The university’s administration released few details on the case against Steven Galloway, the former chair of the creative writing program, saying only that he was facing “serious allegations”. After a months-long investigation he was fired, but the official findings were never released. The faculty association said in a statement that all but one of the allegations, including the most serious allegation, were not substantiated.
In her piece, Atwood pointed to the university’s lack of transparency around the allegations and noted that Galloway had been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.
“The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself,” she wrote. “A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see.”
She likened the affair to the Salem witch trials, in that guilt was assumed of those who were accused. This idea of guilt by accusation had at times been used to usher in a better world or justify new forms of oppression, she wrote. “But understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained.”