By Meredith Dobes
Former Roosevelt University professor Robert Klein Engler and his attorney DougIbendahl are moving forward with a complaint against the University and the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.
After a student in Engler’s Spring 2010 City and Citizenship course filed a harassment complaint against him for telling, what she said was, an offensive joke Engler was notified of his termination of employment from the University in August 2010.
“All through this matter I have insisted I did nothing wrong. I make the same statement, now,” Engler said. “I have been teaching college for more than 30 years. I have an exemplary record. Now, all of a sudden, I am hit with a false and baseless charge ofharassment.”
“Our complaint isn’t against the students, but against the administration and the union,”Engler said. “I have been accused of being a conservative before, so let’s just say I’m taking a conservative approach to this case as well.”
When asked for comment, Assistant Vice President of Public Relations Tom Karow said, “This is a personnel issue, and the University will have no comment.”
Page fourteen of the Agreement Between Roosevelt University and the Roosevelt University Adjunct Faculty Organization, IEA-NEA states, “Any student complaint against a faculty member deemed by Roosevelt to raise the possibility of disciplinary action against the faculty member shall be brought to the attention of the faculty member. The faculty member shall also be given an opportunity to respond to such complaint prior to any disciplinary action being imposed.”
Engler received a phone call from Michael T. Maly, Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology, May 13, 2010 about a harassment complaint that had been filed against him. However, the details of the complaint were not revealed when requested by Engler.
Engler was called on more than one occasion to a meeting with University administration from July 17, 2010 through August 5, 2010 but was advised to not meet with the University until the grievances RAFO filed were resolved. Engler also attempted to acquire information about the harassment complaint from the University from May 13, 2010 to August 5, 2010. His requests were declined.
August 10, 2010, Engler was notified in an email from Maly that his employment was terminated, “for refusal to cooperate with a formal University investigation.”
April 4, 2011, RAFO withdrew all grievances corresponding with Engler’s case, which Engler appealed April 6th.
Ibendahl filed the complaint October 21, 2011. Ibendahl will meet with the University’s lawyers Monday, and a preliminary court date is scheduled for Wednesday.
“The hearing will be a five-to-ten minute status call,” a representative from Ibendahl’soffice said. “Nothing major will happen. Housekeeping matters will be discussed on Monday. Nothing of substance will be discussed, so there’s no real update.”
“It is the administration that did not cooperate with me,” Engler said. “After written requests to know the charges against me so I could prepare an adequate defense, they refused to cooperate.”
Engler encourages students and faculty of the University to view the Amended Complaint and Jury Demand for his case.
“They would understand what it’s all about and why we think it’s important, not only for getting my job back, but for improving procedure at Roosevelt for harassment,” Englersaid. “We hope this is successful.”
First published in the Roosevelt University Torch. used her with permission.