A clarification & apology, & continued call for institutional accountability

by chuckofthesea

I have been away — from the country, from my phone, and from my computer — for the past 10 days, on a vacation that has been planned for months; if you have reached out to me, messaged me in that time, I wasn’t ignoring you or being callous or stoical. Immediately before leaving, I signed an open letter that has caused many people a lot of pain. Open letters, of course, are never worded or framed as we would put them ourselves, and even as I signed I felt uncomfortable about the asymmetrical framing of the letter; I believe that UBC has wronged all parties, including not only complainants and the accused, but also relative bystanders on staff and among students, and the letter could and should have presented that picture more clearly and more fairly. I don’t believe that anyone — student or instructor — feels safer now after the way in which this unfolding nightmare has been handled by the university. That should have been the starting point. I am so sorry that it wasn’t.

The call to action in the open letter — the demand for a third party assessment of how the school has handled all of this from day one — is one that I stand behind. People whom I deeply respect have reached out to me, or have posted elsewhere, what some of the very serious problems are with the way in which that demand was framed. I agree with a great number of those criticisms. I apologize for the hurt that I have caused.

For the past year, I have assiduously avoided any sort of public declaration on what has been going on at UBC. It has been eating away at me for the entire time. I don’t think that the general public understood, or was able to believe, that we non-tenured instructors knew roughly as much as they did about what was happening at any given point in the process, such as it was. I avoided voicing any denunciations or exculpations; I had nothing at all to add, my longstanding friendship with Steven Galloway having no bearing upon guilt or innocence. Like everyone else, I waited for the outcome of the investigation.

Instead, UBC has offered only enough information with which to be terrified and confused, or to speculate, and so anxiety, confusion, and speculation have abounded. The right of complainants to the highest level of safety and anonymity is of course paramount; the university has at its disposal far greater minds than mine to help sort out a way to navigate the needs of transparency on the one hand and privacy on the other.

I vacillate between wishing I had said something earlier, and wishing I hadn’t said anything at all. I support the right of students and instructors to a safe learning environment, in which especially the former can always be secure in coming forward with their concerns and complaints. I apologize unreservedly to the people I have hurt with my signature for not voicing my concerns with the emphases in the letter before it went up. I stand by its central demand for institutional accountability.