The main complainant involved in the sacking of author Steven Galloway from his job at the University of British Columbia has denied that her complaints were about a two-year consensual affair between the two of them, as his lawyer had announced last week.
Galloway, the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, was fired from his role as creative writing chairman at UBC in June, after being suspended pending investigation for “serious allegations’’ in November 2015. When one of several allegations was found to have been substantiated by the investigation, Galloway was fired; since then, UBC has repeatedly said that it could not reveal details of the alleged offence without the author’s consent, or they would be in breach of privacy laws.
The case made international headlines last week when more than 80 Canadian authors, including Margaret Atwood, Madeleine Thien and Yann Martel, signed an open letter voicing concerns over how the university had handled his dismissal.
But on 23 November, Galloway issued a public statement through his lawyer for the first time since his suspension, confirming that he had been accused of numerous incidents of misconduct, including sexual assault. However, the statement said that the only substantiated allegation found in the investigation by former state judge Mary Ellen Boyd was that he had a two-year affair with a student. Both Galloway and the student were married at the time.
“Mr Galloway profoundly regrets his conduct and wishes to apologise for the harm that it has caused. He does not seek to minimise it or to hide from it,” the statement said.
Galloway’s statement said that the investigation dismissed all the other allegations, including the claim of sexual assault in 2011. “He seeks fair treatment for all involved, and an end to the scurrilous assertions and accusations that have proliferated in the vacuum of information,” the statement continued.
However, the student involved, identified only as MC or main complainant, later also released a statement through her lawyer. She claims that her report to UBC had not been over a consensual affair, but that Galloway had sexually assaulted and sexually harassed her.
“Mr Galloway has issued an apology. But he wouldn’t appear to be apologising for the finding he has admitted was made against him by Ms Boyd, which was misconduct for ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour with a student’: conduct which is an abuse of trust and his position of power,’’ the statement said.
“Mr Galloway has not made clear to whom he is apologising or what he regrets, other than presumably the consequences to him. His reference to … the events does not explicitly consider the devastating impacts of abuse of power on women affected.”
UBC told the Guardian it would not be making a statement, and referred to its conflict of interest policy, which states that faculty members must avoid or declare relationships with their students, and that they should not grade or supervise a student with whom they have a personal relationship without declaring it. It previously said the investigation had revealed “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of trust”.
Many of the authors who signed the open letter calling for an investigation into UBC’s handling of the case faced a backlash. The issue has divided Canada’s literary scene between the more established authors who signed the letter and the many young, emerging authors who took to social media – and letters in response – to criticise them, arguing that the prestige of the authors would deter those wanting to report possible sexual harassment and assault.
In October, Thien wrote a separate letter to UBC saying that Galloway had experienced severe distress since he was fired. She stressed that she was not taking the allegations lightly, having herself “known the terrible and lasting pain of sexual assault”. But, she told the Guardian: “My belief in due process and my belief in survivors are both parts of me, and I cannot sacrifice one for the other. It would be like ripping myself in two.”