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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > JANUARY FEBRUARY 2017 > A shock to the system

A shock to the system

ASK ANYONE in the CanLit community about “the letter” and you’re likely to elicit a strong emotional response, be it sadness, anger, defensiveness, or defeat. This now-infamous open letter, written by Joseph Boyden and signed by more than 80 authors, called for an inquiry into how the University of British Columbia handled the firing of Steven Galloway as chair of its creative-writing department amid allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and bullying. Opponents took umbrage with the letter’s language and its apparent lack of concern for the complainants, and expressed fear it would discourage women from coming forward to report assault in the future. Several signatories – in particular, Susan Swan and Margaret Atwood, who compared UBC’s actions to the Salem witch trials – fiercely defended their position on social media, saying their intention was to ensure Galloway received due process through transparent and ethical means, and was in no way meant to cause harm to the complainants or other victims of sexual violence.

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