Professor Fired for Immigration Joke Wants Job Back

Robert Engler says Roosevelt University never provided written documentation of complaint

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    NBCChicago.com

    An adjunct Roosevelt University professor fired earlier this year for telling a joke has filed a grievance with the university and says he wants his job back.

    During a lecture about Arizona's controversial immigration law in his "City & Citizenship" course, Professor Robert Engler said he told the joke in an effort to illicit discussion on the matter.

    "A group of sociologists did a poll in Arizona about the new immigration law," Engler said, recalling the lead-in to the punchline.  "Sixty percent said they were in favor and 40 percent said, 'No Habla English.'"

    That joke apparently offended at least one student, who then complained to university administration.

    After the complaints surfaced, Engler said administrators tried to schedule a meeting with him but never put the allegations against him in writing, telling him only that he'd been accused of harassment.

    Engler, who has taught for more than 30 years, said he wouldn't attend those meetings unless the university gave him a written complaint.

    "He simply wanted to know the nature of the allegation before he went to a meeting, and I think that's very, very reasonable," Engler's attorney, Doug Ibendahl, said Wednesday.

    Engler said he refused to attend a number of meetings the university tried to schedule over the summer because documentation of the complaint was never provided.

    "That's important, because I didn't want to come to a meeting and be charged and not even know what it is," he explained.

    In August, Engler received a letter of termination from his department chair.

    "We were very clear to you that you had an obligation to participate in a process that the university has a legal obligation to fulfill," the letter stated.  "We also explicitly advised you of the consequences for failing to fulfill your responsibility."

    Roosevelt University on Wednesday declined to comment on Engler's firing, saying only that it was a personnel matter.

    The course Engler taught last year has been discontinued as of this fall, the Roosevelt Torch reported.