What are you doing, Eve Bridburg? Liking snarky posts on Twitter mocking Dawn Dorland, a former instructor/student, and then hiding them? Eve Bridburg is the Executive Director of GrubStreet, a Boston writing center who has become embroiled with controversy over the Bad Art Friend article. In a time where people pursue writing skills amid seeking an online college business degree, centers such as GrubStreet along with MFA programs have become wildly popular.
And also hotspots for cliquey writing groups to prosper and plagiarize as a group effort.
Oh, Eve. Screenshots last forever. You probably thought we didn’t catch on to that, right? Your joining in on Twitter mocking and laughing at posts aimed to discredit Dawn, one of your former students and instructors? Not exactly a class act or unbiased, quality leader, are you, Eve? Why have these “liked” tweets mysteriously disappeared from your Twitter timeline, Eve?
Readers, I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with money, as you’ll come to realize below.
GrubStreet Lacks Authentic, Uncorrupted, Unbiased Leadership
What the GrubStreet organization is lacking is authentic leadership. Leadership that takes human resources complaints seriously, unbiased, with a dedication to protect ALL instructors, students, and staff. Not just the ones she favors.
I’ve seen this kind of behavior before from non-profit leaders. And it never ends well for them.
Back in the day, after receiving an accounting degree (post 2 years spent in law school), I worked as a non-profit / government external auditor within the state of California. [Gasp! – Piper’s a former government auditor!]. My team’s focus was on non-profit and government compliance and fraud oversight. I audited organizations such as GrubStreet (not GrubStreet specifically). This was right around the time when SAS99 and GASB34 came out as regulations, and the focus on fraud was paramount. The years of Enron and Madoff CEOs had taken a toll, and new regulations got rolled out. Having spent two years in law school, reviewing documents and contracts kind of came naturally to me. I spent 10 years of my life auditing organizations just like GrubStreet, talking with CEOs, employees, their vendors, and government attachments.
As a result, I’ve seen some shit. Everything from embezzlement, inflating/deflating inventory, grant funding abuse, pension fund misappropriation, inflating revenues to get bank loans, and local government aid fund allocation issues. I’ve witnessed government waste in HUD programs, racism in housing and lending from government programs, politicized TIF (tax increment financing) district awards to businesses and organizations, and so on. I’ve also prepared tax returns for these organizations after I left auditing for a career shift. [Note – now, I work as a freelance copywriter for finance websites and run a book blog.]
GrubStreet’s Tone at the Top is Problematic
One of the things we had to ascertain was called “tone at the top”. Does leadership’s actions reflect the values and morals of the organization? Is there a sort of “understanding” established among leadership that actually bypasses laws or averts them purposely? Are there employment issues that point to a lingering, problematic issue at the top of the organization? Is there a pattern of HR complaints that get swept under the rug or “hushed”? Are there unexplained benefits rolling out to specific members of the organization as part of “compensation” that have not been lawfully disclosed?
Also, what are the outstanding lawsuits against the organizations? These are potential liabilities of the organization, and potential lawsuits that have to be disclosed. Having an open case of employee harassment or sexual harassment gets revealed on audit reports, and the report becomes “qualified” in almost every circumstance. This would be a bad look for GrubStreet, having to publicly reveal this when asking for money from donors, right?
You’ll never see an external auditing firm actually say “this organization has a problem with the tone at the top”. Rather, the audit report will identify areas to make improvements by pointing out processes or inaccuracies in their ability to produce reliable and transparent financial data. But within the audit team, you bet there’s lot of discussions happening, including glances exchanged, like “yeesh”.
Would a partner at an accounting firm have a private discussion with the board off-record? Yes, most likely. And then, he/she can point to the qualifications made on the organization’s audit report to give them a better idea of why an unqualified opinion (meaning a good report) cannot be given.
Have audits missed deficiencies in the past? Look no further than Arthur Andersen and any other accounting firm involved in SEC scandals. It can be missed, and remain undetected for years if a team without the proper mindset fails to recognize the signs.
From what has been revealed on social media and in the court documents, it does not appear that harassment and HR complaints are being taken seriously at GrubStreet. And coupled with Eve Bridburg’s Twitter “likes” actions, which have now mysteriously been removed from her Twitter timeline, it appears that we have a lack of unbiased personnel decision-making capabilities, which is evident of corrupt leadership.
Or, it could be as simple as Eve Bridburg displaying absolutely shitty professionalism instead of authentic, transparent leadership that a position such as Executive Director requires.
The Incentive to Stonewall HR Complaints: Money
If you’re like Eve Bridburg, you might have the ability to stonewall HR complaints as she has allegedly done with Dawn Dorland’s legitimate plagiarism and toxic work environment complaint.
The GrubStreet organization is structured around lucrative authors who help bring in money for classes and donations. So naturally, if these lucrative authors start making problems for non-lucrative authors/writers, you’re going to do everything in your power to keep the money-making ones embedded in the organization, and sweep the bad employment behavior alleged under the rug. After all, GrubStreet’s revenues/income has soared in recent years to over $8 million.
Why would Eve Bridburg want to take a claim like Dawn Dorland’s complaint seriously when her money maker author clique (Chunky Monkeys) embedded in the organization draws her so much income through classes and donations?
Here lies the problem – the incentive isn’t there to take HR complaints seriously. As I’ve seen before in audit work, it’s most likely because Eve is rationalizing her own behavior, lack of impartiality, and choices as a financial one. Eve Bridburg also most likely justifies it with classifying Dawn as a “problem” employee, one she makes fun of on Twitter (clearly from the Twitter like feed that has now disappeared from Eve Bridburg’s profile). Yeah – a problem for GrubStreet’s bottom line.
Celeste Ng is a big draw, although in the last week, her reputation has taken a hit. Sonya Larson used to be a budding writer under Celeste’s mentorship. Other Chunky Monkeys members have had success in the book publishing industry, and several are instructors at the GrubStreet organization. Keep the Chunky Monkeys’ in place as a draw to the organization, wow the would-be writers to take their classes, get donors to fund your organization, and sweep any non-profitable writers and authors complaints under the rug.
What Eve didn’t expect is for Dawn to fight back. What Eve also didn’t expect is for her organization to become mired in controversy.
Sexual and Workplace Harassment Complaints at GrubStreet
One of the Chunky Monkeys men affiliated with GrubStreet also has an allegation of sexual harassment against him by another well-known author (his name is not named specifically here).
For reference, Dawn Dorland went to Eve Bridburg with a specific complaint as a fellow instructor. Her words had been plagiarized (proven) by another staff member (Sonya Larson), and while at a corporate function, the same employee acted with hostility towards her, creating an uncomfortable, toxic working environment. These are serious concerns, and Dawn rightly expressed them to Eve in writing.
Eve Bridburg claims to have spent “hours”, and found no reason to find Dawn’s claims credible. This is where I had a problem with this finding. It reeked of issues.
In academia, and even in other corporate environments, there would have been another meeting with Dawn and HR, along with probable disciplinary action. Not just an email back saying “oh hey we spent hours looking into it and found nothing wrong”. When I read about this specific complaint, I had red flags flying up everywhere. I have seen this before, and it’s a classic cover-up.
My friends and readers, Dawn Dorland is a smart woman. She can sniff out rats and sense when she is being undermined by others claiming to be on “her side”.
I personally was shocked to see the well-written, thought-out HR complaint not taken seriously. I’m also shocked to see several mentions of harassment claims at the organization, and nothing – not a mention of any disciplinary action – has been found. And you know, writers talk. We know when someone gets a slap on the wrist or gets ejected from organizations. Nothing that warrants corrective action has taken place at GrubStreet.
Who is the Real Bad Art Friend? Is it Eve Bridburg, GrubStreet Executive Director?
And this is troubling, my friends. The real bad art friend may in fact be Eve Bridburg at GrubStreet, who fosters an environment to allow the Chunky Monkeys to steal, gossip, and thrive on punch-down methods on lesser-known writers.
Something is corrupt at GrubStreet. It’s not a safe place for writers at the moment. Until GrubStreet’s Board of Directors conduct a full investigation, including their Executive Director, Eve Bridburg, I would steer clear of this writing center. GrubStreet Board of Directors 1) needs to get their house in order 2) remove all members of their staff with conflicts of interest 3) hold Eve Bridburg accountable for her actions and finally 4) establish proper procedures and an independent department for human resources.
This is a writing center who teaches, and receives tax benefits as such being a non-profit. Hold them accountable.
I wonder what the donors and taxpayers would think about this.