It’s difficult to determine, occasionally, what’s going on. Depending on where you are in your life, and who you’re working for, if it should happen that you’re working for anyone. What I mean is maybe you don’t need the money. That would make you one of the lucky ones. But most people work for somebody. Occasionally, at least around here, it’s the University of British Columbia.
There’s something wrong. There has to be. Strange news. I’m talking about the updates this past weekend re former creative writing professor and department head Steven Galloway by the fine investigative reporting of Marsha Lederman in the Globe & Mail newspaper. The accompanying story is that Madeleine Thien, 2016 Governor General Awards fiction winner, finalist for the Man Booker 2016 literary prize and short-listed author for November 7th’s Giller Fiction Prize in Toronto, has requested of the famed university that they divest themselves of all and every mention, image or account of her due to the institute’s actions and moves on Mr Galloway.
This is very weighty stuff. There’s obviously something rotten in the state of the Great University. If only it were that simple.
An injustice has occurred. And this story isn’t going away. It doesn’t matter what Galloway did or didn’t do. He was the victim of atrocious bungling by individuals that, I’m quite sure, actually think they’re very intelligent.
What I’m trying to say is that there are many beautiful, wonderful, talented people at the university. There are also instances of, depending on what you experience, some who, although in positions of power, lack what we Britishers and British Columbians used to call the common touch. And by that I mean lacking, among other things, in common standards of decency. Decency seems to be an imperilled concept these days. What’s decency? This isn’t happening to me so why should I care?
No mistake. There are some weird people at the Great University, but what would you expect? That’s what college is all about! But there’s instances. I’ve experienced it myself out there. It’s what led to my departure after a decade and a half. The thing that burns my ass right now is how could this institution, hugely dependant on public money, our money, have gotten so lost on how to treat people? As if it doesn’t matter how people are treated.
There’s something sick and demented about this filthy story and at it’s core is a disturbing lack of leadership. I’ve seen it. Nobody’s pushing too hard at the university and a great number of people, particularly on the administration side, are making very comfortable livings that they haven’t done very much, certainly not anything outstanding, to deserve. Some types just get lucky.
The Arts have never meant much at UBC. It’s certainly not the first thing anybody thinks about when you mention the place. If it’s not law, medicine or economics, who cares? Madeleine Thien is probably the best writer ever to come out of there, and when somebody of this person’s stature sends the message she has it very obviously indicates something serious.
Mr. Galloway has an opening to lay a serious legal challenge to his take-down and I hope he pursues that option when he feels the time is right. He’ll be up against very powerful forces. After all, there’ll be a lot of people around worried about the Great Institution’s reputation. That’s if they know what that word means.
University of British Columbia Halloween! Yeah! A very scary place!
Tuum est, by the way, is the motto, or was, of the university in question. “It is yours”. Maybe it’s been changed to “It is ours, not yours”. If anybody can help out with the Latin on that the site would be much obliged.