VANCOUVER – The University of British Columbia must pay novelist Steven Galloway $167,000 in damages for making statements that violated his privacy rights and harmed his reputation when it suspended and later fired him as its creative writing chairman.
The faculty association that represented Galloway says the amount is well above the typical award of $500 to $10,000 in similar cases.
A labour arbitration decision released by the university on Friday also says the association withdrew its claim for Galloway’s reinstatement, as well as claims for his lost income and benefits, in February.
“Consequently, the issue of whether the university had cause to dismiss the (Galloway) was no longer contested as part of the arbitration,” says the decision written by arbitrator John B. Hall.
The university fired Galloway, the award-winning author of “The Cellist of Sarajevo,” in June 2016 without severance, citing “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members.” The firing followed a months-long investigation into his conduct by a retired judge, whose report has never been made public.
Galloway has confirmed he was accused of sexual assault, but has said the only complaint substantiated by the report was that he had a two-year affair with a student. The student said her complaint was not about a consensual affair, but about sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Canadian Press does not name sexual assault complainants unless they choose to be identified.
Galloway filed two grievances: one after he was suspended in November 2015 and another after he was fired in June 2016. The arbitration decision does not specifically say which communications infringed his privacy.
The first grievance asserted, among other things, that the university erred when it sent a memo to faculty, staff and students that announced Galloway had been suspended pending an investigation into “serious allegations.”
The university’s actions violated his privacy rights and caused him irreparable reputational damage and loss, Galloway alleged.
The second grievance claimed the university’s communications regarding the termination had been misleading and caused both serious damage to his reputation and ongoing personal suffering.
“I find that certain communications by the university contravened (Galloway’s) privacy rights and caused harm to his reputation,” Hall wrote. “He should accordingly be compensated with an award of damages.”
The university said in a statement that it accepts the decision.
Galloway could not immediately be reached for comment and a lawyer who has represented him in the past did not immediately respond.
The arbitrator wrote that all other elements of the case, other than the decision released Friday, will remain confidential. As a result, the faculty association said it cannot discuss its decision to drop its claim for Galloway’s reinstatement, lost wages and benefits.
The association released a statement that said its fundamental role is to ensure that all members receive due process and the protection of their rights in any proceedings conducted by the university.
“The faculty association will continue to work diligently to protect the rights and interests of its members at UBC,” the statement said.
The university is bound by the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which prevents it from disclosing information about an employee unless the individual waives their rights or if it’s necessary for health and safety reasons.
The secrecy around the case has sparked questions about how the university handled the situation.
In November 2016, dozens of prominent Canadian writers, including Margaret Atwood and Joseph Boyden, signed an open letter calling for an external investigation of how the school dealt with Galloway’s case.
They were later criticized because of the potential silencing effect the letter could have on any woman who considered reporting allegations of misconduct at universities and a number of writers, including Yann Martel, removed their names.
In March, Atwood released a joint statement with fellow novelist Susan Swan apologizing for any perception of harm or silencing effects the letter may have had.