although he was not department chair at the time of their intimate relationship, nor did he supervise MC’s thesis, Galloway knew that sex between teachers and students was frowned upon—even if it was not explicitly forbidden by UBC rules.
He told Lyon and Lee about the affair, and apologized profusely. In effect, he was delivering a version of the confession that he had delivered in his voicemail to MC. (At the time, Galloway didn’t know that Lyon and Lee had already heard the recording the day before.) By his account, the trio on the other end of the line then told him that they did not know anything about what was going on. At one point, Galloway remembers, Annabel reassured him that they had been friends for 15 years (which was true), and that everything would be okay (which was not).
The trio repeatedly asked him if he was suicidal. Galloway told them he was not, joking that he was way too much of a coward to kill himself. His focus was on catching a plane in a few hours and meeting his partner in Toronto. Someone from UBC would also contact MC to tell her to not sleep at home in case Galloway turned up in Toronto to kill her. While he was speaking to them, one of the three people on the other end of the call phoned the police in Ohio.
Two officers showed up at Galloway’s hotel room in Ohio. After interviewing him, one attending officer contacted Lyon, who (according to the police report) told him Galloway was suicidal, manipulative, and would tell them anything to get what he wanted. The responding officer removed Galloway from his hotel in handcuffs, seated him in the back of a squad car and transported him to the psychiatric ward of Miami Valley Hospital where he was strip searched and incarcerated on a 72 hour involuntary psychiatric remand known as a pink slip.
The next morning, while Galloway was still incarcerated, Martha Piper took to the podium at the Vancouver Board of Trade to announce UBC’s $1.6 billion in new funding.
Back on UBC campus, administrators and faculty were preparing to publicly announce Galloway’s suspension. Lyon and Svendsen convened an emergency meeting to tell all faculty and adjunct teachers that they were taking over as acting co-chairs, effective immediately.
They also informed faculty that Galloway had been suspended over “serious allegations,” and that precautions were being taken to protect students and provide them with counseling.
Whether intended or not, the word “protect” suggested that Galloway was associated with crimes so serious that his mere presence on campus might subject students to emotional trauma, or even physical danger.
The following day, UBC issued a press release using similarly ominous language. It announced that Galloway had been suspended, and that steps were being taken to protect the “safety, health and well-being of all members of our community.”
Dean of Arts Gage Averill then gave multiple media interviews. “We’re in a position right now where we’re dealing with allegations,” he said. “Nothing has been determined in regards to Professor Galloway, certainly not any finding of fault. So we want to protect his rights, understand the allegations, and respond to them.”
Alas, that train had already left the station.
Following the predictably emotional reaction within the Creative Writing department, Lyon spoke of her own sense of shock—striking the tone of a neighbor who tells news reporters about how the notorious criminal living next door seemed like a regular guy who said hello and stopped by for coffee. According to one UBC instructor who witnessed these events, Lyon told colleagues that the allegations were “upsetting for me, too. I mean, he used to change my kids’ diapers for god’s sake.” (Lee, Lyon, and Svendsen were invited, by email, to describe their own recollections of the events described in this article. But none provided any comment for attribution.)
Even by this time, none of the allegations against Galloway had been spelled out. All that was known—even internally—emerged from the series of lurid accusations from MC that were filtered through Rooney, and then again through an inner circle of faculty members who, conveniently, had just taken leadership of the department.
“I sat at dinner parties and heard people [who did not know Galloway] outlining the horrid rumors they’d heard like they were the truth,” said the above-quoted UBC instructor who asked to remain anonymous. “A friend, who’d been at [another] dinner party with someone from UBC’s own equity department, told [another] friend that ‘16 other women are coming forward.’ The strange leaks from people working at the university were particularly alarming and, as we later [learned], utterly false.”
This instructor reported to me that many faculty members were afraid to speak out. But a group of adjuncts who felt they had little to lose met with representatives of the dean’s office. When they asked why UBC released such an innuendo-heavy press release, one of the dean’s representatives reportedly replied: “We can’t be held responsible for what happens on social media.”
This was a presumed reference to the Fifth Estate’s Ronna Syed, who’d produced School of Secrets, and broke the Galloway suspension announcement on Twitter. Within minutes of Syed’s tweet, several women who had appeared in School of Secrets were following up on Syed’s post by attacking Galloway and suggesting he was a rapist. The Fifth Estate announced they would be postponing the airing of School of Secrets to the following week, one might infer, with an eye toward updating it with material about Galloway. Piper released an official apology to the women victimized in the original scandal, and The Fifth Estate published it on their web page as the lead-in to the segment, offering UBC a small but precious PR victory amid the tumult. (In the end, the allegations against Galloway never made it onto the aired version of School of Secrets.)
Galloway remained silent during this period, following the recommendations of the UBC Faculty Association, whose President, Mark Mac Lean, released a statement criticizing UBC for going public with Galloway’s suspension and the unspecified allegations. There were some other people supporting Galloway, too. Random House Canada said it was “proud” to be Galloway’s publisher, and that it “looks forward” to publishing more. Fellow B.C. author Angie Abdou told a reporter that Galloway “is whip smart and absolutely hilarious,” as well as “kind and generous.”
But these were lonely voices, quickly targeted by a growing mob within the world of Canadian literature, which sought to create a united front against Galloway.
Rooney accused Mac Lean of silencing women. “They will now feel afraid to share information, which is exactly how silence becomes abusive and damaging,” she told CBC. “If we want to talk about the truth, if we want to talk about these types of events that happen every day within every kind of institution, then we have to actually talk about it.”
Her reaction to the Faculty Association statement would set the tone for the two-pronged media strategy adopted by Galloway’s accusers over the next two and a half years. First, Galloway’s guilt was to be assumed as a matter of fundamental truth. And second, demands for fair play and due process were to be interpreted as efforts to “silence” victims of sex abuse and emotionally injure Galloway’s supposed victims.
However spurious these claims proved to be as a matter of a law, they were successful in tarring Galloway and his defenders on social media. Even as of this writing, with the claims against Galloway now having been undermined on multiple fronts, Galloway’s most aggressive critics continue to apply the same tactics. (In Toronto’s Globe & Mail, for instance, writer Alicia Elliott—who helped lead the Twitter campaign both against Galloway and anyone seeking to ensure that he received due process—wrote a recent article entitled “We must value a woman’s pain above a man’s reputation.”)
Moreover, since no one was releasing information showing just how flimsy the case against Galloway really was, the media naturally went hard on the narrative of a supposed workplace sex tyrant leading one of Canada’s elite academic programs. As with the above-described relationship that developed between UBC and the CBC in late 2015, the bond between Galloway’s accusers and certain reporters would become close. Both had their own interests in presenting the story as a shocking case of abuse.
Rooney, in particular, continued to be presented as a hero of what later would be called the #MeToo movement. An op-ed about sexual assault policy that she published in the Vancouver Sun listed her as “one of several people who came forward to expose flaws of process by UBC in its treatment of students and faculty reporting misconduct by Steven Galloway.”
* * *
As the third week of November, 2015 unfolded, it became clear that almost all of Galloway’s closest friends and colleagues at UBC were now set to bolt and run. Not only did most refuse to support Galloway, but, taking their cue from Lyon, many became active members of the anti-Galloway mob.
It is hard to know how many of these people actually believed MC’s claims, and how many were simply trying to align themselves with the new power structure within the department that already seemed to be purging some of Galloway’s hires. But everyone saw where things were headed: To defend a heretic is to invite suspicion that you are also a heretic.
Things only got worse on Friday, November 20, when Associate Vice-President of UBC’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, said her team would take a “leadership role” on Galloway.
At this time, British Columbia’s provincial government was bringing in legislation requiring post-secondary institutions to implement standalone sexual assault policies. With the airing of the Fifth Estate episode imminent, university officials were under intense pressure to offer a demonstration of their commitment to addressing the issue.
Someone in power at UBC seems to have panicked. For nothing else can properly explain the disastrous series of decisions that then took place.
In a stunning breach of protocol and fairness, the Office of Equity and Inclusion conscripted Rooney—MC’s own spokesperson—to gather additional evidence of complaints against Galloway. UBC even provided Rooney—who was an ex-student with no official standing at the university— with a letter on Office of Equity and Inclusion letterhead, stating to Rooney’s recipients: “You are receiving this letter from me because the person delivering it to you thinks you may have a complaint against Professor Steven Galloway. As you are likely aware, the University is investigating a complaint against Professor Galloway.”
Beyond mandating a university-approved fishing expedition for accusations against Galloway—conducted by a complete amateur, with no apparent experience or expertise in the field of investigations, who already had announced her unwavering belief in MC’s accusations—the letter went further, actually encouraging recipients to take action on their own initiative: “Counseling Services can also provide information on options for filing a complaint and can facilitate the process should you choose to make a complaint.”
Readers may be excused for having to read that sentence twice before realizing that the university’s “counseling services” were effectively being offered as a conduit to prosecution.
The Office of Equity and Inclusion even included a down payment of flattery for anyone kind enough to assist with the campaign: “We understand how challenging this may be for you to come forward. We honour your strength and will do our utmost to support you in this process.” Indeed, the language seemed to go so far as to suggest that failing to come forward with some complaint or other might be interpreted as a sign of weakness, or even cowardice, in the battle for social justice.
In her 2013 book, Mobbed!: What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, Dr. Janice Harper writes, “Most work places are staffed by people who rarely have training in investigative methods. More often than not, they ask leading questions in an accusatory or overly sympathetic tone. They record notes in a manner [that] uses the information they obtain selectively. They do not ask follow-up questions to vague statements unless doing so would support their foregone conclusion.”
Based on what I have learned from those involved in Rooney’s campaign, it was a textbook example of the procedural bias Dr. Harper describes.
“If you’re receiving this email, it’s because you’ve either experienced or witnessed incidents that can speak directly to [Galloway’s] character,” Rooney wrote to individuals who, she believed, might have the kind of stories she wanted. “The range of abuses I’ve heard over the last week are multiple and sad…They have left me feeling terrible and worried…Right now, it is just one woman against an institution. Forgive my optimism, but I believe in this moment we have the power to disrupt traditional narratives.”
“I strongly encourage you to anonymously reach out to Laura Kane, a reporter with the BC bureau of the Canadian Press,” Rooney added. “I just spoke with her, and she [is] great. A very safe person to talk to. Warm and empathetic and well-versed in these issues… You can remain anonymous and your story will still have an impact on what happens in the Creative Writing department.”
Only after one interaction went badly did Rooney seem to realize that she had gone too far. “I am writing to apologize for asking you to contact the reporter,” she wrote in a November 24, 2015 email to one recipient. “It was poor judgment…I’m sorry. It was a bad day. I had heard so many stories at that point.”
In keeping with Rooney’s own self-assessment, she put herself at the center of the narrative—a victim who has been traumatized by her exposure to terrible truths, but who was now fighting back.
She also cast MC’s struggle in heroic terms, as “one woman against an institution”—which is ironic, given how isolated Galloway had become, and how both the institutional power structures of UBC and the disembodied mob power of Twitter had been stacked against him.
Rooney functioned as a one-woman team. She was officially regarded as a complainant by the university; she was voicing MC by proxy, including as a media point person; and she was serving the university as de facto investigator. As one UBC Creative Writing Faculty Member told me, “She took it [Steve’s destruction] up like a full time job.”
She’d promised to bring forward 19 assault complainants against Galloway. Instead she brought forward herself and seven of her friends. And even in these cases, the complaints were mostly frivolous—the sort of stories one might see on RateMyProfessors.com. All of the allegations made by these eight “Ancillary Complainants” (as they became known) were eventually dismissed. More importantly, so was the central rape allegation made by MC.
* * *
UBC, to its credit, eventually realized that some form of professional fact-finding was required. For this task, the school commissioned Madam Justice Mary Ellen Boyd—a retired female B.C. Supreme Court justice who actually knew how to interview people in a neutral way and follow up on inconsistencies in their stories. While Boyd would not be subjecting complainants to rigorous cross-examination in an adversarial manner, she would be conducting her questioning with an appropriate degree of skepticism. As of December 2015, Rooney’s free-for-all was over.
Of the eight Ancillary Complainants interviewed by Boyd, the one whose story seemed most damaging was a UBC creative writing student named Anna Maxymiw, who describes herself on social media as a rough-and-tumble “bro” journalist. (Only complainants who have publicly identified themselves as such are named in this article.)
Maxymiw told Boyd that she and Galloway were often physically playful with each other—sometimes aggressively so. She would regularly punch him in the arm, she said, and she once put a snowball down the back of his shirt. She did not dispute Galloway’s assertion that she had told him that he was “a shitty writer.”
At her most brazen, Maxymiw once slapped Galloway in the face. In response, Galloway joked that after she graduated, he would slap her back. Maxymiw told Madam Justice Boyd that she and Galloway “razzed” each other about the slap and that it became a running joke between them. She said she had been a “pig-headed loudmouth.”
In 2012, Galloway went out for drinks with a number of students, including Maxymiw, to celebrate their graduation. Galloway joked with Maxymiw around the table and then, in the presence of multiple witnesses, said, “it’s time.” He then slapped Maxymiw lightly, in the spirit of the long running joke, and without intent to harm. All of this is in Boyd’s report.
A few months after the slap, Maxymiw had published an article about “walking a carrot” and sent Galloway a direct message through Facebook that said: “i think slap therapy is actually less weird than taking a carrot for walkies. wouldn’t you agree? besides, you bought me a 3-dollar beer after, and that made me happy. (i’m a simple woman).” Prior to the airing of MC’s allegations in November, 2012, the slap was still very much a joke between them, and one that Maxymiw herself seemed to remember fondly.
In assessing whether any of this constituted misconduct, Boyd determined that:
Given what each of them actually experienced, knew or understood about each other in this situation—namely that the slap was the culmination of their own longstanding ‘joke’—it is difficult to conclude that the slap was an act of harassment or abuse. The matter was out of mind for the next 3½ years before [Mayxmiw] was reminded of what had occurred, and in light of the recent allegations regarding MC, reconsidered the matter and decided (in the context of allegations of choking and rape) that the slap was objectionable…Bizarre as the incident was, I am unable to find that it amounts to a single incident of personal harassment.
Some have seized on the fact that Galloway would sometimes go out drinking with students—an informal ritual at the local Legion Hall, on Thursday evenings. Boyd heard from many students about this, but eventually concluded as follows:
I entirely dismiss the general complaints that [Galloway] intentionally created a culture where students felt pressure to participate in drinking sessions, whether on or off campus, that he plied students with alcohol or otherwise went about deliberately creating a sexualized environment. I also dismiss the complaints that the Respondent expected students to participate in drinking sessions and befriend him, understanding that they could not otherwise enjoy the benefits of a system of favouritism.
Erin Flegg, a former UBC student whose Ancillary Complaint Boyd dismissed because it did not contain even a prima facie allegation of improper behavior, told Boyd that “I acknowledge that [Galloway] never behaved in a disrespectful manner toward me,” and “I did not feel either threatened, or unsafe, or vulnerable vis-à-vis Galloway.” (She did, however, object to Galloway hiring Hal Wake, artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Festival, to teach a class on conducting literary readings and interviews. She felt her friend should have been hired for the job instead.)
Ancillary Complainant Krissy Darch came forward with a complaint that Galloway had made her feel ill at ease vicariously. In a writing workshop, Darch explained, Chelsea Rooney was feeling uncomfortable receiving criticism about her work, so Galloway suggested that, as a coping mechanism, she pretend she was a block of butter and that a puppy was licking her. This was a direct reference to a scene from a story that Rooney herself had just submitted. But Darch testified that she was nevertheless “grossed out,” since she knew Chelsea was a survivor of sexual abuse.
Darch also told Boyd that when she met with Galloway about her thesis, she asked him to close the door, which he did. As he did so, he said, according to her recollection, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to assault you.”
Boyd considered the context in which this comment was made: A week before, a man who was angry that he didn’t get into the UBC MFA program had stormed into Galloway’s office, slammed the door behind him, and threatened to burn the building down with Galloway in it. Police were called. Darch had stood in the hallway listening to the incident unfold.
(Darch’s thesis was in part about human trafficking. She further complained that Galloway had asked her how she knew so much about the subject, which upset her.)
A male Ancillary Complainant, whose book Galloway blurbed, made two claims that Boyd also ruled could not even be categorized as complaints. The complainant reported that at some indeterminate time in the past, Galloway had participated in a joke about breasts made by an unnamed woman about a man she had been seeing. He also stated he’d heard about the “slap” incident, though did not witness it. Boyd wrote: “He makes no suggestion that, at the time, [Galloway’s] actions caused a ‘hostile or intimidating environment.'”
What this Ancillary Complainant did suggest, however, was that he had been motivated by his support for the #believewomen movement to come forward. It was a telling admission, though perhaps not for the reason the complainant imagined.
* * *
At this point, let me pause to offer my own #believewomen caveat: It’s not crazy to think that a successful, respectable-seeming novelist who leads an academic department might be a rapist. We hear of stories like this in many industries.
In general, I do give women accusing men of rape the benefit of the doubt, since statistics show that most accusations of this type are truthful, and the stigma attached to rape serves to discourage false accusations. When I heard the vague allegations against Galloway, I assumed—as many people did—that he really had committed some form of horrendous indiscretion, perhaps even a crime. And I only began to suspect otherwise after I was attacked on social media by the complainants simply for seeking basic facts about these alleged acts.
When it became clear that Boyd’s investigation wasn’t going to rubber-stamp the case against Galloway, his critics and accusers—who by now had become a well organized force on social media—simply bypassed official channels, and continued to prosecute Galloway on Twitter and Facebook. They also collectively attacked anyone who refused to accept the black-and-white narrative of MC as truth-telling sexual abuse survivor, and Galloway as sadistic villain. Even Boyd was accused of colluding with UBC to uphold the power structures of patriarchy.
What seems closer to the truth is that the ancillary complainants, having been prepared, by Rooney, to be treated as heroes, weren’t ready for even a baseline level of scrutiny from a competent and independent legal mind.
Rooney herself was so shaken by Boyd’s questioning that she wrote to Dean Averill to ask that UBC hire a sexual assault expert to consult with Boyd. “Her line of questioning left me very concerned about the direction of her investigation,” Rooney wrote. On Twitter, Rooney rebuked one of her doubters with the admonition, “Oh, you’re an ‘I believe the [Boyd] report’ kinda person. Okay. Let me guess, you also think victims of sexual assault should go to police?”
The implication here is that Boyd acted as a stand-in for how our legal system fails women when it comes to sexual abuse. And, to be fair to Rooney, the phenomenon she describes can be very real. As Globe & Mail reporter Robyn Doolittle authoritatively showed in her 2017 series, Unfounded, Canadian police officers dismiss about 20 percent sexual-assault claims as baseless.
But Boyd makes for a strange target. She is one of the most accomplished female jurists in B.C. history. And in cases where judges must be educated on the intersection of law and sex, Boyd would seem more likely to give lessons than receive them. In one 2001 B.C. Supreme Court case, Dr. Dutton v. BC Human Rights Tribunal et al., Boyd upheld a tribunal’s findings that a psychology professor at UBC had created a sexualized environment and discriminated against a student on the basis of sexual harassment. Boyd also presided over the trial of Barry Thomas Niedermier, who was convicted of viciously assaulting society’s most vulnerable and oft-ignored women, drug addicted sex workers. (Niedermier’s brutality was so severe that police once suspected him of murders now known to have been committed by infamous serial killer Robert Pickton.) Niedermier’s victims deserved justice and they found it in Madam Justice Boyd’s court.
In her report, Boyd was scathing of Rooney:
I have spent some time reviewing AC5’s [Rooney’s] specific complaints, since she is the one complainant who has most vigorously participated in this investigation, conferring with MC, speaking to [Creative Writing] program faculty prior to the November 15 meeting [at the home of Linda Svendson], and then spearheading the gathering of evidence…She was and is clearly defensive about her role in this matter.
After she provided her statement of evidence at my initial interview, I arranged to meet her a second time to ask further questions largely related to her dealings with MC and her subsequent identification of and contact with the Ancillary Complainants. When her Supplementary Statement of evidence was returned to her for editing, she refused to either confirm it or edit it, and instead returned a memorandum in which she disavowed her earlier recollections.
Suffice it to say that I found AC5 [Rooney] a biased witness, who has perceived every minor incident here through her own tainted lens. I am unable to place much, if any, weight on her evidence.
Rooney has criticized both the content of Boyd’s report, and the procedures surrounding its creation. But as already noted, she declined my request for further comment. MC did not respond to a similar solicitation.
* * *
One odd aspect of the way that the Galloway story has been treated by journalists is that there has been much reporting about the slaps and slights that are the subject of the Ancillary Complaints, but little scrutiny of the actual merits of MC’s main rape allegation.
For over two and a half years, Galloway has been vilified, threatened, and driven to the edge of both bankruptcy and suicide. Yet scan through the tens of thousands of social media posts condemning Galloway, and you will have trouble finding anything that sets out, even in skeletal form, the explosive claims that started this entire debacle.
In fact, it took me over a year of research, including interviews with former students and faculty, before I finally heard the claims spelled out in a coherent fashion.
MC claimed that she never had an affair with Galloway; that he had tried to rape her on numerous occasions—including on his boat; and that he finally succeeded in raping her after he drugged her in his office, on a weekday, during normal business hours. MC claimed this happened right before a public reading at UBC by the writer Miriam Toews.
As in many cases that fall apart, it is the small details that are telling. The day of the Toews reading, Boyd noted, made for an improbable timeline—since Galloway had told multiple students by email to come by his office before the reading to pick up reference letters they’d requested from him. Galloway and MC also attended the Toews reading with nearly the entire department in attendance, which—even in light of all that we know about the different ways that people respond to sexual trauma—was not consistent with someone who had been drugged unconscious and then raped shortly before arriving.
MC is five years Galloway’s senior, and had arrived at UBC with a master’s degree from another institution and two previous tenure-track positions at U.S. universities. (She continues to teach at one of these universities today.) She cannot credibly be cast as a starry-eyed ingénue beguiled by Galloway’s reputation. In fact, at the time of their affair, Galloway held no tenure, or any administrative role in the Creating Writing department, but rather was a mere sessional instructor working on a year-to-year contract.
When Galloway and MC called their affair off, they were both married. Both deleted the messages they had sent to one another to avoid having their affair discovered. Fortunately for Galloway, these messages were subsequently retrieved from the cloud. These include over 250 pages of messages between them proving an affair, the existence of which MC had denied to Boyd. They also serve to cast doubt on her allegations of assault on Galloway’s boat.
To cite just one example: MC texted Galloway in June, 2012, over a year after the date on which, she later alleged, he assaulted her at sea: “Can I write on your boat for a few hours this afternoon. Around 3:00. It’s not safe to be at my house.” Not only was MC not afraid of Galloway, she apparently considered his boat a refuge from some (unspecified) domestic threat. Galloway’s detractors would explain this as a coping mechanism, by which an abused woman might seek to make peace with her tormentor. But given the totality of all the inconsistences in MC’s story, that does not seem plausible—especially since a small boat seems one of the most unsafe places imaginable for a woman to be with a man who supposedly had assaulted her previously.
The messages also include another sexual assault allegation that MC reported to Galloway—relating to an alleged incident involving another man that, according to her narrative, took place after the time when Galloway supposedly drugged, confined, and raped her in his office.
This was 2013, after their affair had ended. UBC was seeking to fill two tenure-track positions. A writer who was a favourite to get one of the spots had completed his interview, at which point MC joined him at a hotel bar for an evening of drinks that lasted until they shut the bar down. MC alleges this writer then sexually assaulted her when she visited him again the next morning. The writer in question vehemently denies the allegation.
MC texted Galloway to report the alleged assault. She asked him not to expose the writer publicly, but to make sure he didn’t get the job for which he applied. Galloway went straight to the then-department chair to disclose what happened. The chair decided to include the Graduate Advisor, and it was decided that the evaluations of the applicant would be adjusted. The candidate did not get the job, and instead the position was given to the aforementioned Nancy Lee, who at the time held a year-to-year position, and who is now a tenure-track faulty member and a staunch supporter of the complainants. (MC was Lee’s teaching assistant at the time.)
It’s important to keep in mind that the alleged hotel bar incident involving MC supposedly happened two years after the claimed drugging and raping in Galloway’s office, during business hours, at a time when students had been invited to drop in, shortly before a speech they both attended, after MC supposedly awoke from what she said was an unconscious state.
This was evidence that Boyd rightly considered—for it raises the question: Would a rape victim report a subsequent sexual assault by a third party to a man who had himself drugged and raped her in his office? Why, one is made to wonder, would she not report it the department chair, who was also the program equity officer and her thesis advisor, and to whom she eventually reported her allegation against Galloway? Or to the dean? Or to the police? Or, indeed, to anyone except the man who’d supposedly raped her?
In a November, 2016 exchange, famed Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood—who has stood by her original call for UBC to respect Galloway’s right to due process—tweeted that “no one can be asked to believe or not believe a package of unknown things.” To which Rooney replied, “I…strongly disagree. We can be asked to believe a person who reports sexual assault. And we can believe her. And we do.”
At the time, this seemed like a she-said/she-said argument about an accusation, the truth of which could never be authoritatively established or denied. Now, it looks like something very different: a debate between a writer who follows the evidence, and another who makes ignoring it a point of principle.
* * *
On April 20, 2016, Martha Piper held an impromptu meeting with the B.C. bureau of The Globe and Mail, in which she stated that she was considering banning romantic relationships between UBC faculty and students: “In a power situation where somebody has power over your career, your advancement, your grades, you may say you consent because of the power situation.”
By yet another amazing coincidence, just five days later, on April 25, 2016, Madam Justice Boyd officially delivered her final report to Dean Gage Averill. Boyd found that all of the sexual assault allegations in 2011 against Galloway were not proven, based on a balance-of-probabilities standard; and that “for the next two years, from the Spring of 2011 until the Spring of 2013, the parties were involved in an extramarital affair, in which there is no allegation of harassment or assault.”
Amazingly, the only thing Galloway had done wrong—have a consensual affair with MC—was the one important thing that MC herself had tried to deny.
But this was not the result the mob wanted. And so even after Boyd submitted her report, UBC would once again look to one of the complainants to find more dirt on Galloway—this time tapping AC4, Sierra Skye Gemma, to investigate Galloway’s financial dealings during his time as department head. (On her CV, Gemma is listed as serving as “Financial Processing Specialist, UBC Department of Creative Writing, 2014-2016.”)
The Globe and Mail later interviewed Gemma, who stated that she was asked to review requisitions by Galloway, and that “I believe that UBC was very thoroughly investigating all his actions as chair of the program.”
Andreas Schroeder saw it differently: “I got the impression that when [Boyd] exonerated Steve, the dean and the program co-chairs realized they’d lost their justification for firing him, but meanwhile they’d gotten everyone so cranked up with their reckless accusations that now everyone expected a firing—so then they started digging into his administrative work, to see if they could cook up some more charges.”
But as things turned out, the actual content of the Boyd report didn’t really percolate into much of the media coverage—because the report was never officially released, and the propaganda campaign against Galloway on social media and on campus had already served to destroy his reputation.
On June 22, 2016, UBC announced that they were firing Galloway under the conveniently vague rationale of “breach of trust.” This result was celebrated on social media by the complainants and their many allies, and used as evidence to support their claims that Galloway was a violent sexual predator. Even though Boyd hadn’t backed up MC, or substantiated any of the ancillary accusations, and even though Gemma failed to turn up any financial wrongdoing, it still was possible to ride the public narrative that Galloway was a toxic male who misused his power to have sex with at least one woman. It wasn’t true. For hash-tag purposes, however, it was sufficiently truthy.
But of course, people don’t live in social media. They live in the real world of human beings. And in that real world, Galloway would slip into a suicidal depression that would require his friends and family to keep him on round-the-clock watch. Anyone who has spent time with the man over the last two-and-a-half years can see not only the mental toll this has taken on him, but also the physical toll. And he would continue slogging through an arbitration process, the ground rules of which required that he say nothing—even as thousands of people told lies about him.
* * *
Following Galloway’s bout with suicidal depression, I was asked to publish a letter in defense of his right to due process. I originally declined to do this, but changed my mind in direct response to over-the-top comments by writer Jane Eaton Hamilton, who wrote on Facebook, “I don’t know what the allegations here are specifically, but even actions that fall short of rape (harassment, unsafe environments etc) have long-term impacts on their victims and a true financial cost. If there are multiple reports, even if unprovable in court, or ‘unsubstantiated,’ you can bet there were multiple ‘inappropriate actions’ or whatever the allegations are. Smoke really does mean fire.” This wasn’t just about Galloway, I decided. In a world where suspicion always indicates guilt, due process is dead.
The public letter was published on November 15, 2016, two days from the anniversary of Galloway’s suspension and incarceration in Ohio. I did not write the letter, but I did publish it and provide its name, “UBC Accountable.” Over 90 Canadian writers would sign it, though many would end up removing their names after being attacked publicly as “rape apologists.”
The first person to respond to the letter was UBC President Santa Ono, who messaged me via Twitter, about half an hour after the site went live. This was before any public criticism had been leveled at me or the letter, in what would later become a sort of civil war that separated the Canadian literary community into the modern equivalent of pro- and anti-Dreyfus factions.
At this point, I was still hopeful that UBC would learn from its mistakes, and belatedly take a leadership role in ensuring due process for Galloway. I wrote back to the new UBC President: “I can’t imagine this being a fair thing to inherit at all. Part of the great tragedy is that it has hurt Steven, his family, the complainants, the Creative Writing Department, the writing community, the faculty and the students.”
He told me in return that he hoped everyone realized that all of this happened long before he arrived at UBC—a comment that I hoped signaled his desire to treat Galloway, and others, fairly. As it turns out, I was wrong.
When I asked UBC for comment from Piper about any role she may have had in abetting Galloway’s railroading, I was provided with a statement from Philip Steenkamp, Vice-President of External Relations, on behalf of the university. It was a boilerplate response, essentially identical to one that the university released this month, following the announcement that it had reached a financial settlement with Galloway, described below, over his claims for reputational damage and infringement of privacy.
Ironically, UBC’s communications department sent me Steenkamp’s statement just hours after his own resignation was announced. As UBC’s student newspaper reports: “Steenkamp is the fifth member of UBC’s administration to leave in the past year and the third to do so in the past two months.”
* * *
This is not just a story about one novelist whose reputation was destroyed—at least, temporarily—by allegations that did not stand up to fair and unbiased examination. It is also a cautionary tale that shows why due process and the presumption of innocence are pillars of any just society.
That is especially true when someone’s guilt becomes the subject of a cult-like obsession. As a Vancouver-based writer, I can attest that it now has become difficult to convince Galloway’s detractors to examine any of the actual evidence. It feels like trying to convince a devout Christian evangelist to imagine a world in which there is no such thing as the devil.
Indeed, the language used to describe Galloway truly does evoke demonic themes, as if the man were a font of almost supernatural malignancy. In 2017, for instance, Dalhousie English Department professor Erin Wunker presented an academic paper at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, in which she reportedly said: “We will never know the scope of Galloway’s violence, and can never fully account for it.”
But what kind of devil gets paid by his former employer for destroying his image? This month, it was announced that UBC has paid Galloway $167,000 for violating his privacy rights and damaging his reputation—a result highly inconsistent with the idea that he is guilty of anything resembling the “serious allegations” announced in November, 2015.
If UBC were a normal place, and the allegations against Galloway were treated in a normal way, one would think that this development would help lead some of Galloway’s detractors to rethink their views. Instead, they have again taken to social media to call him a rapist, mock his suicidal depression, and even threaten him with violence. This includes writer Susan MacRae, who wrote on Twitter that “this past week two actually talented and more successful individuals [Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade] did commit suicide without alerting the media first—they were even more successful at suicide than Steven Galloway.”
As has already been noted on this site, the vicious prosecution of the Galloway hate cult has swallowed up other victims. After the UBC Accountable letter was published, Sierra Skye Gemma took to Twitter to defend herself by means of attacking Margaret Atwood, one of the few novelists in Canada who is even more accomplished than Galloway. In a 74-tweet rant, Gemma contextualizes her attacks with graphic accounts of sex abuse she reports as having endured during childhood.
In October, 2017, Gemma shared a post on her Facebook wall that solicited anonymous allegations against men in Canadian publishing on behalf of a Buzzfeed reporter. Rooney’s husband Taylor Brown-Evans, who is an adjunct instructor in UBC’s Creative Writing Department (hired by Galloway), also shared this post.
Echoing statements made during the attacks on Galloway, the tone suggests that failure to produce accusations might be seen as tantamount to cowardice in the war against sexual abuse: “If you would like to anonymously name your abuser/harasser (in the Canadian publishing industry), you can share this information With me and I will pass it on, anonymously, to another woman who is collecting abusers’ names to pass them on to Buzzfeed’s new anonymous tip line…This is what *I* am doing to support survivors. What are *you* going to do to support survivors?”
A few months later, a small Canadian publisher, Coach House Books, announced they were cancelling their poetry program.
In an article for Buzzfeed, Scaachi Koul reported details of the decision by Coach House’s Alana Wilcox to fire poetry editor Jeramy Dodds, based on anonymous allegations emerging from an email account listed as representing a group called Canlit Janitors. The allegations were, and remain, completely unproven. And as Dodds wrote in an impassioned blog post, he never even had a chance to understand them, let alone properly respond to them, before his reputation and livelihood were destroyed at a stroke. (Online trolls didn’t confine their attacks to Dodds, but also targeted his fiancée, calling her “fat,” and a “fake feminist.”)
Dodds’s pleas for fair treatment fell on deaf ears. The railroading of Galloway had shown the Canadian literary world that sentencing comes first, the trial comes later (if at all); and that anyone who raises his or her voice on behalf of the presumption of innocence does so at their own peril.
As for Galloway, he effectively became a blank slate in November, 2015. It’s as if his soul were dipped in bleach, so that thousands of writers, academics, and social-justice activists could then project their worst fears, vices, sins, frustrations, jealousies, and academic theories onto him.
He became a stand-in for rape, for ‘toxic masculinity,’ and even for the patriarchy itself. On the other hand, MC became a sort of #MeToo Joan of Arc to people who still don’t know her real name, nor what she had accused Galloway of doing, nor the reasons why Boyd concluded that those events had never happened. As one of MC’s online supporters wrote on Twitter: “MC is my hero. I do not know her, but some day I would like to shake her hand. She did the incredibly difficult thing of coming forward.”
* * *
Earlier this year, Atwood summed up her thoughts on the Galloway affair with an essay entitled “Am I A Bad Feminist?”
“I believe that in order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice, just as for women to have the vote, there has to be a vote,” she wrote. In regard to the specifics of Galloway’s case, she added, “a fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other.”
Atwood wrote that back in January, before Galloway was awarded his $167,000, and before many of the most important details of the Boyd report had leaked out. Objective observers now have the tools they need to act like “grownups” and make up their minds.
Boyd doesn’t use the term “liar” to describe MC. And, indeed, it is still possible to imagine that, in her own mind, MC actually does still believe her claims to be true. But even according to the loose balance-of-probabilities test applied by Boyd (far less stringent than the beyond-reasonable-doubt standard employed in criminal proceedings), MC’s story didn’t add up. By any fair measure, Steven Galloway must be regarded as innocent, and the most important inquiry now isn’t into his behavior, but that of a university that allowed his reputation to be trashed by a mob.
Which brings us back to Madam Justice Smith, who wrote in her report about Berdahl’s academic freedom, that “sometimes several relatively small mistakes can lead to a failure of the larger system.” I believe the same general principle applies to UBC’s treatment of Galloway. There was no conspiracy against the man—just a series of bad, hurried, self-serving decisions aimed at protecting the university from bad press in the short-term, while causing it to thoroughly disgrace itself in the long run.
* * *
Andreas Schroeder was one of the most beloved instructors in UBC’s Creative Writing program for a quarter century. He helped found the League of Canadian Poets and The Writers Union of Canada where he was a primary force behind Canada establishing Public Lending Rights, through which about 17,000 Canadian authors receive $10 million a year—about $300 million in the pockets of Canadian writers since its inception.
There’s arguably no one in Canada who has done more for Canadian writers than Andreas Schroeder. But when you come down on the wrong side of an inquisition, your legacy means nothing. All that matters is your views on heretics.
“For 25 years I was considered a member of the tenured faculty, but all of a sudden I was excised,” Schroeder said.
In his final semester of teaching, Schroeder was the subject of a complaint. In one of several hit pieces on Galloway, UBC’s student newspaper would describe an interview with a student, identified only as Erin, who wrote: “Having to be in that class with [Schroeder] a day or two days after I had found out that he had signed that letter [seeking due process for Galloway] was a tough class…It was just this elephant in the room that wasn’t being addressed—like everyone just looked pretty visibly upset. Especially the women and queer students.”
As an educator, Galloway’s legacy was to instill pride and enthusiasm in hundreds of students who passed through the UBC Creative Writing program. The legacy of Galloway’s inquisitors, on the other hand, is to convince students that due process, a concept that sits at the foundation of any democratic system of government, is a sinister force that wounds the soul and harms women.
I have known and admired Schroeder since I completed a single year in UBC’s MFA program in 2001. I knew Galloway as I knew other people in the literary community whom I would see at large events from time to time, but we were never close. The first time I would have talked to Galloway one-on-one was nearly two years ago, in 2016, when a friend suggested I begin trying to piece together what UBC had done to him. I had no preconceptions. If anything, my credentials as a member of the leftist literati would have pushed me into the accusers’ camp. It was the facts that persuaded me, not the man or his literary reputation.
UBC invited me to Schroeder’s retirement party, which was held on campus. Co-chairs Lyon and Svendsen didn’t show up, and, as if in a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, UBC put the wrong name (Rhea, the name of another retiring faculty member) on Schroeder’s retirement cake. But he was determined to have a good time anyway.
I had the honour of bringing Schroeder a retirement gift. It was a present from Steven Galloway—the large brass marine bell that he had installed in the hall of the creative writing department as his first act as Chair.
Galloway had planned to keep the bell until after his arbitration, at which time he intended to throw it in the Pacific Ocean. But when he heard about Schroeder’s retirement party, he changed his mind.
UBC was once Galloway’s family. As much as they would like to now forget he ever darkened their halls, he was, in fact, widely seen as a rising star—a local Vancouver boy who had come up through their undergrad program to become an international bestselling author.
In 2000, The Vancouver Sun ran a profile piece on up-and-coming writers called “The 10 Most Vaunted.” Nine of the ten writers featured were UBC grads, including Galloway, who described himself as the university’s “least likely to succeed.” He described a “painfully normal” childhood growing up in Kamloops, BC where he worked at MacDonald’s, never did “anything interesting, ever,” and was a total “wuss.” To round out the interview Galloway described himself as “an awful writer, just hideous.” Seventeen years later, his lit-nerd profile now stands out as the strongest of the 10 featured writers.
After the article ran, Galloway’s publisher insisted he enroll himself in media training. But Galloway knew what he was doing, and was already on his way to turning compulsive self-deprecation into part of his brand. But while he loved being personally lampooned for his awkwardness, he became a tireless defender of UBC Creative Writing and would rise against any public criticism of the department.
What Annabel Lyon said about Galloway changing her child’s diapers was true. For many years, he had Christmas dinner with fellow faculty member Nancy Lee and her extended family. Once, on Father’s Day, when Galloway’s mentor Keith Maillard was missing his own children, who happened to be out of town, Galloway took him to dinner. On the Acknowledgments page of her 2014 novel Pedal, Chelsea Rooney thanks “Steven Galloway, who encouraged me to commit to writing at a very important time in my life.” (Galloway had actively mentored Rooney, and had helped her shop the book to publishers. He even blurbed Pedal, which was published just a year before the accusations against him were aired in late 2015: “Pedal is a brave and captivating book, written with an unflinching eye and a deep understanding of the torment that is the human condition. Chelsea Rooney is a major talent.”)
The thesis bell symbolized how Galloway felt about his department and its students—before the institution effectively destroyed him because of allegations that ultimately didn’t withstand serious scrutiny. I brought the bell back to the UBC campus in the same brown box the University had used to rid themselves of the object.
Any of the many dozens of former Creative Writing students at UBC who rang it would still recognize that bell instantly if they saw it. Only one small detail has changed since the days when it hung outside Galloway’s office—a text engraving that Galloway added in tribute to the person who had fought in vain to have it put back up: Andreas Schroeder, UBC 1993-2017, Never Stop Ringing The Bell.
Brad Cran is an award-winning writer who served as the Poet Laureate for the City of Vancouver from 2009 to 2011. The feminist organization Canadian Women In The Literary Arts, which he helped to found in 2012, once called him “A National Treasure.” Read selections of his writing at bradcran.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradcran