The Cassandra Complex would never have happened to a Casper

Policies are “treat everyone equitably and fairly” on the outward-facing side of them, but they’re “FFS, whatever you do, do not get us sued” on the back-end. As long as policies are followed, regardless of the outcome, the institution cannot be sued. You can look at policy from the humanitarian side and say this is how we make sure everyone is treated with dignity or you can look at it from the money side as a “this is how we don’t have to pay people out.”

I’m going to talk about it from the money side because I think that’s obvious what is at play here. I lost my temper once in this entire process and in my anger, I told my Chair that she could not use the word pedagogy around me. She’d just used it to justify three years of being told what I could or couldn’t say without ever coming out and saying the reason I had to be less craft-focused was being craft-focused ruined her program’s gentle “pedagogy”.

But who investigates academic freedom violations at UBC? Why, it’s our old friend, the provost. As soon as I made the complaint, the policies said the provost must investigate. But he would be investigating himself and his own program.

Conflict of interest” doesn’t get more obvious when it requires someone to tell themselves what they did was against policy.

In March 2020, I tried to file a personal harassment case against the Chair. But her employers put in writing that the university’s policies around a respectful environment don’t have to be followed because not having a respectful environment isn’t technically against the law.

That’s like arguing with your city that because parking five feet from the mouth of an alley isn’t technically illegal, you’re not paying the by-law enforced parking ticket. By-laws are enforceable even if they’re not illegal. So are institutional policies.

If the mayor parks closer than five feet to the mouth of an alley, their car should get a ticket. We all know they won’t but they should. And that parking ticket officer will have a whole host of reasons as to why they didn’t give the mayor a ticket, and not a single one of them would be because their boss would be livid with them if they did.

When you break policy, you’re excusing the mayor’s car in the mouth of an alley. Parking within that distance of an alley is actually extremely dangerous. A driver pulling onto the street would see an adult-height head on a bike coming alongside the too-closely parked car, but they wouldn’t see a child behind the car or an adult behind a bigger vehicle. People have been killed by vehicles because the driver pulling into the street couldn’t see them behind an illegally parked vehicle.

The provost knew they could teach a program that can’t explain how the average learner learns from it despite “excellence” supposedly being almost as important as “academic freedom” to the UBC. But they can’t teach a program that requires academic freedom violation to work. And he knows or should have known that he put in writing that this program needs total control over what people say to work.

And he probably knows how embarrassing it would be for the school that a student who started asking pedagogical questions about the program in their third week to be right about the lack of pedagogical support that not one single instructor recognized as a problem. The university didn’t have to change their program, but they did have to listen to my academic freedom to criticize the program.

And in order to cover up the lack of academic freedom designed into the program, he was going to have to destroy the idea of academic freedom entirely. He either knew or should have known that his unreported conflict of interest would come out over his decision to dismiss the complaint unheard if the decision was ever appealed.

So he did everything in his abuse of power to make sure it wouldn’t be.

No legal department hired by an academic institution should have answered any question on removing academic freedom. The provost should have been told that the academic freedom statement says academic freedom violations would not be tolerated and that this had better be the end of his hypothetical question so no one gets into trouble for asking them.

Instead, they probably gave them a step-by-step outline of how to break their institutional policies. Which, I cannot stress enough, no lawyer hired by an institution can do without breaking their professional code of conduct.

But the Chair had already gotten away with the ‘not technically illegal’ defence. So the Provost probably decided he was going to use ‘the only definition of improper conduct the university cares about its *staff* breaking is one of the three that breaks the law, too’ stance.

If the Chair had been dealt with appropriately in March, 2020, the Provost would have known for sure that staff cannot be held to a lower standard than the student body must obey as a condition of their continued enrollment.

I will always wonder if Bob Geiger would have convinced one person that an institution cannot break its own policies. It cannot look the other way to ignore a serious conflict of interest no matter who is parked in the mouth of the alley.

Like a cop lying on the stand, how can the university possibly prove that this is just the first time the provost got caught ignoring policy? This only can come out because it was DONE OVER EMAIL. If I’d been told any of this to my face or over the phone, I’d have had no recourse at all.

Am I sarcastic? Yes. But being polite and professional got me to the end of the appeals process to the UBC senate and it didn’t do me a lick of good. Even honey could not convince these bees to actually follow policy because they were given terrible legal advice, poor policy training, and were unknowingly covering the ass of a man who either covered up his conflict of interest or was so bad at his job that he didn’t even know he had one.

Which, from a policy-perspective, doesn’t matter. He should have known.

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