Byram Bridle: 1,000 days dangerous

Apparently to protect some of his colleagues, the University of Guelph have kept the viral immunologist1archives out of his laboratory and office for 1,000 days now.

But he’s free to go everywhere else on campus.

(It doesn’t have to make sense. Because it’s Covid Logic.)

Here’s his April 20th Substack article.

An Unwelcome Milestone

I have been locked out of my laboratory and office for 1,000 days

Today represents a horrible milestone. One that I would never wish upon any of my colleagues, including those who have most brutally and incessantly harassed and defamed me in social media because I dared speak truths at a time when it was deemed inconvenient. It has been precisely 1,000 days since the administration of my employer, the University of Guelph, locked me out of my office and laboratory.

I spoke scientifically validated truths about COVID-19 when much of the world was not ready to hear them.

The University of Guelph still expects me to work, and I want to serve the public in the best way possible via my academic research, teaching, and service. As such, I would like to have access to my work spaces so I can rebuild my utterly destroyed research program.

Civil litigation and a workplace grievance have been launched to try to secure my return at some point, but these are long processes.

This all stems from a day when I approached colleagues to try to resolve our differences of scientific opinions about COVID-19 vaccines in a way that would allow some common ground to be found; a foundation upon which to move forward constructively with our shared professional goals and responsibilities.

I was tired of being relentlessly attacked in social media and other public platforms for simply stating my opinions about peer-reviewed and other primary scientific data. Both academic freedom and freedom of speech should allow people to communicate their thoughts in the absence of aggressive attempts at defamation and harassment, especially from fellow professionals that know how much harm can come from reputational damage.

Many of my colleagues seem to think that it was somehow my job to unquestioningly sell COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of big pharma. That is not my job. In fact, as a non-clinician, it would be wrong for me to do so. My job is to help people understand the complex science underpinning technologies like vaccines so they can make the most informed decisions possible for themselves and their dependents. I am NOT a salesman for pharmaceutical companies.

Instead of engaging in professional conversations in which differences of opinions could be tolerated, ‘feelings’ that I might represent some kind of ‘risk’ were apparently expressed by several of my colleagues. Campus police investigated this complaint and definitively concluded that I did not represent a real and present danger to anyone. I know this because the responding officers conferred in the doorway of my office and stated this conclusion to me. They wished me well and told me I could carry on with my work. But there was some kind of intervention by the administration. They apparently over-ruled the campus safety office that is mandated to oversee security issues on campus, and used this as an opportunity to segregate me.

Initially, the administration banned me from the entire university campus for several months. I still do not know the basis for this. No evidence to support such a decision was presented to me. What was most strange about this is that the purported fear of me ended precisely at the campus boundaries. No attempts were made to restrict my interactions with colleagues off campus.

Strangely, my banishment was subsequently narrowed from being campus-wide to being limited to the one building that houses my lab and office. So, the purported fear that my colleagues had of me became even more limited in its demarcation. What made this rather nonsensical to me was that a couple of the complainants had their offices and labs located elsewhere on campus; locations that I was not restricted from accessing. And this is how it has remained to this day.

Some of these colleagues came into my proximity on campus despite a two-way no-contact order having been imposed by the administration. Ironically, these contacts would not have occurred had I been allowed to work in my office at the university. No harm came to anyone, yet these colleagues apparently maintain their demand that I not be allowed to access my office or lab.

What occurred to me is a classic ‘he said, she said’-type of scenario. Despite the campus police declaring that everyone could go on their merry way, one person was singled out by the administration. Instead of removing all parties from campus or letting all parties remain on campus for their version of an investigation, just one was banished; that would be me; for 1,000 days now.

My colleagues have been able to go to work every day since then. And they have been able to conduct their work unhindered. In stark contrast, I have been segregated for 1,000 days, with no end in sight. I have had to spend these 1,000 days working in a 6’x10’ office (with a 6’4” ceiling; I am 6’2”) in the otherwise unfinished basement of my tiny 854-square-foot home. I have not been able to recruit new graduate students because I cannot be present to advise them. And the number of other harms and inconveniences are numerous. In short, my career, which had been on a long and steep upward trajectory pre-COVID-19, has been forced to crash and burn. It is difficult to conduct research when you have no access to your laboratory. My passion as a research-intensive faculty member was ripped from me. I have come to realize that nobody can truly comprehend what it is like to try to get work done under these circumstances unless someone has experienced these same circumstances for at least 1,000 consecutive days.

Here’s one tiny example: I am sometimes asked why I can’t respond quickly to work-related emails? Isn’t email-based communication the same regardless of where it takes place? Answer: no! And let me give just a couple of reasons why.

  1. An incessant, ongoing global defamation campaign results in one’s inbox getting chronically and massively overloaded.
  2. When banned from an office embedded among co-workers where a person had an open door policy and a work phone beside them, many communications that would be dealt with efficiently via face-to-face chats and by telephone, get diverted into much less efficient text-based emails. This adds substantial burdens to email accounts.

My administration keeps sending me diversity, inclusion, and equity-based messages via listserv emails stating that I should feel valued in my workplace; I don’t.

At its core, the issue was this: colleagues got very upset because I could not and would not, in good faith, parrot a prevailing narrative. I sense that at least some of these colleagues genuinely hate who I am as a person, in addition to what I said. I do not hate any of them. And I never have and never will. When I discipline my children I tell them very clearly that I will love them forever and always. They are inherently valuable and loveable. But I retain the right as a caring parent to dislike some of the things they say and do. I treat my colleagues in a similar way. I never attack the person. They are inherently valuable people. But some of the things they have said and/or done over the past few years have been unacceptable by any reasonable standard.

After 1,000 days, I wonder if any of the colleagues that have supported my banishment feel at all badly about its duration and/or its profound harmful effects. Do they sleep well at night knowing that their careers continued unabated while their actions destroyed mine? Sadly, some of them may relish this destruction. Do they truly feel this is how academic freedom should be manifested? The people that did this to me were colleagues that I would smile at and chat with. I served on professional committees with them. With some, we even shared a few social activities. I held sincere professional respect for them.

I have often been asked, if I could rewind three years, would I do it again? And this question is usually applied to two scenarios:

  1. Would I say what I said in the nine-minute off-the-cuff radio interview that others used to blow up my career? My answer is this…

What, would I tell the truth again when asked a question? Of course I would.

It is as simple as that.

  1. Would I try to communicate again with my colleagues in an attempt to find some kind of resolution to our differences?

As hard as the past three years have been I cannot compromise who I have dedicated myself to being. I have no shame in sharing what makes me who I am. The core of who I am is based on my Christian faith. That compels me to tell the truth. It also compels me to try to seek out those with whom I have differences to try to find ways to move forward productively, if not amicably.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (New International Version) says…

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

There is nothing inherently wrong with anger. Jesus got legitimately angry. We have the right to be angry when mistreated. It is a natural God-given emotion. We need to be careful to avoid using acute anger as an excuse to sin. But, very importantly, we also should not let anger brew for prolonged periods of time. That can also lead to big problems; i.e., giving the devil a foothold in our lives. This compels me to try and resolve anger issues with my colleagues. To do so requires a conversation. Instead, when it came to my colleagues, I received a no-contact order and physical banishment. If only they knew what I was trying to accomplish 1,000 days ago. I was never given the chance to tell them this.

Dr. Byram W. Bridle