Academic Freedom vs. the University Act

I went to great lengths trying to explain to Szeri why his program didn’t work and couldn’t. It’s why his argument became “we can teach what we like” and not “our methodology works.” It’s too bad Szeri didn’t realize laws can’t trump a freedom.

The University of British Columbia failed to create a required Academic Freedom Specialist position. They failed to train the staff to understand the need to defend Academic freedom, despite knowing it was necessary. They even failed to clarify the Academic Freedom complaint process to ensure UBC Persons were trained to take criticisms. All these actions were necessary to close their last Academic Freedom violation report.

A university in British Columbia can teach any methodology it likes — regardless of the damage it does its learner — as long as it doesn’t violate Academic Freedom. University policy makes it exceptionally clear that Academic Freedom violations are not to be tolerated. Any legal advice saying otherwise is advising others to violate policy. It was — by definition — improper conduct that the lawyers answered the question of how Academic Freedom violations could be tolerated in the first place.

The harm preconceived notions do to the learning process cannot be understated. You cannot teach through them. Anything the instructor says can only be filtered through the knowledge base of the student. If that knowledge base says “my work can’t be improved on” or there isn’t much the instructor can say to change that learner’s mind.

But the UBC’s program went a step further. It didn’t even try to teach work can be improved on at a structural level. The instructors of the program taught their learners their work only ever needed prose-level changes.

It took me seven years to realize foundational structures are necessary to learn how to use and it was still something I had to walk myself through. This was despite seven years of public critiques in my writing group where I was constantly being told foundational structures are important. If one person had told me that the foundational structures were optional and my writing was just fine without them, I wouldn’t have needed to hear it twice to be absolutely certain the other 99.9% of critiquers just didn’t understand what I was trying to do.

The Creative Writing School encourages learners to never even consider what their work could be if they applied structured learning to it. And if the UBC MFA program tells a learner they have nothing to learn but polish, the average learner will believe them.

If the program hadn’t crushed any opposing opinion that might have suggested learning craft might be helpful, they’d have done nothing wrong. This is despite every UBC creative writing graduate having to realize on their own that the University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing is wrong about how necessary the craft of writing is to the production of meaningful fiction. That has to happen before they can start to improve on a structural level.

But once the UBC has that glowing student evaluation that captures how pleased a learner is that everything they learned confirmed exactly what they thought, that learner is completely on their own. The harsh reality is that the method only ever worked for the learners who were already writing close to or at the level of their instructors.

But if the instructors only need to polish their first drafts into their final draft form, so to do all learners, according to the UBC. Academic Freedom says criticism is a protected activity. Andrew Szeri, not liking what that criticism had to say, crushed Academic Freedom a second time to not have to hear it officially.

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