How it all went bad: the Chair’s first fuck up

I had four contacts with a piece of furniture who seemed determined never to do their job properly. In the first one, she saw an insult beyond the pale in a question meant to ask if the intention to say X was deliberate, as the negative crack of emotion it said was not only textual in the fluff piece, it followed the rule of three. 20 minutes later, I was thrown out of class. I’d used the slightest touch humour, you see, to aliviate some of the tension that asking an author “did you mean to explicitly state X three times?” could cause.

There was a whole host of policies and procedures the furniture ignored — from getting the full story from both parties, to understanding academic freedom means having the freedom to ask difficult questions in class, to using the training I knew she had because her university did the PD for my college, to basic empathy required in any educational institution dealing with students who at any moment might be going through severe emotional, medical, or family trauma.

I was going through all three. I had to get a good night’s sleep after more than a week of insomnia brought on by the medical condition and the furniture’s behaviour to realize how thoroughly my rights had been trashed throughout the entire ordeal. I demanded to know why resources that I know they were obligated to provide to me had been completely ignored.

I got a guilty email 20 minutes later with the links they should have provided for me ninety-six hours ago. Dealing with the stress of the furniture’s bad behaviour robbed me of three more nights of sleep I desperately needed. On last day, I knew I couldn’t go to work so I called my boss, but they asked me to try to come in. When I realized I couldn’t walk straight so there was no chance I could drive, I got a write-up on my file because a piece of furniture thought asking questions about their program removed my rights as a student.

I immediately tried to complain about the furniture’s actions. They’d been unfair, completely closed and instant which is the exact opposite of a fair, open and timely decision that I’d been promised. The only thing the furniture knew about me was that I was the student who was exercising her academic freedom to privately question their instructors while allowing their academic freedom to be destroyed in class. Instructor after instructor thought if *they* told me to “be less craft-focused”, I’d totally pick up on the subliminal this means we don’t want you to talk about craft *at all*. We want this program “gentle” enough to never upset a single student with having to learn something they might need to pursue their goals professionally.

But the UBC doesn’t have a way to report harassment. I checked. I contacted the Equity and Inclusion people because the respectful environment statement that the furniture must have printed off just to wipe their ass with was hosted on the E&I page. There was a link on the side to report discrimination or suspected discrimination, but I got a bad feeling when there was no way to report harassment or suspected harassment.

Equity and Inclusion “helpfully” told me that there was no way to report harassment to the UBC for a very good reason. The UBC didn’t think their employees had to refrain from harassing students. See, it’s not technically illegal to have a disrespectful environment according to the BC criminal code so they weren’t going to do anything. And she hadn’t discriminated against me for a protected characteristic, she’d retaliated against me for a protected act listed in the discrimination policy against Academic Freedom.

I was told that the UBC only has to protect protected characteristics because it’s against the BC Human RIghts Code. It’s not against the BC criminal code to not protect protected acts that aren’t also protected by law, so the UBC has chosen not to protect the protected acts specifically needed for academic freedom because nothing other than their policies told them they had to.

I said “protected” was a protected term on a controlled document and they had to follow policies. Equity & Inclusion argued it wasn’t and they don’t. This event in 2020 foreshadowed the calibre of UBC administration I was going to be dealing with.

Edited to add: This is also the first time the “you don’t get an appeal because our employee’s actions didn’t break the law” enters into the picture.

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