Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: ubcaccountable

Flip the script, UBC Accountable. It’s time

graphic from U of Windsor

Today is a year since the anti-feminist, anti-victim, UBCAccountable letter went up. What a year it has been. What an autumn it has been. Now we’re in the middle of the “me too” initiative, awash in thousands of declarations of womxn’s experiences of sexual assault. I’m embarrassed for Canada that this letter exists, ashamed for CanLit, and scared because of the new chill on reporting that it’s caused. This letter had severe repercussions in my own writing life, and I’m old, published, experienced. Imagine how much worse for you if you happen to be young, unpublished and inexperienced. Imagine how much worse still if you are from a marginalized community with other barriers set against your literary success.

I’m more surprised than ever that women signatories haven’t taken their names off and whispered, chastened, “I’m so sorry. Me too.”

More from Dorothy Palmer, the wisest person speaking to ubcaccountable

“Dear ubcaccountable signatories,

Having read all your statements, I believe a blend of friendship, good faith, and loyalty, led you to sign what you honestly saw as a call for “due process.” No one could anticipate the uproar or the union, legislative, cultural, legal, and liability ramifications. Today, you’re drowning in them. You’re clinging to deflated arguments. Please swim yourselves to shore by examining them now.

1. Can the letter ever produce “a public inquiry”? No

Addressed to UBC the letter reads, “We therefore request that the University of British Columbia 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 of UBC.” As I detailed in previous posts, the call for “a public inquiry,” the expensive, time-consuming body once called a Royal Commission, requires a petition legal in form and content, addressed to the government, containing signatures and addresses, and directing its scope and report. If signatories want a real “public inquiry,” please do your homework and create a legal petition.

2. Can the letter ever produce an “independent inquiry” No.

Word choice matters. The letter does not call for a “judicial inquiry,’ or even an “independent third-party inquiry.” It asks UBC to “establish” an investigation into itself. It does not direct who should be on it, what should be its focus or parameters, or how, when, to whom, or even if, it should report. It asks only that UBC inquire “into how this matter has been handled.” UBC could meet this vague demand today by issuing its own one word report: “Properly.”

3. Even if, by some miracle, UBC launched another independent third party or judicial inquiry, would it generate more public information? No

A second inquiry would be a most unlikely, expensive, and redundant choice, since UBC already hired an independent third party: Justice Boyd. Any new third party would likewise report to UBC. They would still be bound by all contractual, provincial and federal privacy laws currently prohibiting the release of information. Ironically, since many signatories appear to rely on details from the leaked Boyd report, (to which by “due process” they do not legally have access), any new independent inquiry would give them even less information then they currently have.

4. Does the ubcaccountable website model their call for “due process”? No

In a previous post, I outlined how the letter misrepresents and disrespects the democratic due process of unions. Now the website repeats those errors. A true “due process” site would permit the free speech of comments. It would not be registered anonymously and would name its owner when asked. It would repudiate anonymous twitter accounts such the ironically named, “Free Speech Zone.” It would not spin the truth, would not claim Mr. Galloway has been “forbidden to speak,” when he signed a confidentiality agreement with the advice of UBCFA. It would not cherry pick the leaked Boyd Report, would not shout that Justice Boyd dismissed all but one claim, without acknowledging that “one” claim based UBC’s decision to make a “Breach of Trust” dismissal. In short, any sincere demand for due process begins with the use of it.

5. Does the ubcaccountable website model the call for “justice for all.” No.

The website gives no voice to the complainants. It does not post articles supporting them, by them or their counsel. It is totally illogical not to strengthen their call for “due process” with the process concerns of the complainants. It would only be entirely logical not to include their voices if the real goal of both letter and website is to strengthen Mr. Galloway’s grievance defense.

6. Do any sincere advocates of “due process,” demand one-sided silencing? No.

The letter triggered immeasurable stress for many, including complainants and survivors. The letter focused on one person’s well-being, then blamed critics of the letter for his health. Some insisted their letter would “save him.” What true friend would broadcast private health concerns online? Who has the meta-ego to see a letter with their name on it as a substitute for medical care? Whether from true concern or emotional blackmail, critics were told to self-silence. This is illogical. The letter caused the stress and pain. The obvious answer to both is to send the letter to UBC, take down the website, and stop hurting all concerned. You cannot burn down your house and then demand sympathy on the grounds you are homeless.

7. Are the signatories leaving themselves open to charges of hypocrisy? Yes.

If you continue to demand the release of other people’s information protected as private by contract, and/or provincial and federal legislation, then you should be willing to also sign this: “Should I ever be dismissed, or ever make a submission that results in a colleague’s dismissal, I request, no I demand, that my employer shall immediately release all personal and private details of my dismissal and/or submission to the press immediately. I hereby waive all rights to protection, indemnify my employer, and will assume full personal liability when this information violates the privacy and contractual rights of students, co-workers or colleagues.”

You can’t ask that UBC do this unless you’re willing for every future employer to do it to you. You can’t ask for something that you know an employer is prohibited by contract and law from doing, and then blame them for not doing it. Please stop misrepresenting laws that protect us all.

8. Signatories, do you understand how your personal liabilities may be escalating?

On social media, many signatories confuse slander and libel. Slander is spoken, libel is written; one cannot commit slander on Facebook. In a move from open letter to a website, to personal statements on a website, are legal liabilities escalating? Letter, website, and authors’ responses, all use the same critical language as the defense team. UBC lawyers might have legal grounds to see collusion, a coordinated public defamation campaign, one with deliberate malice to malign UBC, to interfere in a contractual labour process, to pressure a public institution into an expensive settlement, a campaign that continued even after on line exchange made it clear their letter could not achieve “due process.” I do not know what legal risks any of this presents. Signatories, if you have not already done so, please consider legal consult.

9. Will ubcaccountable continue the fight for “due process” after the grievance settlement?

Here is the very heart of the matter. Given the impact of the letter, settlement may be imminent. UBC may agree with a defense team argument that it’s in everyone’s best interests to settle before the winter holiday. But, if they don’t want to be called hypocrites, ubcaccountable cannot be summer soldiers. They must not fold their tents. They must remain vigilant, keep demanding “due process” until they win that all-important “independent inquiry.” They cannot withdraw the letter or take down their website simply because one grievance ends. They can’t call the process “flawed,” but accept it when it suits them. Now that they have seized the high ground, they must keep defending it. They must not do anything to suggest that the call for “due process” was a cover or a sham. No one wants to believe we’ve been flimflammed, hornswoggled, and bamboozled.

This will become clear as soon as the grievance is settled. It will be private. We have no right to know anything about the settlement. We have every right to ask what ubcaccountable will do next. That will be the proof of sincerity or the lack of it.

10. Lastly, after this thorough debate, do we all understand there are only two choices left: laziness or lies?

Given the diligent attempts by so many to jump into the water, to float the research and do the stroke by stroke emotional labour that every signatory should have done before they signed anything, after all that work. learning and unlearning, there are only two choices. Signatories: today, either you are too lazy to understand your own letter or you always knew its call for “due process” was a lie. Which is it?

Please swim away from the sinking ship. Please don’t swamp this post with hot air, with the red herrings of personal attack and provocation. Please don’t waste your last gasp of air on “due process.” No one believes you. How can you possibly still believe it yourself?

If you swim to shore, thank you Please explain how you goth there and take your name off the letter. And because you’re not some frail Can-Lit couch-fainter, because you know the difference between democratic discussion and a witch hunt, please continue to use your voice. I began by saying I believe most signed in good faith and still believe it. Now it’s time for all of us to act in good faith. Will you do so now?”

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture”

I am embarrassed and ashamed of my colleagues who’ve signed a letter called “An Open Letter To UBC: Steven Galloway’s Right To Due Process.” They say this is not about Steven Galloway, but a complaint about “process” at UBC, although its title belies this.

As I have stated, I don’t know the particulars of this case and I don’t know Mr Galloway, but what I do know is rape culture. What I’ve said on FB and repeat here now is: Just because someone is nice in your presence does not mean anything about their behaviour when you’re not around. It is not a ninety percent indicator of the unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. It is not even a one percent indicator of an unlikeliness of a crime or misdeed. If you think you can disprove, say, battering, because a certain person was really kind when your mom died, or loaned you money for your dog’s surgery, or was your friend since childhood, or wrote a great book, or is warm and friendly around you, and you know them to be compassionate and giving, and funny, you are naive. I understand the impulse–you love or like or admire somebody. But you don’t know them around the complainant unless you are the complainant or a first-hand witness. Period. You don’t.

I’ve heard a lot of statements similar to “We just need to give him/her/them the benefit of the doubt. The process was bad and they’re a friend.” I hear “Innocent until proven guilty.” But this was and is not a court of law. This was and is an employment contract. I hear “Due process,” but the right to due process doesn’t actually exist outside the legal system. I hear grave concerns about UBC process but then I discovered UBC process is actually underway now, and not complete.

Women have been proved to lie about sexual assault in fewer numbers than those that lie about house break ins or thefts; depending on the study, between two to eight percent, which means of course that about ninety-five percent of sexual assault allegations are true, and statistically, it would very much beggar belief if in cases with multiple complainants there appeared multiple liars. Margaret Atwood’s comment, over at The Walrus, in saying that “To think that members of a group called “women” are always right and never lie does a great disservice to accusing women and abuse survivors is bloody insulting–to vulnerable peoples’ struggles to be heard when they speak against abuse of power, and to intelligence.” For Margaret Atwood to say, “If it’s a matter of rape, then it should be a matter of jail,” flies in the face of all knowledge about Canada’s dangerously flawed sexual assault system–more than a half million assaults yearly with 1400 convictions. It’s against everything that feminism, no matter your brand of it, stands for. And to say an “unsubstantiated” complaint is necessarily untrue? Have we learned nothing? Is this the Twilight Zone? This letter yanks Canada’s understanding of rape culture back fifty years. I ask again, as others ask: Why on earth doesn’t the presumption of honesty follow complainants?

Please. Disagreeing with signatories is not a “witch hunt” and not a “lynching.” How disgusted and livid would I be if I had had an ancestor burned at the stake or hung from a tree? How trivializing. Her rants are on Twitter. With the real threats to the marginalized coming fast and furious in the US, and more slowly here, you’d expect hyperbole like this would be met with aghast outcries from signatories. That Atwood further makes a veiled threat about the “consequences” of disagreeing with the signatories in her Walrus letter is unsettling. How are marginalized/dissenting writers supposed to trust, now, that their manuscripts will be adjudicated by these signatories on merit?

Thankfully, more than a dozen people have pulled their names from that letter, and Camilla Gibb has done so with thoughtful, genuine remorse while speaking of painful assaults in her academic career. She sees that the letter’s intent did not match its damage. Her efforts are appreciated.

If you are looking for more information, you can consult the Globe and Mail, Twitter, Quill and Quire, Bookriot, FB and The Walrus. Dorothy Palmer has written important FB posts explaining process at UBC that I suggest everyone avail themselves of.

Context

In thinking how to help with my limited resources, I noticed Doretta Lau’s generous offer to mentor UBC students. I never went to UBC, or indeed to any writing program, but I can throw my skills into the hat, in order that I am doing something and not just yapping, and offer to mentor a queer/disabled UBC student (or someone who yearns to be one) working in short forms. Someone, please, who couldn’t afford such consultations on their own. There won’t be a charge. Please pass that around.

There are more of us in the rest of CanLit than there are in the signatory list of the CanBully letter. That letter is just the last gasp of an ossified system–you can hear the thing wheezing. We support you, complainants, and we salute your bravery and courage, and we apologize for all the pain and repercussions you’ve had to suffer.

“Friends don’t let friends drive rape culture.” -Dorothy Palmer

In the words of Nancy Lee:

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