Former professor Robert Engler is looking to take legal action against Roosevelt University after being let go on what he calls “unfair charges of harassment.”
Engler, an adjunct professor of 12 years, was terminated this past summer because of a joke he had told in class. The sociology class he was teaching that day focused on immigration and Engler maintains that the joke tied in to his lesson: “A group of sociologists did a poll in Arizona about the new immigration law. Sixty percent said they were in favor, and 40 percent said, ‘No hablo English.'”
“I reported the joke,” Engler said, “I didn’t write it.”
Engler’s attorney, Doug Ibenehel said that he and his client have several options, including filing suit in federal court.
“Basically, the [adjunct faculty] Union breached its duty to represent Engler,” Ibenehel said.
Joe Fedorko, vice president and grievance chair of the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization, was not available for comment.
“We are not satisfied at all with the way the University is handling it. Where is the social justice?” Ibenehel said. “The Union did not stand up for faculty members. The University did not tell him what the charges were.”
Roosevelt University President Charles Middleton was contacted, but refused to comment on any pending legal action taken on behalf of Engler.
Cristina Solis, a student in the class, filed a written complaint with department chair Michael Maly after Engler told the joke in class.
“If that is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it’s for the best,” Solis said. “It’s just something you don’t say in a classroom, not coming from a professor, and especially not at a school like Roosevelt University, which is based on social justice.”
Maly would not comment on pending legal action.
According to Engler, he began to realize that his job might be under fire when he asked for certain classes, but no one was getting back to him.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Engler said. “The rumors were circulating, and that’s how I found out about what could possibly be the problem. No student raised concern to me.”
From there, the school union was supposed to offer up a representative, but Engler did not meet him until after his termination. This representative was supposed to defend him, but Engler said he failed to. From there, the administration called him into a meeting, but refused to tell him what the trouble or the charges were.
“I was unjustly fired and I want my job back,” Engler said.
Now, Engler is having troubles obtaining jobs from any other location.
“They destroyed his reputation. They hurt his ability to get future employment,” Ibenehel said. “The best way to restore his reputation is to reinstate him.”