Bad Art Friend: GrubStreet, The True Bad Art Friend

Eve Bridburg of GrubStreet’s recent blog post revealing changes in leadership and roles at GrubStreet was without a doubt both disappointing and troubling. Who would have thought, at the beginning of the Bad Art Friend saga, that a Boston writing center would end up being the true bad art friend? And not one of the parties involved in the Larson vs. Dorland-Perry case?

Suffice to say, the GrubStreet responses regarding their so-called “investigation” did not leave me with any warm fuzzies. Instead, they only reaffirmed a sinking suspicion I’ve had all along: GrubStreet is a toxic, elitist writing center devoid of ethics, with leadership, policy, and accountability issues.

Am I surprised? Not really. What is more surprising to me is the fact that when presented with an opportunity to clean up their act, GrubStreet continues to glaze over the topic of plagiarism and troubling behavior concerning the tone at the top.

I had high hopes that they, as an organization, would see the error of their ways.

I had hopes that they would be more transparent.

I had hopes that a so-called investigation would actually be conducted. From what has been relayed by GrubStreet, there really wasn’t a thorough one conducted; they probably just handed over what they were willing to disclose to the hired law firm.

I had hopes that Christopher Castellani would be removed. Instead, three women were removed from their position and a toxic male kept his role. HOW?!

Three things were most alarming about both Eve Bridburg’s blog post and Christopher Castellani’s message are revealed:

01. Eve’s dismissive writing and omission of the targeted behavior towards Dawn Dorland and the semi-celebrating of Alison Murphy and Sonya Larson as they are exiting their positions. Let’s all pat them on the back as they leave their roles. Great job, ladies, right? There was nothing apologetic to Dawn or for the gross behavior. There was only an “investigation” which by the way, was most likely limited in both scope and context. Anytime you hire a law firm, accounting firm, or other service-based consultant to look into something, there is scope involved. And given that this Locke Lord firm only took so much time to investigate (would normally take months if they were reviewing email/message data on a server or internal documents), this was most likely very limited in scope and did not cover what we as the public would demand. Or any other non-impartial party would demand, for that matter. Because of this, I have to question the true impartiality of the Board of Directors of GrubStreet, and whether or not this was a true investigation or merely an attempt to appease the public to lessen the social impact.

02. The carefully chosen words and vagueness of whether or not Sonya Larson, Alison Murphy, and Jennifer De Leon will continue to work for the organization in some capacity as an instructor. It also didn’t clarify if they will be returning in the future. Notice that in the blog post there is no mention of a firing or forced removal from the organization. Were they given an opportunity to resign instead of being fired? Notice how they were commended for their contribution for the organization and there was no mention of “we do not tolerate coordinated efforts targeting another colleague, bullying, or disparagement”. Notice, also, there was no mention of the plagiarism policy being applied at the instructor level. “We have a plagiarism and appropriation policy” – sure, but that only applies to students, and clearly, it’s the other co-workers that have to be worried about their work getting stolen, and students have to worry about instructors appropriating their hard work. This does not give me or any other student writer any votes of confidence here.

03. Christopher Castellani’s “choice” to move forward with the organization, and justification of his emails as “hyperbolic” and “performative”. On what planet does behavior like this get a pass? If Christopher Castellani was employed by a regular corporation or even another non-profit without the years of friendship in place with Eve Bridburg, he would have been canned/fired in a heartbeat. Only in a situation where a long-term friendship in place, such as the one he maintains at GrubStreet with Eve Bridburg, would “performative” threatening of another colleague be allowed. Anywhere else? Fired. With cause. Immediately.

Therefore, it’s my opinion that Christopher Castellani enjoys a certain luxury and entitlement at GrubStreet based on both his friendship and relationship with Eve Bridburg. I’m confident that his continued employment there will only lead to more revelations of his troubling conduct, and he will continue to get a pass for his lack of ethics and gross behavior.

This is what happens when you’re besties with the Executive Director, who lacks ethics herself.

“Performative”, “hyperbolic” or not, this is disgusting behavior coming from a position of leadership and would not be tolerated by any corporation. Imagine going to a writing center, eager to learn, and unexpectedly, without provocation, having instructors gossip about you, steal your content, and then find out they have hated your guts so much they have plans to wreck your career, reputation, and make fun of you. For years.

Christopher Castellani didn’t even offer an actual apology. Neither did Eve Bridburg.

And this, my friends, is why places like this, run by people like Eve Bridburg and company, are not safe for writers. I will never recommend this writing center for writers, and believe a boycott of this place should remain in place until they have replaced both Eve Bridburg and Christopher Castellani, and removed any and all Chunky Monkeys from consultant or instructor positions.

Gross, GrubStreet. Writers deserve better. You were given a chance to rectify the situation, and you failed miserably a second time around.

Gross, GrubStreet.

The carefully word-smithed blog post written by Eve Bridburg didn’t even reference the correct court case filing. It read like a corporate fluff-speak piece, reassuring the public up and down of the glib promises the organization plans to take.

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