UBC bullshit

the university act means students need consumers’ rights

If my program didn’t crush the academic freedom of students who might want to have the opinion that craft is actually important enough to use and practice using, the UBC would have every right to market it to students.

They can boast about their craft-based discussions on the website without small print required to say that there is no discussion on actual craft because it’s not allowed. They’re allowed to have “rigorously craft-based focus” in their mission statement. And they would be allowed to teach a program in which the only opinion allowed to be safely voiced in class without risk of retaliation is: No craft is ever needed, necessary or required.

But they had to crush their first pillar as an academic institution to do it. But then the University of British Columbia had to remove the right to academic freedom from a student to silence them about their lack of academic freedom.

If I’d known that the actual pedagogical approach was “No craft, no critique, just praise!” or that the institute thought any part of that last paragraph is something they had the audacious right to do, I would have bounced as well.

As a student, I’m outraged that if I’d been sold a street-worthy scooter online that didn’t have an engine, I would have protection. But when I complained, the prominent Canadian company told me its engine was never meant to actually start and “street-worthy” means what the company said it does.

But paying for an education that doesn’t meet the federal guidelines academically or professionally is just tough luck for students. The UBC’s anti-pedagogy is academic freedom violation, pros somehow never edit, and policies are just for the students, but there is no recourse available.

And all students absolutely need protection if the entire institution decides to just not hold itself accountable for its wrongdoings if it just ignores the policies it has to hold itself accountable to.

academic harassment and adhd

By the first twenty minutes of the first critique class I was already in trouble with my instructor for daring to suggest something from a child psychology level.

I was given a confidentiality strike. When I asked how was that possible, I was told asking my wife a question about libraries violated confidentiality. I hadn’t told my wife a single thing about the story. I’d asked her to look up types of literacy programs held in major Canadian cities.

The instructor was adamant I read the code of conduct and expectations. I did so, three times. I then had to ask what part of my behaviour had violated it.

Eventually, I was told that they preferred their critiques “more supportive” but never gave me more feedback than that. It would have been convenient at this point to have dropped out and gotten back all of my money. But in reading the code of conduct, I also read the mission statement to see if I was in the right place. It promised me a program that would be “rigorously craft-based.”

Oppositional Defiance Disorder is an ADHD child under unreasonable parenting skills. If ADHD meds are given before the age of six, the ODD goes away. If the medication isn’t given until age 8, the ADHD symptoms go away but the ODD Is now a learned behaviour to parents in which nothing is fair.

To an ADHD brain, nothing hurts more than unfairness. And at the UBC, nothing has ever been fair. Despite language assuring me that

“… the MFA focuses on the work created by students as the primary text. Through intensive peer critique and craft discussion, faculty and students work together with the same goal: literary excellence.”

(Under overview)

I was harangued by my instructors to constantly be less of something I eventually couldn’t be less of. The Respectful Environment Statement that the Chair was allowed to break multiple times in multiple different ways says over-supervision is an action harmful to a respectful environment. The UBC had it down to an art form. Just when I found a level of craft that seemed to work for everyone for months, I’d be hit with emails telling me to do even less of that.

No part of dealing with UBC was equitable. Policies meant to ensure fair treatment were tossed. My academic freedom was crushed. Harassment was ignored. The provost — with his conflict of interest — was allowed to use institutional resources to cater to his needs of making his problem go away. Just the act of being heard was denied.

And yet, I never doubted the next person I spoke to would make a rational decision based on the policies until they informed me, nope, they were going to go with the abuse of power. The unfairness felt like it burned.

But I had to go through it so the next student wouldn’t and ADHD gives us hyperfocus. I trusted someone in the appeals process was either going to do their job or I’d have it in writing that the entire UBC chose to fail from a policy perspective.

why this matters to me so much

It couldn’t be more obvious through all of this that there would have been no recourse at all to the average student. The instructors could have silenced their attempts to comment in class so that they fell in lock step with “supportive = no opportunity for growth at all” mentality that the UBC program stank with within the first few weeks of class.

I, however, foolishly thought that by “be less craft focused” my instructors actually meant there was a level of craft that could work with their program’s methodology. So naturally, I thought it must work. I thought eventually, I’d find the level that could be discussed without it leading to another “dear barb” letter, which wanted to take even more of my academic freedom to freely comment in class away.

It took three years for it to occur to me that less had meant none all along. Three years of trying to make a program work that had no chance at all of working because it was never designed to work.

But as long as there was *some* level of craft that could be discussed, I thought it could work, too.

But after three years and getting thrown out of class for asking a question any writing program should have had the fortitude to ask if the author’s intention was to share the work, even if it touched on a sensitive subject that was not roped off from the beginning.

By the time I realized “less craft focused” meant no craft focus at all as a deliberate pedagogic choice, I had already finished my thesis for a degree that willingly, if secretively, taught that craft-based discussions aren’t even needed for literary excellence. Literary excellence is agreed on from the start and the only thing left to do is talk about the writing at the prose level.

And for 2-4 of the submissions per class, they’d be right. For everyone else, they learn that no structural edit is needed even in work that just describes scenery and conversations the characters have while they explain to the reader what they knew at the start of the story.

I was lied to. The UBC continues to lie to their future students, even as we speak. They’ll advertise they have craft-based discussions (“for literary excellence” according to their website well after all this had happened) and then stamp out any actual discussion of craft (destroying academic freedom) so the only craft-based discussion allowed is on how craft-based changes aren’t ever needed.

“I liked it” is supposed to end discussion revision might be necessary.

“I liked it too, but I still think the conflict should be at least hinted at in the beginning of a work” is “defending my opinion too much.” (aka: We keep telling you to BE LESS CRAFT FOCUSED. Why can’t you understand that means none.)

If the learner thinks that the construction of a complete thought happens in the first draft, a place of learning is exactly where they ought to be. But if the instructor agrees that peer review is just for polishing the prose, that’s exactly what they’re going to learn.

And learn they did. Because who wants to be told that writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process? That imagining what could happen is a lot more difficult than thinking of a million ways to make what did happen matter more to the character, the plot and the reader. Polish can be done in a single pass.

The rewriting stages drag on until some writers are sick of ever thinking of their characters again, only to sell their work and feel like they’d just submitted a rough draft for all the editorial changes they still need to make — and would have made, had they seen it.

At a Masters level degree, the education provided should be at the forefront of academics and its profession. I can’t think of a working pedagogy that says just draw your student body from a population that can afford to enroll in a degree that has no tangible financial reward at a time where they can invest tens of thousands of dollars into their future career goals.

Most working pedagogies I know have a final step that says “check to see if the way the learner learned what they needed to learn to learn was done the most effective way possible.” They don’t require the average learner to treat hot copy like it’s near-perfect copy, whether it’s near-perfect copy or not.

Learners are harmed. Pedagogic institutions would rather destroy academic freedom than have to listen to how it harms learners. Institutions would turn their back on their policies if it means not having to hear complaints about academic freedom being violated.

The lawyer who advised the officer on how to “get away” with two of the three definitions of improper conduct as defined by the institution’s own policies somehow hasn’t broken any part of chapter three, section two of his professional conduct that says not only to not help officers abuse their authority, but report that the attempted ask.

An MLA and a Minister doesn’t think she has to apologize for lying to a member of the public to their face and hold up the progress for almost a month. And her secretary’s empathy fooled me for about three seconds until I realized there was no way she could possibly actually feel it.

And I was right to call her a liar. But I didn’t. When the minister came out of her office and asked her secretary if I was being disrespectful, the tone the secretary said “No!” which certainly implied she wished I had been.

Officers in BC institutions think policies are optional. Even the Law Society thinks breaking sections of their code doesn’t happen unless a lawyer says it did. Officers are allowed to let themselves not be at fault.

The double standard is disgusting.

Another “dear Barb” letter…

This one doesn’t think a lawyer ignoring the entire section of the chapter of their Professional Code of Conduct that deals with institutional lawyers breaks their Professional Code of Conduct. I think it does. An institutional lawyer can’t advise an institutional officer how to participate in conduct the institution has defined as improper. It’s black and white obvious unless you want to be obtuse.

The legal counsel was supposed to report his attempt to even ask to abuse his authority. It’s just expectations set out by their professional code of conduct. Why do I keep expecting those to be followed in British Columbia?

The letter advised me to contact the provincial ombudspeople if I thought their decision was in error. It’s already been added to the file. BC, what the hell, man? The government, your public university and your BC Law Society don’t think policies apply to their employees.

No wonder your Ombudspeople are run off their feet. The belief that policies are optional seems provincial. @LawSocietyofBC, shame. You are supposed to be watching the watchers, not looking the other way.

ABCs of UBC — authoritarian, broken, and corrupt

Of all the “reasons” UBC gave as to why they weren’t following their policies in a controlled environment, “nu-uh” was the only argument that worked. “Our lawyers don’t have to follow the Professional Code of Conduct Chapter 3 Section 2” and “Our provost can totally service his own interest over the institution’s and still use his authority to do it” were both total bunk.

“Nu-uh” only works because you can’t literally force your child to clean up their room. They can only stew in it until the room is clean or it’s time to feed them again.

I let the -gogy suffix in “pedagogy” fool me into thinking the program would involve the study of learning. Start to finish, the UBC methodology was telling learners what things are regardless if they are true, accurate or repeatable.

A student at the UBC’s duty is to swallow what they’re told whole and unquestioningly. Not a single student in the student body has had Academic Freedom since September 2021. From that date, only the people a *public* university thinks may criticize them must like them, first.

Not liking a program not having or even thinking it needs a valid pedagogical approach designed to teach the actual students who attend the program is clearly not a good enough reason to criticize anything. So Szeri, as a hypocritical VP of Academics whose office is in charge of protecting Academic freedom decides he has the right to decide how Academic FREEDOM may or may not be used.

Everyone listed in the policy designed to keep Szeri from abusing his power all agreed that if he wanted to use the authority the university gave him to take authority the institution hadn’t given him, they were okay fine with it from the first of them to the last.

It’s so broken that policies written for the exact situation were completely ignored because people’s gut biome told them it made more sense to support the Provost’s interests over the interests of their own institution. He knows he wrote “our methodology is academic freedom violation” so he had to make sure his program was never investigated for academic freedom violation.

So it wasn’t. And the UBC was so broken, they never questioned his right to not investigate himself or allow himself to be investigated.

Institutions are designed so that one person never has ultimate power. This isn’t to say school boards can never act corruptly if policies and procedures are in place, but the scope of their corruption is limited.

The UBC’s bullshit was limitless. With no check and balance on his power, not even the UBC Senate thought institutional officers’ authority should be limited by their policies. Their poor training led to officers refusing to do vital aspects of their job that they weren’t even trained to do. No one in the entire university understood that not being able to report personal, academic or institutional harassment is a terrible problem to have, not a feature of its broken system.

Even to this day, the UBC thinks they’ve done nothing wrong. If their mistaken lawyers say no one can make them listen to harassment complaints, academic freedom violations, and pedagogically-based criticism of their program, they — to this day — still think they don’t have to.

They think they have the right to advertise how rigorously craft-based program their program is while they crush the academic freedom students need to discuss craft as standing, unwritten precedence. No student will ever even accidentally be exposed to what they need to learn to accomplish their intended outcomes for their work.

Not understanding policies need to be followed, even when the institution is the party in the wrong is a training issue. Taking an adult student’s time and money from their lives and their families and giving them a “degree” that cannot serve their intended goals is corruption. It corrupts the idea of education itself.

The UBC thinks they have the right to take tens of thousands of dollars from their students who trust the UBC as a learning institution. Writers think they’re learning everything they need to in order to succeed in their goals and they’re being sold the idea that they already know it. When the UBC packages, markets, and prints the lie on a degree that says no graduate of their writing program has anything to learn about structure other than a few more nice finishing techniques, any student *is primed* to believe them.

week five of waiting for regulatory services

There’s such a long queue of people holding institutions to account that the Ombudspeople have the Provost’s last day on the job in the file to be done by. The BC Law Society needs another four weeks before “UBC lawyers thought it was possible to advise officers of the institution on how to commit improper conduct ‘the right way'” gets to the top of their queue.

There is no right way to commit improper conduct in a controlled environment.

That’s why it’s controlled.

It might have only taken the Provost five business hours to commit to destroying the concept of academic freedom and it might take five more weeks for someone to do something about it. For all the reasons I’ve seen on error reports, “Our institutional lawyers thought they could advise our institutional officers how to commit what our institutional policies define as ‘improper conduct’ and ‘get away with it'” wins best of the worst.

axiomatic context and antipedagogies

“Decimate” used to mean having the 90% of a unit kill or witness the deaths of 10% of their fellow soldiers that were usually chosen randomly to die. It was the punishment that made soldiers stand up against impossible odds because breaking formation and running could result in one. Back when I was a kid, it used to mean “a great loss.” Now it just means “just losing about 10%” because that’s what the word means if its axiomatic context is ignored.

There are no rules followed the same path.

It used to be an axiomatic expression that meant “the absence of a foundational structure must still serve the story for the lack of it.” Character growth is one of the fundamental foundational structures of fiction. The absence of it means the character must have as actively chosen to stay the same as they would have acted on the need for change. But not changing should have a cost that changing would have reduced in some way otherwise the book starts and finishes on a character that was right to not change at all.

Can that still be an effective story? Sure, with enough rewrites or inspiration from the muses. Will the average underpublished writers be able to capture the push and pull between a character’s inability to change and their need to just by polishing the first attempt of the story?

Probably not. But it is the UBC methodology in a nutshell. The English canon is filled with static characters from Atticus Finch to Sherlock Holmes. Examples of static characters existing in great works of literature would be the lesson taught to this UBC student, not the tools necessary to make sure that each time a character doesn’t change, they don’t change for a more significant reason until not changing is the most significant thing they can do. They won’t get any tools at all.

Because Atticus exists, characters don’t need to change at all is a bad lesson. He was a pacifist who sat out all night with a weapon to defend what he believed in against his friends and neighbours. His relationship with all of them changed that night, even if he didn’t act on the difference.

But this is what happens when you don’t say the axiomatic part of the statement out loud for more than a generation. The unspoken axiomatic part gets dropped for its most literal interpretation of the words. A story will always need the fundamental structures of fiction or be an exemplar for why those structures are not always needed.

Rules, however, are just a collective opinion on a subject.

Way, way, way back in the day, I wrote a story for a workshop. A writer I still respect liked most things about it but thought the character shouldn’t be gay if being gay didn’t impact the story. It was back just before the fulcrum finally tipped society into accepting (a very narrow band of) queerness. This advice was still a year or so away from when it would fall out of common usage.

It’s been clear to me for a while that “there are no rules” is being understood to mean if a masterpiece can work without using a foundational structure, the average learner doesn’t need to learn how to use any of them. “Gay characters must be gay for a reason. Every character should be assumed to be straight for my comfort” isn’t a foundational structure of writing. It’s an opinion that’s been proven to be incorrect and abandoned.

Writers should write X words a day is an opinion. Writers should write is a fact. How they do it, when they do it, where they do it, what they write and with whom they write it with is entirely the author’s choosing.

My MFA program could not have proved more clearly that improperly facilitated critique-based peer review can drive the learner further away from their objectives. It is an antipedagogy. A facilitator should never allow students to agree amongst themselves that mistakes the majority still make are fine. Work meant to move a reader needs to do more than perfectly capture what a character is looking at or talking about. If the student body doesn’t think so, the facilitator still needs to do their job and facilitate their learning.

Instead, the provost decided being gentle was more important than being an instructor.

If a pedagogy is written to teach the student, an antipedagogy was written to please them. The UBC’s program could not have been a finer dictionary definition of an antipedagogy by the provost’s deliberate design. “Gentle,” the man said.

As though gentle could be a pedagogy. Don’t teach the student anything that might upset them might as well have the same value to future career goals as an Elf-Spotting degree from Iceland. It’s up to the learner to be able to tell a meaningful story capable of moving their ideal reader before the program begins.

Learn how to spot elves, then come to Iceland and we’ll give you this paper that says you can is not an effective pedagogy, either.

Do you want to hear a joke about pedagogists’ ignorance about how learning works?

Once upon a time there was a school whose graduates self-selected to go to their program. Say, it’s an expensive program and there is no lucrative career promised to you at the end of it. There’s not even the advantage of going from the tired teacher telling their kids what to do to the even more exhausted principal that handles almost everything else.

It’s just a piece of paper on the wall that if you publish enough, the fact that you have one will make it easier to find a job doing so on a very marginal basis. Marginal because there are enough published-well enough doctorates out there already applying for masters-level jobs. The better published you are, the more it doesn’t matter that you just have an MFA to the point of not even needing an MFA at all to teach.

It’s a very particular well-known but not quite well-known to pay the bills type of writer who can use an MFA for a reliable teaching gig. I know graduates of my program who have had a miserable time because they “only” have an MFA vs. a doctorate in an academic setting.

For everyone else, it’s what a student should be able to take to become that reliably selling if not quite well-paid writer who is the prime candidate for being an MFA instructor. The calibre of writers in the program means after two to three years of constant practice and feedback, most of them could learn an enormous amount of practical skills.

Instead, my program is built for the intuitive writers who didn’t need to learn how to do what they do and they are still able to do it. It’s mainly attended by concrete writers who think they’re intuitive. But while an intuitive writer can say little and have it do a lot, the concrete writer is still saying a lot that does very little.

The most common attitude I meet with underpublished writers is that they’re not even interested in improving at the structural level. The fact that exceptional work doesn’t need all the foundational structures to still tell a masterpiece is all the average learner needs to hear to think they don’t even need to learn the foundation structures. The intuitive learners will be right. The concrete learners never have to consider they might not be.

The concrete learner just doing what an intuitive learner does creates first drafts with page after page of characters looking at interesting scenery while talking. But the concrete learner is also as certain as the intuitive learner is that any “formulaic” addition of structure would ruin it.

I didn’t think it was possible to leave out a structural foundation and still have an effective story that can compete in today’s market before I was asked to edit a brilliant short story by a very good literary author. It had no stakes at all. Zero. It didn’t matter at any point if any character quit. In fact, I think suggested making it even more obvious that it doesn’t matter if they all quit, so that when they all decide to continue with it, it’s an active choice and not a social obligation.

At no point would adding stakes have made that story better. It was better for having a complete lack of them. Nothing would be gained or lost if they still decided to do the thing. So deciding to do it was the thing that mattered.

So it’s not that I think every rule needs to be followed completely. I believe every foundational structure should be altered for a reason that serves the story.

I don’t remember the conversation clearly because it wasn’t an unusual conversation I have with most of the people I edit their work for (except in my MFA, naturally. No one wants to hear about structure so would I please just shut up about it sums up my experience politely.)

I want to say that she hadn’t considered that the point that they wanted to continue the thing was the reason for the story. I showed her places where she could really demonstrate the theme and that the first page needed a human POV in it because it was all description.

This had been during my MFA and I’d just been told if I could just be a little less craft-focused than the little bit of craft-focused that I was at that point, everyone would feel just so much more comfortable. (See: provost’s “gentle” pedagogy.)

No one, not a Dean, not a Provost, not a President saw the damage of basing their program’s success on the success of their graduates without taking into consideration the skill their success stories brought with them into the program.

A creative writing MFA class could not be more self-selected. It is filled with people who already have a bachelors in another subject, so you know they can succeed in a classroom dynamic. It’s a job that doesn’t have immediate benefits to it like an M. Ed for a principalship or an M.B.A from a university with the prestigous as the UBC to add to the top of a resume, so the person either has the credit or the savings to take 30-50,000 dollars from their household budget over 2-3 years and not have that financially destroy them. So they have the success of a person who has that kind of credit history.

We’re already talking the cream of the crop when it comes to the calibre of writing. And yet, the average graduate can’t rewrite a story to craft a better reader’s experience. But they know structural rewrites are not part of the writing process. They walk out with more finishing techniques than they knew before they started but without any new skillsets because of the deliberate design of the program.

The only reason why they know that structural edits have no value is because they took their MFA program through the UBC. Before they started the program, they’d only thought they were right to think so. But then a university backed up their confirmation bias that the only thing between them and their publishing dreams are the “gatekeepers” of the publishing industry.

It can’t be that they can do what everyone in their class already could do well, but not any better than most of them. There is an entire clot of writers who believe that having the static, descriptive skills of a professional writer is the skill that matters most. And because the students who believe that are the majority, they have convinced themselves they are all right to think so.

Readers care about the author’s ability to manipulate the character, plot and story through a thematic question that leaves the reader always remembering how they felt while reading the work. Description, nice or not, should only be seen through the emotional state of the point of view (POV) character.

Yet still, ask any underpublished writer and they will tell you that “dispassionate” is a perfectly fine voice to have. If the only emotion a POV character has needs “mildly” to modify it, everything described by the character is by definition dispassionate in nature.

That dispassionate nature is boring if nothing else is happening in the story. If something is happening that matters to the character, it sticks out as being more of a problem. Edited to add: And the problem in reverse — when the emotional state of the character doesn’t match the events happening around them — like they’re furious when they should be mildly annoyed, that discordance between the emotional state and the events of the story is twice as loud. It had better be for a very good reason.

It usually isn’t.

Stories should be about characters in their greatest moments of change. Yet the vast majority of underpublished work couldn’t be written from a more dispassionate voice. Learning to create a character that is emotionally engaged in the events of the story to the point where it colours their POV starts with a basic conflict a character wants to try to get over but can’t is a basic skill of storytelling that was taught as completely unnecessary in my MFA program.

This MFA program teaches that authors no story, commercial-market aimed or not, needs anything that keeps a character from what they want. That is the literary definition of what conflict is. All Masters programs in Canada must use leading edge industry knowledge. This program doesn’t just not try to teach the learner. It teaches the learner that they don’t even need to learn.

I couldn’t convince an entire university that their program’s success lies more in the quality of the student who can afford the time and money to invest in a graduate degree that has no immediate financial benefit to them. Students who learn nothing in the program but can still craft an emotionally engaging tale certainly aren’t the average learner in the program, but the methodology only “works” on those exceptional students.

And it has to crush academic freedom to do so. There couldn’t have been a more perfect storm of people just doing their job even if it means ignoring their duties to an institution, egotists who would rather abuse their power than be correct, and a system that hadn’t been stress-tested in so long that no one knew what to do when asked to do it because their boss told them not to do the right thing.

The UBC is student evaluations being more important than their achievements. It’s a provost who doesn’t want students to feel bad in their program, even if it means confirming structural edits aren’t ever needed. It’s Academic Freedom burning up as it is used.

The UBC won’t teach industry standards because evaluations matter more than their graduates learning the tools necessary to write to industry standards. The University Act may have given them permission to teach whatever they want, but they do not have the right to teach a program that needs to crush academic freedom to “work.”

the UBC is a good school “on paper”

By the end of my second semester, the damage the program does to the average student was obvious. If 10-12 underpublished writers agreed on something, it didn’t matter what the actual reality was. “On paper” the program teaches that the only thing good writing needs is nice prose.

I watched students agree, over and over and over and over and over again that the only thing that mattered in publishing was the language chosen. Tension wasn’t needed. Characters didn’t need to change. Conflict — external or internal — didn’t need to make the character change. Thematic exploration was unnecessary. Showing the reader the character moving through the events of their life and telling the reader what was important only through dialogue were both equally valid choices “on paper” but in reality, the majority of stories just used dialogue to tell the story.

Most work filled its pages with what the character was looking at. But there would be the occasional perfect story that — if it was truly a first draft written specifically for each class — was stunning. These handful of writers are the program’s “success stories” that it rests its laurels on.

I used to think they weren’t actively harmed by the program, but I’ve changed my mind. The average student pays for being a UBC School of Creative Writing MFA graduate by never needing to consider again that structural edits are necessary. If they publish, it’s because an organic first draft emerged from their body of work. The program didn’t give them a single tool to help them fix a draft that didn’t have the organic flow readers require.

The average student suffers in their learning. But the exceptional student suffers in their future teaching. They assume the way the UBC MFA program is taught is the way the average learner learns because it “worked” for them. They’re published or will be published enough that they can find a college or other teaching gig, but their MFA has taught them that the way you teach writing is by ignoring anything that the average writer needs to learn how to use to succeed.

Discussing only what was done well in a work is about as successful as praising fighter pilots after a good flight. If there’s no learning opportunity given to improve, praise as “feedback” just says “do the thing you just did again.”

This program doesn’t even suggest what the writer could improve on. It only discussed techniques the author could use the next time to smooth out sections of the prose. On Bloom’s Taxonomy’s scale, “discussing” something lands in the knowing step, the step after recognizing something as familiar but before learning how to use it, learning how to use it to create something new, and then learning how to evaluate the process of using it.

Those writers who are the “success” stories of the UBC program will never learn how to teach the average student. The Chair’s methodology only “works” if every student is a clone of the instructor who brings perfect work to class to start with.

I went to the Chair after being given the news that because she’d only broken multiple policies and not the law itself, the UBC wasn’t going to do anything. But I felt as though I’d been a researcher who didn’t have to go through any ethical considerations. I’d learned in her program that there is no way of making the conventional methodology work if the student doesn’t think they need to learn how to improve more than just the aspects of fiction they already could do very well.

There would be no way to recreate that environment in an experiment. If the “instructor” is teaching that nothing significant needs to be changed and a “student” is suggesting ways to make a work better at a structural level, any smart experimentee who has to know they’re in an experiment for ethical reasons would understand what was being tested for. Observing something changes its behaviour outside of physics, too. But after endless attempts, I realized the only students who ever heard what I said about structure had wanted to hear it in the first place. Even conventional methodology given with the authority of the facilitator still requires the learner to figure out how to do 3 of the 5 steps of skill acquisition on their own.

If it had been a true experiment and my classwork had been the control, I owed the Chair the sum of what I had learned in her program and to know the damage it was doing. All it takes for 10-12 underpublished writers to stay underpublished is for all of them to decide that none of them needs to change a single thing about the way they write because they all make the exact same mistakes. If they want to believe that if they just get slightly better at polishing what they can already do well to achieve future success, their MFA degree with the UBC logo on it says they’re right to think that way.

The program had writers that were far more talented than I was when I realized learning how to manipulate the structure of my work was the next step in my progress. But they graduated with a UBC MFA degree that says they don’t ever have to consider structural edits are necessary because structural edits were never necessary in any of the over 300 works they’d covered in their coursework.

At the end of our pleasant conversation, the Chair assured me that the reason she wasn’t going to change anything despite the damage being done was that students loved being told that everything they write is gold and it reflected in their student evaluations.

It was the second sign that the school only cares about being a good school “on paper” after picking which policies matter and which ones don’t.

They don’t need an effective pedagogy that can teach the average student what they need to learn in a way that what was learned could be demonstrated to the instructor. They just need to have pleasant discussions on a weekly basis and have those pleasant discussions be worth 70% of the grade.

They don’t need to follow their policies, they just need their policies to be firmly worded “on paper” about how seriously they should take the violations of them. The UBC put *in writing* that institutions get to choose which definitions of improper conduct as outlined in the policies “really matter” and which ones “aren’t technically illegal” to break.

As long as the Provost’s conflict of interest didn’t exist “on paper” it didn’t exist at all. As long as it wasn’t accepted “on paper” that he wrote: “our pedagogy is academic freedom violation”, he never said it. And if he never said it, the academic freedom violation can continue to be tolerated “on paper.” No officer really needed to listen to both sides of the issue and make an independent decision if their boss told them what he wanted done with their rubber stamp “on paper.” His underlings signed their name to the fact that what he says goes, even in a controlled environment.

If anyone didn’t want to be portrayed as a puppet, they shouldn’t have acted like one.

abuse of power is the power to insist what happened didn’t or doesn’t matter

If I hadn’t worked in a controlled environment for all of my adult life with strict policies and procedures in place, I would believe that BC controlled environments issue anyone with an office and a staff an exemption card from those expectations.

My brush with the Honourable Minister’s office was elongated but brief and thoroughly unpleasant from start to finish. I had to be dessert-fork polite to a woman who had just lied to my face and then tried to argue that what I heard hadn’t happened.

I didn’t know how long she’d been holding onto the next step of the process until after I’d gotten off the phone, but if I’d known at the time it had been almost a full month, I don’t know if I could have maintained my professional politeness.

Not one single person I talked to, from the Chair, the Dean, the Provost, the President, the Director of Equity and Inclusion, the pedagogist, the Senate, the VP of Students, the UBC Ombudspeople, the Senate, or a Minister’s office showed me the same courtesy. Instead, each of them was deeply annoyed they were asked to do their required job in the established appeals process designed to catch a conflict of interest that should have been hi-vis obvious to all of them and reported as such.

Spoiler alert: Every single office rubber-stamped the Provost’s right to hide his own conflict of interest and use his own authority to say he had the right to ignore it.

And through it all, I was the polite one. But at least this post can be turned into a checklist of all the hand-puppets that will need the Provost’s fist deep inside them to speak.

An entire institution willingly turned its back on the fundamental role of post-secondary education in modern society so an egotist wouldn’t have to admit an embarrassing mistake. How dare I be upset that in order to ignore an academic freedom violation, an academic institution signed off on removing academic freedom as a concept from anyone who needed it the most.