my second disappeared complaint (part two)

I got through the actual classwork of my program without another complaint being filed. I even told the Director that she was going to have to be my point of contact to “clear up any misunderstandings.” When really, I made that arrangement so if the Director was going to violate any more institutional policies, she wouldn’t ask another Officer to violate them as well.

Because my academic freedom had been so curtailed, I just wanted to get through the program. I decided to not attend any class I didn’t have three hours of positive things to say about at least one of the two works being shared. I’d already been given the SSHRC. I had to decide that even though 70% of my mark was based solely on participation, I’d rather take several zeros in the same class than try to come up with just nice things to say about work that still required significant rewrites.

But even the classes I could attend were physically painful. All the things I couldn’t say were like rocks in my gut at the end of class. I picked one point to argue for the week. The rest of the time, I had to watch talented, intelligent writers assure other talented, intelligent writers that all they had to do was polish the prose choices of first-draft work.

But to that point, I believed there was still a pedagogy somewhere in that mess of a method, even if the instructors didn’t know it to share it. I still believed at least my Director understood why they’d chosen that method in particular.

So I asked her. I didn’t start out by doing so, of course. I asked for an apology for having to survive my last year, knowing I didn’t have a legal right to a respectful environment. When she told me that we just had a “difference of pedagogical opinions”, I asked her to explain the one she had chosen.

I even sweetened the pot. I promised her she would never hear from me again if she explained how her pedagogy worked. We were given a very effective demonstration in my B. Ed that proved pure motivation isn’t enough to make a learner learn. Results in the real world did not vary. By the end of the day, all my director could do was quote their mission statement, which specifically required the program to be supportive — even if you had an unpopular opinion. It was supposed to be “rigorously craft-based” to assist learners with their “intentions for the piece.” Which must have included publication to be a Master’s Degree issued in Canada.

And then, she gave me the old UBC chestnut of “don’t you even dare ask me follow-up questions.” She believed — because she had been trained by her administration to know — that she was exempt from the protection Academic Freedom gives students to question and criticize.

So I advised her Dean of the massive pedagogical concerns and academic freedom violations. Rather than do the independent investigation she was obligated to provide, she went to the Department of Being Told Your Problem and advised me my problem was the same “difference of pedagogical opinions” the Director failed to explain the first time.

Weirdly enough, the Dean of Graduate Studies *also* failed to explain how “not having a pedagogy” is a pedagogy.

Dr. Ono “advised” me that Andrew J. Szeri “handles” complaints like mine, so “handle it” he did. He decided that because no one understood:

  • academic freedom
  • pedagogy
  • creative writing
  • institutional policies

as much as I did, he’d wait for someone with the same experience to repeat the same thing before investigating whether his program ACTIVELY HARMS ITS LEARNERS. It harmed the average learner who still had to learn how to use foundational structures *and* it harmed the exceptional learner who would teach the failed methodology to writers who would be average learners or future teachers themselves.

I was the only person who saw how the program allowed only one institutionally-approved opinion.

If the Investigations Policy had wanted Provosts to hear the same complaint twice before it could be taken seriously, the demarcations of that responsibility and exceptions to it would have been the first dedicated section of the Investigations Policy. Instead, it stated the Provost must investigate all complaints that do not fall under other controlled policies.

The “even if it hasn’t been complained about before” is implied with the imperative.

And with that, my official complaint #2 was disappeared.

My complaint #3 on how the Provost ignored multiple policies to ignore my complaint will be continued in Part #3.

It will answer the question: why didn’t the Provost want his emails entered into any official record.

But just as a refresher, here are his direct words, taken from the Academic Freedom Statement:

“UBC must be an open forum where members of the university have the freedom ‘to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion’. While engaging in such discussion, I encourage our students, faculty and staff to uphold the university’s values in creating a positive and respectful environment, even when considering opinions that may fundamentally differ from their own.”

Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver (July 2017 – April 2022)

Unless you’re in a creative writing class. Then fuck academic freedom, eh, Andy?

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