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Professor still seeks answers

Staff reporter

Published: Monday, September 27, 2010

Updated: Monday, September 27, 2010 13:09

Professor Robert Klein Engler, a 12-year veteran adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, was terminated from his employment with the university this past summer.  

Engler said he still has never been told exactly what he did wrong.

Roosevelt's official reason for Engler's termination is his refusal to participate in a university investigation stemming from a student-filed harassment claim of an undisclosed nature.  

Engler believes, however, that the grounds for his refusal to cooperate were justified and the university's tactics unfair.

Engler says the university would not divulge to him the exact nature of the complaint before he agreed to cooperate.

As a member of the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization, a teacher's union affiliated with the Illinois Education Association, Engler had expected to be assigned to work at Roosevelt this semester.  Instead, he was hit with a letter of termination.

"No one has ever told me why I was not assigned these classes, and no one ever told us the nature of this harassment complaint," Engler said.

The course Engler taught last year was the Liberal Arts course "City & Citizenship." The course, once a requirement, has been discontinued as of fall 2010.

Laura Beson, a student who took the City and Citizenship course last semester, said "Mr. Engler has a very dry sense of humor."  

Beson suspects that Engler's remarks with regard to course issues such as immigration, may have upset certain students, though she did not find any course content objectionable herself.   

"He's a super nice guy. I really liked him," Beson said.

Engler defended his discussion of such topics.

"By definition that course contains controversial material," Engler said.

The cancellation of the course and the timing of Engler's termination have led him to suspect possible motivations for his dismissal. Having many years experience, he also earned higher than average pay.  

"There is a kind of sliding scale that the union has. I'm at the top of that, so if you did the math, you could hire two adjuncts for the price of me," Engler said. "Somehow this may be connected and they're looking for a reason not to assign me a course."

Joe Fedorko, Vice President and Grievance Chair for the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Association, said via email that "a grievance has been filed in this matter, and the grievance process is still ongoing."  

Engler plans to meet this week with representatives of both Roosevelt and RAFO to discuss the matter.

"It's a matter of fundamental due process rights," Doug Ibendahl, Engler's attorney, said.

"It's pretty fundamental that you have a right to know what the charges are."

Engler has been a professor for over 30 years, and he said he did have memorable times at the university.

"I enjoyed teaching at Roosevelt. I think the students are great," Engler said, noting he is worried that an unresolved harassment charge could hinder him from finding employment.

"The only way you can deal with that is you have the facts out there," Engler said.

His attorney remains confident.

"He's got nothing to hide," Ibendahl said.

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