Canada, CanLit, Education, Features

The Scandal at UBC Keeps Growing—but No One Has Been Held Accountable

Three years ago, the University of British Columbia suspended novelist Steven Galloway, who then chaired UBC’s creative writing program, following explosive allegations that he had sexually assaulted a UBC student. In response, a group of Canadian writers signed on to a movement called UBC Accountable, which highlighted the lack of due process in the proceedings against Galloway. While some members of the Canadian literary community vilified #ubcaccountable as an insult to rape victims, the movement was vindicated when the full facts of Galloway’s case became widely known.

Specifically, an internal investigation by a retired provincial supreme court judge concluded that Galloway hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. Her report, whose contents were detailed in an exhaustive Quillette investigative report, suggested that the principal complainants were either confused or malicious fantabulists. Earlier this year, the Vancouver-based university was required to pay Galloway $167,000 in the wake of statements by UBC officials that violated the former professor’s privacy rights and, as Galloway argued, caused “irreparable reputational damage and financial loss.” Yet despite all this, the university still hasn’t fulfilled the main demand of UBC Accountable, which was to “establish an independent investigation into how this matter has been handled by the Creative Writing Program, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the senior administration at UBC.”

The school’s decision to suspend, smear and then fire Galloway on the basis of false allegations has snowballed into one of the greatest scandals in the history of Canadian education. UBC is a public institution, receiving about $600-million from provincial coffers every year. Yet absolutely no effort has been made to investigate the process that led to Galloway’s railroading. Just the opposite: School officials have spent the last three years circling the wagons in an effort to evade scrutiny. No administrator has lost his or her job over the scandal. And the same cabal of writers and teachers who first assembled on November 15, 2015 to engineer Galloway’s ouster remains entrenched in leadership roles at UBC’s writing program. If these faculty members were part of any normal, functional professional organization, almost every single one of them would now be out of a job.

In another age, students themselves might have been counted on to impose accountability on the UBC university administration. But thanks to the ideological dynamics at play, the opposite has been true. In one notorious case, the UBC student newspaper even dispatched an activist to vilify Andreas Schroeder, one of the few professors bravely demanding due process for Galloway, and to collect testimonials purporting to show that the #ubcaccountable movement was somehow traumatizing creative-writing students. (“Having to be in that class with [Schroeder] a day or two days after I had found out that he had signed that [#ubcaccountable letter] was a tough class,” a student apparently told self-described “settler scholar” Julia Burnham. “A lot of students in that class, I could see, were having a tough time.”)

Not that the administration has stood idle. Rather than address the roots of the Galloway scandal, UBC has instead launched an expensive branding campaign aimed at countering what the university gingerly calls “a series of negative news headlines through 2015 and into 2016.” UBC has launched a new slogan—“The potential is yours”—and has released a slick video featuring a scrupulously multicultural cast staring solemnly into the camera and waxing lyrical about cleaning the oceans and promoting equality. The authors of this campaign apparently consulted no fewer than 7,000 people during the creative process. While the university has not revealed the total cost of all this “higher brand level activity,” cryptic disclosures from the school’s brand director suggest it will run somewhere in the ballpark of $3-million to $4-million per year.

And now this week, it was revealed that the total cost of L’Affaire Galloway has been ramped up further: John Hall, the same arbitrator who awarded the original $167,000 lump sum to Steven Galloway over the summer, has tacked on another $75,000 award ($15,000 of which will go to the UBC Faculty Association) in response to improper remarks that outgoing UBC Vice President External Philip Steenkamp made about Galloway in media interviews.

Both Galloway and UBC were bound by wide-ranging confidentiality provisions set down by the arbitrator. But Steenkamp just couldn’t help himself once it became clear that the pendulum of public opinion was turning sharply against the university. In an interview, he claimed that “the allegations of sexual misconduct were not the only issues the university examined during its review of his employment,” and posted a statement on the UBC website declaring that the decision to fire Mr. Galloway was “fully justified.” The arbitrator, whose full written judgment has been obtained by Quillette, properly concluded that these statements amounted to the spread of “vague innuendo.”

The Galloway case is significant because it’s the first university-based PR disaster involving someone who has been publicly exonerated in the #MeToo era. While Galloway cannot prevent his main accuser from continuing to present herself as a “survivor,” there surely should be some reasonable expectation that the university itself would now exhibit a respect for due process and some baseline level of professionalism. Alas, no.

* * *

I’ve reported that not a single head has rolled at UBC. But, by way of epilogue, I will note that this isn’t quite true. UBC VP External Philip Steenkamp—head, body and all—is now rolling upward to the presidency of Royal Roads University in nearby Victoria, B.C. The announcement of his new job was made in mid-June, just days after Canada learned of the arbitrator’s first judgment against UBC, and just weeks before Steenkamp would blunder into the public sphere with the improper statements about Galloway that were the subject of censure (and a $75,000 award) in the arbitrator’s second judgment.

(Shockingly, Steenkamp also had declared that UBC faculty and staff “were professional and principled in all of their dealings,” a howler that the arbitrator rebuked by noting that the “university’s process were plainly found to have been defective.” If what played out really does represent Steenkamp’s idea of due process, one can only imagine how complaints of misconduct are going to be handled at Royal Roads.)

For future academics, the message is clear. A scholar who was falsely accused of committing a crime will now spend years trying to rebuild his livelihood and reputation. Meanwhile, a UBC officer who played public-relations maidservant to the scholar’s disastrously bungled inquisition will skip merrily across the Georgia Strait to a $300,000-a-year job while his former administrative colleagues at UBC use house money and a glitzy ad campaign to paper everything over.

If you were an upwardly mobile Canadian professor, keen to find a stable, lucrative job at a university, which career path would seem more enticing—creator and educator, or corner-office PR flack? Always remember: The potential is yours.

Jonathan Kay is Canadian editor of Quillette. Follow him at @jonkay 



  1. Itzik Basman says

    UBC is my alma mater.

    I’ve followed this issue including the reporting of it in Quillete.

    I have no words.

    • Thylacine says

      Why are you silent? “Appalled” is a useful word.

      • Svend- says

        Saying “I have no words” implies appalled and more. It doesn’t mean being silent.

  2. I keep expecting the news from academia and the culture wars to somehow get better, but it doesn’t. It just gets worse, worse, worse.

    The disservice done to Mr. Galloway by his university and the undeserved stain he will likely have to live with the rest of his life reminds me of the broken figure of Raymond Donovan (a cabinet secretary in the Reagan administration who had been recklessly charged with corruption but was later acquitted) on the steps of the courthouse after the jury’s decision. He asked a reporter: “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

    • Peter from Oz says

      I think that the only way we can ensure that the news gets better is by establishing what it is that true victims like Mr Galloway must in order to revive their lives.
      The problem is that we concentrate only on making the wrongdoers pay for their crimes. That is of course a worthy cause, but it doesn’t really advance the cause of freedom very much.
      Maybe in this case, those who don’t agree with the PC takeover of universities would best be agitating for Mr Galloway to get a new job in a new department set up at another university, with more and better government funding than the department he left.
      Alternatively, we could help Mr Galloway set up an exclusive creative writing school with a nice big government grant thrown in.
      Come on feloow right-wingers; let’s start thinking of the things we want to happen and not just those we don’t want to happen. Let’s use our superior skills to set up new businesses or ways of doing things. if universities are now crap, lets set up our own on-line cultural institutions to provide people with the services they need.

      • Damian O'Connor says

        If you want someone to teach African History – and I mean real African History – I’m your man.

        Dr Damian P.O’Connor MA
        Author of ‘A Short Guide to South African History’.

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @Peter from Oz

        Your comment is a good one. The question of punishment always seems to get top billing, but little interest seems to be shown in restitution. The monetary award here seems thin for a wrongful termination when the circumstances will likely have a grave impact on that persons future employability.

        In the larger sense, I really like the call to use our brains and come up with solutions.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Thanks Cand B
          It all comes down to the point you have made several times on this forum: politics is not often a good solution. Society and the market can fix more problems than government. There is a danger that those of us on the right (be they liberatarians or conservatives) will start playing the left’s own game of concentrating on the definitional part of an argument instead of the substantive issues. Leftists don’t ever concern themselves with the real issues, only the surface or threshold questions like race relations. They are interested in gaining power through condemning anything as “racist” or “misogynistic”or any of the other terms they have invented.
          We do not defeat this puerile behaviour merely by pointing out their misconduct, but also by helping those who have been targets of the new puritans.

          • Peter, I wish you’d keep your personal ideology out of it, as it does not advance your argument in any way. The fact that an arbitrator was appointed and laid out facts that vindicated Professor Galloway has nothing to do with “Society and the market can fix more problems than government.”, nor, for that matter, does anything else written above.

          • Damian O'Connor says

            Absolutely correct. Real power lies in being able to take the small, everyday decisions of who to hire, who gets to write the policy, who gets to pay the piper and issues are weaponised for this end by the Left. They have no interest in making things better because, at heart, they know they can’t. What they want is to make sure the Right can’t make things better in case it undermines their religion.

          • Circuses and Bread says

            @Peter from Oz

            Thanks for the reply and the compliment.

            One thing I wanted to address in your comment was the left/right issue. You’re painting with a very broad brush. While I would agree that folks on one side of the the political spectrum tend towards problem solving behaviors rather than problem identification behaviors, that’s by no means universally true. And knowing that x type of behavior is common within a group really doesn’t do a bit of good when dealing with people on an individual level.

            Something that has changed in me over time since adopting my anti political viewpoint is that I’ve started seeing people more as people and less as some sort of political caricature. And it’s really been a pleasant change.

      • Diana K says

        Loved your thinking in your first paragraph, Peter. l’d love to support Mr. Galloway and I am quite interested in reading/hearing his account of the events or even of a fictional rendition.

        If he reads these comments, perhaps Mr. Galloway will consider providing content via Patreon?

        Although I am not a fellow right-winger by any stretch, I do believe strongly in supporting the voices I do like to see out.

      • Chris says

        You asked for a response P f O. I suggest that the element missing from your proposal, is the absence of any appropriate retribution for false testimony.

        Until law relating to these events is capable of imposing appropriate punishment on an accuser, motivation for such offences will remain and until proper restitution for damages suffered can be awarded, justice will not have been done.

        The issue of anonymous accusation and hearsay testimony should require that anyone reporting or otherwise propagating such claims while providing the accuser anonymity accepts any punishment and costs that may be awarded against an accuser. British libel law is rightly considered extreme,but the inaccessibility of comparable provisions in the US may be just as bad.

        The drivers for these offenses seem to range from rape through unjust career progression, professional jealousy, and political bias to plain dislike and whimsical spite. Appropriate punishment and restitution should also vary widely but the law of the land, one law for all should rule. University authorities pronouncing on an accusation of student rape may be as inappropriate as allowing a Sharia court to try a similar case involving a Muslim male.

        Recently we hear of police investigating authorities being instructed in cases of rape that they must immediately believe the accusation to be true and proceed on this basis. It is clear from this case that the cost to the falsely accused in terms of stress, depression, social isolation and lifelong damage to social position and career prospects deserve a similar investigative bias in favor of the accused.

        What seems plain stupid is to shower restitution and legal costs, ultimately from the public purse, on the falsely accused while leaving the accuser and all observers emboldened to try it again. Without proper justice we put many more Galloways at risk

    • Circuses and Bread says


      Of course the news from academia gets worse. What we’re really talking about here is the politicization of institutions. Politics has always been been a bottomless pit of evil and despair. If you want some notion of how bad it can get, just look at the history of Europe circa 1930-1950.

  3. Charles White says

    High profile scandals at UBC, McGill, Laurier, U of T: four of Canada’s top universities. It does suggest a crisis in the Canadian Academy, and that Canadian post secondary students should look elsewhere for an education other than Canadian universities. Probably the Tech schools and applied degree schools in country, universities out of country.

    Disclosure, I have four pieces of paper from Canadian universities including two graduate ones. So I am sad to see them sink to third rate institutions.

  4. ga gamba says

    John Hall, the same arbitrator who awarded the original $167,000 lump sum to Steven Galloway over the summer, has tacked on another $75,000 award ($15,000 of which will go to the UBC Faculty Association) in response to improper remarks that outgoing UBC Vice President External Philip Steenkamp made about Galloway in media interviews.

    Shall I deduce this money is coming from the taxpayer too?

    Until administrators are held financially liable and forced to open their wallets to pay fines, there’s little to disincentivise them from trampling on rights, breaching the law, and shooting their mouths off when the target has been demonised.

    Consequences need to be sufficiently meaningful and painful to the perpetrators.

    A pity the court failed to find Steenkamp in contempt and jail him for a week.

  5. V 2.0 says

    Don’t universities rely heavily on donations? I wonder at what point the donors, who presumably make their money by being evil patriarchal capitalists (or married to them), will stop giving money to these institutions. It would certainly be kind of satisfying to see some of these liberal arts programs die due to lack of funding.

  6. BC Graduate says

    I got a Master’s Degree at UBC in the late 70’s, and I have modestly contributed in the past but since the whole Steven Galloway affair, whenever I get the yearly call from one of the students asking for a donation, my response is negative and I explain why.

  7. Thx for this update, Mr. Kay.
    The Galloway debacle, is one of the watershed incidents in CDN postsecondary starchamber ‘justice’ (fk ups).
    Non-CDNs (and the majority of CDNs) are unaware of this injustice. Other than Christie Blatchford (The National Post)

    , this has become a none story in CDN MSM.

    Diana Davison (you tube) covers it well, though.

    The Judge Robin Camp debacle deserves this same type of scrutiny.

  8. Keith says

    The only person who can launch a libel action over false statements and innuendo about a person is the person themselves.

    Academics need to start taking advantage of Canada’s strong libel laws. Our libel laws are so strong in Canada that: if you can’t win a decision in your favor it is pretty clear you did it.

    IF you are innocent of claims, or if the claims are irrelevant slams on your reputation, Canada’s libel laws are there for you.

    Clearly these days administrations and fellow professors are out for each other, and rebel students are taking full advantage.

    Use the courts or lose your careers.

    Why should the rest of us take your word that you were libelled and slandered — go to the courts and if they believe you then I believe you.

    • Thylacine says

      As a retired academic, I can assure you that university administrators are well protected by their lawyers-on-call. They have no fear, and no reason to fear.
      As a retired lawyer, I can assure you that libel judgments often do not even cover legal expenses. And universities have deep pockets, so they can drag matters on for years.

  9. Keith says

    “For future academics, the message is clear. A scholar who was falsely accused of committing a crime will now spend years trying to rebuild his livelihood and reputation.”

    No, no, no. Your first stop should be a lawyer you’ve hired. Not the university’s lawyer. Not your union’s lawyer. Your own lawyer who will protect your interests.

    Otherwise what will happen is your career will be destroyed, and people in the rest of the world will assume what is being said against you is both true and relevant. Because Canada’s libel laws allow you to win if what is said about you is either false or irrelevant. The law is that strong.

    If you think you can settle such matters yourself, then have only yourself to blame when the people you claim are your accusers, judges, jury and executioners skip merrily across the whatever body of water to a $300,000-a-year better jobs.

    Gian Ghomeshi has been equally stupid. You’ve both got judges saying it is clear people lied about you, and you’ve both rolled over and asked for sympathy instead of the one court ruling that would be judicial vindication and would terminate future libel.

    Your both content to sit there and complain while YouTube videos and newspaper articles repeat statements judges have said are false, but which were not evaluated as libel in the only legal process designed to do that.

  10. Barry says

    Two questions: $167,000 sounds like a pittance for all the suffering and long-term damage to his professional reputation (and I imagine a high percentage of that would have to go to Galloway’s lawyers, unless he was awarded legal costs separately). Why was he not awarded more? Also, why was he not given his job back? Did he even want it back?

  11. Fits with my experiences at UBC. It’s a big organization with a massive bureaucracy that is trying to bill itself as a top international university.

    Students and staff alike recognize that it is not very people-friendly organization, and I would certainly say in my years there that it is safer to keep your head down and pay lip service to the bureaucratic minutiae then to question how things are run. Needless to say, I never questioned that UBC would happily throw someone under the bus if circumstances permitted.

    So, I’m not at all surprised no one will be held accountable.

    And let’s face it. UBC is the only university with an international presence in BC and there’s (still) a huge line of people who want to live in Vancouver (regardless of cost), so most likely this scandal will be forgotten without any real costs to the reputation of the university.

    I’m sure Galloway will write a book about everything and get on a speaking circuit. And, quite possibly, when all is said and done he will be happy to have escaped the clutches of that place.

    • Thylacine says

      There’s a confidentiality clause that prevents Galloway from writing a book or getting on the speaking circuit.

  12. Keith Morgan says

    The point that Galloway’s cash settlement is pretty thin is a good one. It was also mentioned that Galloway is now subject to a non-disclosure agreement. Perhaps one way to help Steven is for all those concerned about this travesty of justice to go buy multiple copies of his fine novels and give them as gifts along with the story. The royalties won’t be much but I imagine everything helps.

  13. …students are blind to the politics within uni departments – they are ferocious – it was explained to me that it is the result of professors work being mostly of no importance – therefore the back biting to improve one’s sense of self worth – people in general have no idea of the fraud and corruption in academia…

  14. Northern Observer. says

    This is such an injustice. The people who initiated and implemented this need to be named, shamed and made examples of. This kind of evil should not go unpunished.

  15. Rashid Haddad says

    This framing and railroading of an innocent man makes me think back to the Stephen Truscott gross miscarriage of justice. An accusation, a frame, and the destruction of a person’s life. I hope that Galloway can successfully sue his accusers, the university and any other party who framed him and ruined his life.

  16. Stan Persky says

    J. Kay, thanks for the update. As a signatory of the UBCAccountable letter, I notice that your article doesn’t say anything about any proceedings concerning wrongful dismissal. Are there any?

  17. Sanctimony and hubris. It’s time for a serious pay cut to UBC.

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