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I spent one year attending graduate school in the departments of sociology and anthropology, and criminology, I got quite the education. I learned more than I ever thought I would, but absolutely nothing about the topics I once hoped to teach to others as a professor. I learned that academia can be an incredibly corrupt place, motivated entirely by profit, where sexism runs rampant (especially amongst self-proclaimed “feminist” professors – be weary of these women, who tend to dye their hair blond and “lecture” about their alternative lifestyles, leaving the students of a lowly instructor, as I was, incredibly afraid about what could possibly be on the upcoming final exam), and, should you dare to take up a union battle against the department in which you teach with these advocates, you might get a small check (I did, in the end), but you will pay much more for daring to challenge professors behaving badly. I could literally write a book about my experiences at Simon Fraser University, but for now, I will only share one story.
Dr. Robert Gordon, who has sat as chair of the department of criminology for a decade or so, loves to be quoted each weekend in the local newspaper – the Vancouver Sun – usually giving his “expertise” to state, as if it is fact and nothing else, what reasons underlie the motivations of a recent string of home invasions or drug deaths on the notorious Downtown Eastside. I never met Dr. Gordon in person. I only took classes in the department of criminology because my own department – sociology and anthropology – offered no electives, and I was overqualified, already having taken the material being taught. I took a class called “Advanced Research Methods III” with Dr. Ted Palys in the brand new criminology building, with it’s large glassed in display of thirty or so different kinds of tasers – tuition money put to good work! I undertook an original research project on “shaman tourism” in Peru, where I ran away to during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I was disgusted with the exploitation of local indigenous peoples by wealthy old white men, primarily from Texas, that I witnessed.
Months after receiving an “A” for my work in April 2010, a strange coincidence occurred. In July 2010, my boyfriend at the time, a fellow student in the same department I had started my graduate degree in, who I was set up with by our common supervisors (also a couple! awww!) became incredibly abusive. After violating me in a particularly foul manner in my sleep twice during the first two weeks of July, I began locking the bedroom door at night. I knew I had to put an end to our relationship and shared housing arrangement, but I needed a bit of time to figure out how I would manage to pay our $1500/month rent by myself.
Enter sledgehammer. After destroying walls and the bedroom door in our shared apartment, he raised it over my head. Police were on the phone the entire time. The tale of why he was not tried for three serious assaults is another tale, about the Canadian injustice system and the assumption that women cry rape to get even with men more often than they are actually sexually and physically attacked, common among police in all major cities I lived in there – Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montreal. This, though, is about Dr. Robert Gordon.
Said boyfriend and fellow student with a fetish for tools (which may all serve as weapons if held right, of course), also my travel buddy in Peru, was jailed for the weekend after the sledgehammer incident. What a coincidence that I heard from Dr. Gordon for the first time in my life that following week. I was notified that I had been charged with “academic dishonesty” and would be downgraded from “A” to “F”, unless I could meet him within 48 hours and provide compelling evidence that this was not the case. “Falsification” was mentioned, but no explanation was provided. The series of traumatic experiences caused me to leave Simon Fraser University before those 48 hours were up – I could not take any more abuse, and for three years after my graduate “education”, lived on welfare, believing I was worthless and had failed at life.
I tried to contact almost every law firm in Vancouver about what happened, but being only one of three universities in the province at that time, there was always a conflict of interest – one or another attorney had attended college at Simon Fraser or was otherwise connected. It seemed that the reason for those “charges” would forever remain a mystery. Eventually I got over it. As it usually goes in this life, the answer arrived immediately after I stopped asking the question. I received a letter from student records, 4 years late. It demonstrates the very worst of academia, a place I do not plan to return to, even though I am just a few chapters short of a Ph.D. Unless the system changes radically, I have no interest in paying to sit in rooms of ivory towers. I revealed the incomplete and illogical statement that details my “charges” on my website about a month ago. I will now do so again here, hoping that as many people as possible may learn about the true character of Dr. Robert Gordon and other Simon Fraser University professors, and to be weary of criminals dressed in corduroy blazers:
“After I left the ivory tower, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC – falsely and illegally charged with ‘fabricating data’ by the Chair of Criminology, Dr. Robert Gordon, oft-quoted in the Vancouver Sun, initiated by a fellow student who violated a bail bond by speaking of me and appearing at my place of education and/or work (police pressed charges against him after he held a sledgehammer over my head and demolished my apartment walls; evidently he did not enjoy his weekend in jail, and did not take the bond seriously, nor did SFU), validated by Dr. Ted Palys with whom I took “Advanced Qualitative Research Methods 3″ – I thought my career was over. Three years later, I received this in the mail:
This document, rendered null and void by staff at student records after they located it in a “secret file”. A copy was never sent to me, as the policy on the form clearly states must occur. Dr. Gordon and Dr. Palys did not even bother to fill half of it out! When I moved to the United States, after contacting every law firm in Vancouver, only to find that because some attorney or intern at a firm received a Bachelor’s degree from SFU (one of three universities in the province of British Columbia at the time), the University was essentially “above the law”, due to “conflicts of interest”. Finally, one lawyer offered to file a petition for $10,000 – however, his last words to me were, “it’s all about whether or not you want justice.” Justice cannot be purchased, and justice has nothing to do with the law. I went to enough pre-law classes to learn that being a lawyer has nothing to do with justice, but the job of an attorney is to, “apply laws fairly”. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, the eye of the subjugator, the eye of the real persons guilty of “Academic Dishonesty”: Dr. Gordon and Dr. Palys.
Adding injury to insult and insult to injury, I was given no chance to defend myself at a hearing, which the form itself states I was to be given. Then again, what would the use have been? – how does one defend oneself against a circular and false statement, used by an individual in a position of power to silence a student? “[I] was accused of fabricating data. [Dr. Ted Palys] believe[s] these allegations are true.” Half Kangaroo Court, Half Good Ol’ Boys Club, Kafka staring at me and shaking his head. It was time to walk away from the door. Time to stop asking if it was time yet. Since I wrote the paper in question, many documentary films on the same subject have been produced. I suppose they are also “fabricated“! According to Dr. Palys and Dr. Gordon’s logic, anyhow.
I went fishing after the so-called “objective” and “impartial” University Ombudsperson I contacted spoke with Dr. Robert Gordon without my permission, and took his word that he remembered this charge and its validity. I found this rather strange and made one last call. That day I received this, via email, and then later by post.
I became myself again. Dr. Robert Gordon and Dr. Ted Palys made me doubt myself so much that I spent three years on welfare, though I had the equivalent of half of a Ph.D. Quite the shock when I started working – writing professionally, using marketing skills, observing group behavior – I thought such things were out of reach forever.
Some people are never exposed to this side of academia – the hypocrisy, the power-hungry tenure track professors, the fact that education is all about money in our capitalist society. They are not questioned, and slide into positions at universities – they teach our youth.
Others, like myself, go through the pain of seeing the academy for what it really is, Simon Fraser University being a distinct example. No one took note when “Academic Freedom Square” was renamed “The Academic Quadrangle Mall”, and protests were disallowed.
Well, actually, I did. The first question I asked my primary supervisor, Dr. Dorothy Chunn, who took back her promise to conduct a selected readings course with me, leaving me without the credits I needed to move on in the program – the same woman who sent me an email before I received an official acceptance letter, begging me to choose her as a supervisor at Simon Fraser over other offers I might receive – was, “What is a quadrangle?”. She could not really give a response, and finally decided upon “rectangle”. She used to call feminism – one of her areas of “specialty” – the “F Word” in undergraduate classes. For shame. It all fits together though – she was married to the man who was supervising the student that held the sledgehammer over my head. Dr. Robert Menzies, who passed said individual along to York University to complete a Ph.D. The department wanted more graduations, numbers, like traffic cops in January. His thesis consisted of a barely coherent rant about being wrongfully institutionalized at a local psychiatric evaluation center after he armed himself with billy clubs, switchblades, and a sword hanging from his belt, following other Vancouverites menacingly around the downtown business zone – if they “looked at him funny”. Why shouldn’t one arm themselves and threaten citizens going about their day?
He dropped out of his Ph.D. program before the first year was over. Apparently he married a foreigner and spends much time in that same psychiatric facility.
I now reach the audience I always wanted to – not people that sit on a throne, understanding jargon that is theirs alone. I reach you. Fellow dwellers of reality. I am posting this to prove once and for all that I did not fabricate data, the accusations were founded on ridiculous and downright ethically apprehensible grounds, and to state that men like Dr. Robert Gordon can be dangerous – but only if we let them be. Power exists only in action.
I choose to act, not to academe. ”