VANCOUVER – Author Steven Galloway has issued his first statement since he was suspended a year ago by the University of British Columbia over what it has only described as “serious allegations.”
He was fired as creative writing chairman in June under a veil of secrecy. He said in the statement issued Wednesday by his lawyers that the “harm flowing from UBC’s conduct” has reached such a level that he asked his counsel to provide clarity.
Galloway confirms that he was accused of sexual assault but says the only complaint substantiated by a former judge’s investigation was that he had an affair with a student.
“Mr. Galloway profoundly regrets his conduct and wishes to apologize for the harm that it has caused. He does not seek to minimize it or to hide from it,” the statement says.
“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 university tasked Mary Ellen Boyd, a former B.C. Supreme Court judge, with investigating complaints against Galloway in December. Her report, submitted in April, has never been made public.
Galloway’s statement says after an exhaustive review of all evidence, Boyd found on the balance of probabilities that Galloway had not committed sexual assault.
Of the other allegations made against him, the statement says Boyd found that one constituted a violation of university policy. She found he engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” with a student while both were married, and that the affair lasted two years, it says.
The statement says Galloway has grave concerns with the investigative process followed by the university, including but not limited to the way it chose to communicate with the public.
Last week, 88 prominent authors, including Margaret Atwood and Joseph Boyden, signed an open letter calling for an inquiry into the school’s handling of the case. After being accused of silencing women who might come forward in the future, Atwood issued a brief apology Wednesday.
“We’re sorry we hurt any survivor people out there by seeming lacking in empathy for your experiences,” she said. “We do not intend to discourage anyone from speaking up in future, and hope the university will put in place a workable support system.”
The Canadian Press has spoken with five people who filed complaints based on behaviour they say they witnessed or experienced. They said the complaints included sexual harassment, bullying, threats and an incident in which Galloway is accused of slapping a student.
Chelsea Rooney, who filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment, said complainants had concerns about the process too. She said they were pressured not to talk to one another and incidents they told Boyd about didn’t end up in her report.
“Steven Galloway has chosen an interesting moment to go public, now that Canada knows he has these 88 powerful authors on his side,” Rooney said. “My question is, ‘Who is he apologizing to, and what is he apologizing for?’ ”
The university’s vice-president of external relations, Philip Steenkamp, has said the school reached its decision only after a “thorough, deliberative process” conducted in accordance with the law. It remains bound by privacy law from detailing the allegations against Galloway without his consent.
Boyd has said she cannot comment due to a confidentiality agreement.
The authors’ open letter said Galloway had been barred from speaking publicly while the faculty association grieved his firing. However, the statement issued Wednesday by his lawyers – who are not affiliated with the grievance – says he has “avoided” commenting out of respect for the grievance process.
Galloway’s statement says the association filed its first grievance in December following his suspension and filed another in July after his firing.
The grievance is proceeding to arbitration, the statement says, and Galloway’s position is that his termination was unreasonable.