Students deserve adequate responses
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
When making post-secondary decisions, I was always a bit wary of UBC. UBC is well-known for being a top 40 global school, for its high-quality education, and also for its major issues with sexual assault and rape culture.
I have the privilege of being male, and thus am not constantly worried about being assaulted. Nevertheless, the amount of rape that occurs on campus that is defended or not addressed is disturbing and upsetting to me, as it should be for any reasonable person.
I am a creative writing major and plan to finish my studies at UBC next year. I was going to go this year, but that didn’t happen. Current events have made me somewhat relieved that I am not in the UBC creative writing department during their emotionally tumultuous period. This summer, the chair of the creative writing department, Steven Galloway, was fired due to allegations of serious sexual misconduct including assault, following his suspension last November.
In a recent statement—the first public statement since his firing—Galloway admitted to having an affair with a student and he regretted his actions. The anonymous student also spoke out recently, saying her complaints were about assault and harassment, not a “consensual affair.” The student has also criticized UBC for not releasing her report, which she herself has not seen as a result of Galloway’s appeal. Five other students have also reported to the press that they filed complaints about Galloway’s behaviour, which included bullying and sexual harassment. For privacy reasons, the exact allegations against Galloway cannot be released without his consent. It seems to be one instance in which UBC respects a person’s right to consent and not being taken advantage of.
It is a well-known fact, although certainly not as commonly minded as it should be, that powerful men are still capable of being awful and sexually assaulting others. Many felt Galloway was treated unfairly during his public fall from grace. Many others, particularly within the department, feel the students who were abused by him have been treated even more unfairly.
My heart breaks for every student whose education was affected by the board and by Galloway’s actions. It breaks for the many professors frustrated at and terrified of their colleague’s actions and the inadequate response. Many of the women in the department have had their personal lives and professional work suffer because of Galloway’s actions and public image, professors and students alike. If these allegations are true, and there is no reason to discredit the accusers, it should be a much bigger deal. Being a rapist is (obviously) horrible, and suggesting that his professional image is suffering in the case discredits the horrible acts.
The Galloway case is only one example of UBC enabling and protecting abusers. There are many cases of inadequate responses to sexual assault victims coming forward, and of course, the many who are afraid to come forward because of this shameful response. In the past, UBC has featured students chanting pro-rape statements. UBC allowed an alleged serial rapist to remain a student despite multiple complaints. UBC built a sexual assault task force, although few of the recommendations suggested have come to fruition. UBC has been repeatedly criticized for weak apologies to victims. This is just formal complaints: UBC is also a school of partying, and the amount of assaults or attempted assaults at frat parties is also an issue.
Victims deserve better. Women deserve better. As students, we all deserve better. Combating and preventing abuse through serious, progressive responses should be a high priority for UBC, especially when it occurs amongst faculty members.