The first complaint that disappeared into the black surface of UBC’s academic soul happened in the late winter of 2020. I’d made a comment that would have been made at any professional critique circle. It was an important question to ask in non-fiction: if the dark moments in a fluff piece were intentional.
As an author, you would hope a critiquer dares to ask those awkward questions. Because if it is intentional, the choice to include it is fine. If it isn’t intentional and the non-fiction author overlooked the id slip, the slip would harm its chances of being sold as a fluff piece it could easily sell as.
But I’d also been unable to sleep for the past week because of a medical condition. It was also the same week my mother had died the year before and I was going through an enormous amount of family trauma. Nonetheless, twenty minutes later, my essay that was up for next week’s critique had been taken down.
I’d been thrown out of the class for making a comment asking if dark thoughts were intentional. Because as the work currently read, it stated something absolutely horrible that — if true — deserved its own essay outside of the fluff genre. It’s called “a critique of the work.”
I immediately asked the Director — who even twenty minutes in had her elbows deep in the mess — if she could possibly follow the policy when it comes to investigations. I hadn’t even read the Scholarly Integrity Policy (yet) but she didn’t understand she worked for a public institution with one in place. There would be language included in one stating all investigations must be fair, open and timely.
Making a decision she wouldn’t revisit behind closed doors that didn’t involve me within minutes failed all three hurdles. I knew commenting was a protected activity. No one else did. Officers across multiple institutions in Lower Mainland BC all decided to ignore their own investigation policies. If my issues walked or quacked like ducks, it couldn’t be a flock of American Coots waddling in front of a group of Wood Frogs.
And while I’m only a trained SOP sea lawyer, assume the respondent is telling the truth seems to be the official legal standard British Columbia holds itself to. I wouldn’t trust any of their lawyers.
If there is one action my director is completely at fault for, this would be it. The only thing she knew about me was that I was the student asking her instructors “difficult questions” about her program like okay, but how does it work? Despite being in the second half of my degree at that point, not one instructor could answer what should have been a very simple question *if* the program had a pedagogy.
The methodology is what is taught in class. The pedagogy is the road map to how what is taught in the class guides the learner to their objective for taking the class. Without pedagogy, methodology is just a list of instructions. UBC had struck “craft” from their “how to write better” list.
When I finally got a good night’s sleep, I realized how many of my rights as a UBC Person had been shattered. And they had been shattered by a Director who violated my academic freedom as retaliation for having asked her instructors pedagogically-based questions about their methodology.
(Spoiler alert: The retaliation for those protected activities didn’t end there. The lawyer dismissed the complaint against himself from the law society by calling my exercising my academic freedom: interpersonal conflict with all my instructors.)
But her administration “had her back” UBC Style. Having her back in a public institution that knows it is a public institution would have been to quickly inform her that academic freedom includes the student activities of freely commenting and questioning. If she apologized at that moment, the student would have accepted it.
But no, I didn’t go to a public institution that knew it was a public institution. The unpublic institution that only looked like a public institution from the outside had already fucked up terribly when it hadn’t realized it had removed the ability for students to make academic freedom violation complaints. It had done so through “administrative changes” that cannot change the document’s intent. Because no one had identified the risk to the institution’s reputation removing those protections would cause and just assumed the Respectful Environment Statement could adequately protect the same actions, all changes to the document were done in error.
Spoiler alert: The Respectful Environment Statement did not protect a student’s academic freedom. When I asked for the Director’s actions to be held against the Statement if a student’s academic freedom wasn’t protected at UBC, the Respectful Environment Statement would not protect me because it wasn’t a legal requirement. Students at UBC only have policy-mandated expectations of a respectful learning environment. An elf-spotting school would understand respectful environments are necessary for learners to learn in.
Because the risk wasn’t mitigated by moving those protections to a new document which had to be signed off on before the administrative changes were permitted, any change done to the document was done as an institutional error.
But because UBC had already fucked up, it doubled down by fucking up again by using the fact that it hadn’t trained anyone to take academic freedom violation complaints from students as the excuse for why it couldn’t take complaints from students. So instead of having my director’s back by correcting her actions as required, they gave her actions a free pass.
Officers in a controlled environment may behave as badly as their supervisors allow them to. She’d been hung out to dry by a public institution that had no idea it had to self-govern for all the money, power and prestige it got for holding itself to that expectation.
And from that point on, my issue was with the administration of the University of British Columbia. After they failed to correct my director’s behaviour, her hands didn’t get any dirtier than they already were, even after she falsified the nature of my second complaint that also got disappeared.
So that was complaint #1 that went *poof*.
Director that Mattered should have been as well-versed in Policy as I was if the duties of her office were to explain policy to students. When she told me that the Respectful Environment Statement, the Retaliation Policy, the Scholarly Integrity Policy and the first half of the Discrimination Policy didn’t count because they weren’t “legally enforceable”, she committed Live Policy Error #1 by giving out incorrect policy advice.
But worse, when I asked for that decision in February 2020 to be appealed, she told me I couldn’t have one because my director hadn’t broken the law.
Live Policy Error #2: All decisions may be appealed in public institutions that use public funds to operate to keep this exact bullshit from happening.