Open Letter to the University of Toronto Regarding David Gilmour

You have already heard from many people and been provided with a long list of reasons that you need to immediately start whatever legal or other proceedings are needed to fire (that asshole) David Gilmour. I write to add to this list: above all, the reason David needs to be turfed, and stat, is because he’s evidently a lazy, inattentive and thus incompetent reader, a characteristic that, in a professor of literature, is frankly embarrassing.

How can I make such a claim? Because when you look past his misogynist emotive bullshit about only teaching what he “truly loves,” the actual core of his (unjustifiable, intellectually lazy) stance is this: “I teach only the best.” That is, he flat out asserts that he teaches the best writers of fiction in English, after establishing that he teaches only “guys. Serious heterosexual guys.” We note in his list that all of the authors are also white, despite the fact that he only actually mentions hating Chinese writers as much as he hates women. So, according to David, 100% of the best writing in the English language is done by straight white dudes, hence that’s what he teaches. And I call bullshit.

zero fucks


Like David, like every reader and every lover of literature in our culture, I too have mostly read the writing of white men. That’s because we publish a whole lot more of their writing, in every conceivable medium, and we always have. Heck, it’s even a pretty recent innovation to acknowledge the rest of us as people, let alone including us in basic literacy training during childhood. And I have loved a lot of their writing. I’ve read great stories written by white men. However, I’m a writer and an English teacher, which is to say, I pay attention to language, and I’ve also read a lot writing by people who aren’t white guys – yes, even written by women and Chinese people.

I get that David was socialized to be able to approach white men’s writing and perspectives more easily, relate to it more readily. That’s just called socialization, and it only happens to literally everyone in our society. We ALL have that predisposition. We have a lot of unhealthy and problematic predispositions, but generally, we don’t just accept them as inevitable and go onto be horrible and infantile for our entire lives – unless we happen to be David Gilmour, evidently. I’m curious to know what other great human predispositions we should keep -the toddler tendency to relate to most of the world in strict terms of whether or not it fits in their mouths? The five year old’s obsession with the phrase pee pee? – but at the moment, what’s at stake is his capacity as a professional, and it’s sadly lacking.

In order to make sure I have a literature selection that is appropriate for the diversity of my classroom, as well as to expand my own awareness and capacity as a writer, I have read a lot of writing by authors of very diverse backgrounds. It has gotten to the point where one of my favourite hobbies is going into a bookstore and finding the most obscure poetry collections possible by authors who are not white males. And I have a great poetry collection. I also have a pretty good sense of what “the best” writing is. I’m awed by it when I encounter it, and I definitely know it when I see it.

Because I am a professional – again, evidently unlike David – I also have ways of articulating what it is and what it consists of. For instance, I developed detailed rubrics that I then break down based on different levels and use for assessment with my students. There are criteria for what makes good writing. Much as the popular impression may be that assessment of writing is entirely subjective, any educator worth anything is familiar with a wide range of performance standards and develops an array of assessment tools that are used not just for student assessment, but also as analytical tools to apply to the writing we work with. A huge part of teaching literature is teaching analysis, and that process hinges on technical and contextual assessment of the written work. It requires assessing writing.

Thankfully, this clarity allows us to evaluate David’s claim that he teaches “the best:” it is utter nonsense. If he wishes to substantiate it, however, then I challenge him to do so. If he is anywhere near competent enough to hold the post he does, he should easily be able to suggest clearly defined criteria, a rubric, some set of analytical tools through which he has established that, despite all odds, white men get visited by some special little writing angel and no one else does.


In the absence or a response on this matter, I suggest that the university, whatever their contractual arrangement with him, has both grounds and no other option than firing him immediately. He is clearly incompetent, and his incompetence is not the harmless second-year-Scottish-lit-prof-who-only-teaches-out-print-books-he-published-35-years-ago kind of incompetence. It’s misogynist white supremacy, nothing less, so it’s ultimately lethal.

I suspect you have many talented educators and academics in the department who could engage in some basic evaluation of David and his work if having legal grounds for dismissal are currently overruling little things like human decency and not protecting a bigot. Either way, the University of Toronto is denigrated every minute he remains in its employ. Fire him now to staunch the bleeding, so you can examine the wound that lead to this pathetic, unqualified hack taking up valuable space in your institution.


Sarah Wiley


One thought on “Open Letter to the University of Toronto Regarding David Gilmour

  1. “Philip Roth’s a great piece of literature. There are men eating menstrual pads, and licking menstrual blood from [inaudible] and by the time my students get to that they’re ready.”

    This guy basically wants to teach sex to a room full of young women. He wants them to be ‘ready’ to discuss eating menstrual blood and to discuss the literary merit in that. No wonder he’s in the hot seat! You can only get away with that type of bullshit for so long…

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