UBC bullshit

timeline of my complaints

My first complaint in 2020 did not involve being told my problem. That cock up was entirely Director Narain’s personal error. Her duty to her office was to interpret policy to and for students. Instead, she allowed her “team” to advise her that if throwing a student out of class for asking their instructors questions about their methodology wasn’t illegal on the street, it wasn’t institutionally improper conduct.

When I asked if I could have that decision appealed, that director refused to allow it to even be reconsidered because she believed if improper conduct wasn’t illegal, it’s 100% proper conduct in an institutional setting.

I dropped it because I still had to get through another year of class. Director Narain told me I had no expectation of a respectful environment because the university didn’t “legally” have to provide one. I’m so glad I didn’t. My institution didn’t know retaliation was also improper conduct. At least I made it through my last year.

I made it through because I asked my instructor if I could send her constructive criticism that might have helped the story. I told the instructor I would share praise on the public forum. She agreed and thanked me.

Every diety ever worshipped knows my instructors only instructed me to give up even more academic freedom. You can’t imagine how grateful I was that the last properly controlled document dealing with harassment clearly says harassment is harassment, even if the UBC member has allowed it to continue before.

By the end of the program, every nerve I had was on its last edge. I didn’t complete my program and then discovered just how much my academic freedom had been violated — I think it was the first thing I said to the first instructor who told me to be less craft-focused. They didn’t care being less craft-focused violated academic freedom entirely, but I did.

But I also foolishly believed — even with no evidence of one after three years of the program — that my program had a pedagogy that allowed the methodology to work. In my first year, I believed that my sample size was too small to decide no pedagogy existed. Even if none of my instructors couldn’t explain how only focusing on the positives worked as a methodology, that didn’t mean no instructor could.

I didn’t even attend my classes in my last semester. My instructor had emailed me to tell me to stop defending my opinion that fiction requires a source of tension, and I had had enough.

At the end of my coursework, I emailed my director to explain how uncomfortable her program had made me and asked for an apology. Instead of providing one so I could move on with my life, she told me that I could have my academic freedom destroyed and retaliated against for asking freedom of inquiry-protected questions because we had a “difference of pedagogical opinions.”

She believed that I didn’t deserve a respectful environment to learn in because we had different opinions. When I asked her to explain her pedagogical view, she couldn’t. She only provided me with the mission statement.

If she had been a teacher and a director, she would understand that a mission statement guides the program’s ideology and a pedagogy guides its methodology. They are not the same thing. The only aspect of the mission statement that was somewhat pedagogical in nature was being “rigorously craft-based.” My program had been rigorously anti-craft-based.

So, I complained to the Dean of Graduate Studies. I told the Dean that my program seemed to attack academic freedom, and not even the Director could explain its pedagogical approach. The Dean sat on my complaint for three months and then wrote back the same day I queried her: “you had a difference of pedagogical opinions.”

The Dean also refused to explain what theirs could be. As a New Decision Maker, she failed entirely.

Then the real gaslighting started. I emailed the president to explain the academic freedom violation and the lack of pedagogical support. Dr. Santa Ono’s only contact with me was to tell me that Andrew J. Szeri “handled” complaints like that. I thought he meant “in an institutional setting.”

He’d meant it like a wartime consigliere.

Because handle it, Andrew J. Szeri did. He sent me a letter explaining a creative writing program I would have loved to attend. Szeri’s mythical program used all the “standard industry tools” that my program refused to allow mention of. My program almost focused only on what was already done well in work that almost always needed structural assistance.

Szeri told me — in writing — that his program’s pedagogy was “gentle.” When I told him that any program that needs to explicitly control what a learner says violates academic freedom at its core, he stopped all communication. Szeri confirmed my program violated academic freedom and didn’t have a workable pedagogy in a single sentence.

My new complaint became that once Andrew J. Szeri had confirmed my original complaint in writing but had dismissed it as “not liking the way class was taught.”

Every New Decision Maker should have considered that Andrew J. Szeri hadn’t even investigated to see if my program had attacked academic freedom. They should have considered that he confirmed that to be the case in writing.

They failed to understand that even a suspected conflict of interest — such as closing down a complaint you just confirmed in writing — had an obligation to report that was tied to billions of dollars of public funding and billions of tonnes of public trust. If each New Decision Maker in the appeals process decided that I hadn’t liked how class was taught before starting their review of Szeri’s decision, they wouldn’t even look into it.

To the Senate, if they were told what my problem was, they had no problem telling me I’d already been informed I just hadn’t liked the way class was taught at the University of British Columbia as an absolute fact.

Wanting a program that didn’t violate academic freedom at the methodology level was a personal preference.

Hubert Lai took it further by eliminating any mention of the word “appeal” in his falsified version of the 2019 Investigations Policy. It seems like he wanted to give UBC officers the ability to tell the student what their problem was without the student being able to appeal that decision. It sure seems like there was no aspect of that man’s duty to his institution he did not violate. The law even requires FOIP responses to be within six weeks. UBC’s response time was slightly less than it would have taken to complain about the FOIP response times.

That I didn’t go ahead and file a complaint about it is my one regret.

I’ll probably outline what each point of contact was like dealing with the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, the Law Society of British Columbia and the Ombuds Office of British Columbia was like dealing with. I was accusing senior administrators of the UBC of some pretty heinous acts (that they committed in writing.)

None of the other public sector institutions had personal stakes in the matter.

educating adults through the trauma of being wrong —

Let’s call it the cognitive dissonance awareness approach.

Since 2018, many well-educated people have lined up to tell me how wrong I was about something they only believed they knew. Something they thought they understood — who could be trusted, for example, or the importance of professional standards — didn’t match up with what I was saying.

And as the minority voice, it meant I had to be wrong. Dyscognitive assurance feels like pride in being so sure you’re correct that the already inconceivable idea you might not be can be dismissed outright. Adult learners have had more than a generation of assurance that writing jargon like “conflict” means what it means in plain English. No writer needs to learn how to use its literary definition.

I emailed a prof because they had taught “metaphor” as its simple English definition. An instructor should understand the difference between the English definition of a metaphor and its use as a tool of clarity which compares one known thing directly to something else where the reader is asked to draw their own comparison between the two concepts.

It is the language of dopamine rewards. A new comparison builds a new connection to two disconnected things. That connection feels rewarding to the reader, independent of the language of the text.

It’s not just a comparison between two things not using like or as. Two unknown things to the reader can’t allow the reader to draw any conclusion unless it is to state how muddled both concepts are. The instructor told me I was wrong.

A week later — and probably for no causal reason — I was summarily thrown out of class for asking the most gentle way I could if the dark thought in the non-fiction prose was intentionally placed there. And then I wasn’t invited back into the class because I insisted actual policy written for that exact situation be followed.

But I had been held responsible from our first critique class for the offence a learner felt having their English definition of writing terminology challenged. If conflict is people arguing then no work of fiction needs conflict. And if the methodology doesn’t require conflict, it can’t unbelieve tension is Hitchcock or better.

It’s not the Dunning Kruger keep-going-up-forever. It is shaped like a slide for a reason. Learners have to get as far as they can go with confidence and time before they can even consider competence might also be a factor.

There are two pathways to reach a stage where the competence of a confident person are more or less on par and a box canyon leading off to the side that goes nowhere. A learner doesn’t have to understand the value of competency to learn how to become an excellent writer.

They are on the same steep ramp all writers are on, but their ramp has a steep acute angle up to the top right-hand corner that is at least achievable if the learner can learn on guidance alone. There’s a tonne of advice on how to make the steep climb from tonnes of writers, but it’s written in a language that writers who start out with an outlier amount of raw talent and have the stability or tenacity necessary to practice for years before it can become something that can produce enough support to live on part of its income. This gives the author the time and energy necessary to at least somewhat concentrate on it while still supporting themselves and their family.

The second type of writer also keeps doing what they are doing well, but that follows the law of diminishing returns The further up they go without ever attempting to become more competent, the more their writing focuses exclusively on what the learner can already do flawlessly.

There’s a third way to competence/confidence parity. It is a learner making it up a staircase where the height of each rise can be as high as the learner’s head or higher. Because each learner has to reach the end of what they can do with their new-found competence and their existing confidence before they need to figure out the next part of what is holding them back. It’s a path up to the righthand corner full of plateaus and confidence snakes you thought held weight until you tested them.

And worse, the more you start to learn, the more what you thought you knew barely scratched the surface. It’s not just a matter of finding instructors who can explain how to get where they are because they had to scramble up the learning staircase. Writers who just needed better guidance can only learn how to give better guidance.

The learning staircase was hard enough when most people had to move to cities. Writers had nothing to do but practice writing until they had the independence necessary to move to the city to meet the right person who was impressed with their writing to give them a seat at the table with literary giants who — almost guaranteed — looked like older models of themselves.

Today’s learners have to find instructors who understand how to teach how literary terminology is used to write to a professional level. If the learner learns the jargon as plain English words, most writers can’t conceive anything can be more complex than a metaphor being a comparison that doesn’t use like or as.

Everyone knows a metaphor is the simplified definition that fits on a standardized test. To suggest otherwise would feel like blasphemy. It is the unpleasant sensation is the brain reacting to cognitive dissonance by shutting down all its chains of thought as though a sentient, chain-following virus had been released in its sub-basement.

You can’t teach a person their layperson’s understanding of professional jargon is incorrect because they know what those words mean. This methodology forces learners to find their own platform where their reward for getting more confident in what they’re doing well isn’t improving the average outcome of the writer’s submission.

narcissistic institutions and a fair appeals process are natural enemies

This won’t be up long, but I have to say it.

One link connected all the three different institutions that have apparently violated their governing legislation to ignore their obligations to public sector oversight — no appeal was “allowed.” My institution refused to hear multiple academic freedom complaints and then refused to allow their decision not to listen to them be appealed.

I was told the institution could teach what it liked even if it violated academic freedom at the methodology level. I just hadn’t liked the way the class was taught while it did so.

No part of my complaint was not liking how the class was taught. My problem was that the person who confirmed that my program’s pedagogy was based on academic freedom violation got to decide my issue with him for the institution.

There are multiple documents outlining the appeals process the institution has. The section of the Grad School Student handbook talks specifically about the duties of a New Decision Maker:

I know I followed the appeals process mentioned in the 2019 Investigations Policy before it was falsified. It specifically laid out the appeal process for a UBC Person unsatisfied with the Provost’s decision. It listed the Director of Equity (of outcomes) and Inclusion, the University Counsel, and the Senate in that order.

The University Counsel failed to mention the implications or impacts of his “amendments” to the Investigations Policy will cause. The amendment documents fail to mention the legal risk of violating the University Act if it removed mention of the Senate’s legal obligation in the appeals process.

The Training Department had failed to scour UBC’s policies to remove any reference to non-employees having access to academic freedom protections. They have also failed to scrub institutional documents of any mention of a student’s right to appeal investigation decisions.

Considering the new policy is supposed to be in effect in a week, they’d better have an expedited method of updating their handbook.

The institution set this as the expectation at every level of the appeals process:

But at every level across multiple institutions, I was told the Provost had decided what my problem with him was.

And that was that.

The Law Society expected me to find a lawyer specializing in UBC policies or an Ombuds officer willing to follow the Ombudsperson Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Act to appeal their decision.

The Ombuds Office is almost a month outside its 90-day appeals process timeline.

An abusive institution will mistreat a person. A narcissistic institution will do so while forcing the person to accept its version of reality as fact.