Monday, January 30, 2012

In which I request full disclosure

The Registrar had issued a damning indictment of my conduct, which on closer inspection was more about who I am than what I did: in other words, I was rude, arrogant, disrespectful, etc: but as to what I actually did, the indictment was rather sketchy. I therefore responded in the only way that made sense to me: I asked for full disclosure of all the evidence against me, just as I would be entitled to in any criminal procedings:

I received your letter dated Dec. 15 yesterday and I regret that you have not provided any details concerning the alleged conduct on my part which supposedly provoked these admittedly negative reactions on the part of other people. Surely you must understand that if I am to defend myself I need to know what specific actions I am accused of. It cannot be sufficient to tell me simply that other people were disturbed by my actions.
This is particularly so in the case of my removal from the practicum, where I have already been severely penalized without having had the chance to defend myself, let alone know what I am charged with. It is my reading of the procedures that the principal of Gordon Bell would have been required to provide written reasons for my removal at the time of the incident. I do not know why you have not provided me with her written statement so that I may respond to it. It is certainly not adequate to inform me, as you have done, that staff at my practicum school made complaints “similar to those from students and faculty on campus”. If such complaints exist, I believe I have the right to see them.
You have already told me that a report has been prepared by an impartial third party regarding these allegations. I cannot understand why you would feel I am not entitled to review this report. I am therefore requesting again, as I did two weeks ago by email correspondence, that you send me the entire file so that I may prepare to defend myself.
Marty Green

The Registrar was quick to reply:

I will take your request for additional information under consideration and respond shortly. I am aware of the pressing nature of this matter with regard to the commencement of the Winter term.
In fact, I would wait two more weeks to hear from him again. You can take your best guess as to whether he found it appropriate to provide me with the additional information I had requested.

What Kind of Person Goes Around Making Girls Cry?

The Registrar had put together a devastating list of complaints about my conduct. I was rude, aggressive, disrespectful, you name it. But the most inexcusable act of all was this: I made a girl cry. What kind of horrible person does that? Apparently, I do.

Not only that, it was clearly part of a pattern of behavior. Several faculty members and students complained that I was "prone to personal attacks on students and professors"; several other complainants confirmed that such behavior was "typical in classes during the term". 

Obviously, the Registrar was not going to include any details about these incidents which might allow me to identify the complainants; after all, those complaints were made in confidence, and it would be unfair to the complainants to expose them to my possible violent rage if I knew who they were and what they had said about me. The Registrar had wisely chosen to give me only the information that I absolutely needed, and no more.

I'm sure you'd like to know just exactly what I did to make that girl cry, but like me, you're just going to have to wait a little longer to find out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The University Makes its Case

Six weeks after I was first informed that I was being investigated for non-academic misconduct, the Registrar finally provided me with a written summary of the allegations against me. I have some idea how horrifying these charges may appear, but for various reasons I am not yet at liberty to give my side of the story. All I can say is that things are not always what they seem. Here, then, is the letter which I received four days before Christmas:

Dear Marty:

I am writing in response to your request for written disclosure of the allegations that prompted my investigation under the Student Non-Academic Conduct and Discipline Policy.  I will summarize the comments made.

Several faculty members and students have submitted written complaints about your behaviour in classes during the term.  The specific allegations are that you have been perceived by them as rude, disrespectful, dominating class time, confrontational, aggressive, prone to personal attacks on students and on professors, that you reduced one student to tears, that you frequently used class time to express your dissatisfaction with the way the class was being taught.  In particular, concern was raised about your actions toward an American Sign Language Interpreter on Nov. 3, and your aggressive tone and conduct in a Physics class on Nov. 9.  Several other complaints made allegations that such behaviour from you was typical in classes during the term.  The reports come from the period October 27 through November 10, at which point the Deans attempted to meet informally with you to discuss these matters.  Subsequently, as you know, your practicum placement school requested that you be removed from the practicum.  Staff there made similar allegations to those from students and faculty on campus, as well as the allegation that you refused to follow directions and accept constructive criticism from cooperating teachers.

As per the policy, I am requesting a meeting with you to “review the matter and determine whether the facts as disclosed by the complainant are in dispute.”  Please contact me at (204) 786-9337 or in order to arrange a day and time.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Russell
University Registrar

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why Didn't I Just Go to the Meetings?

It would be six weeks from the time the Dean first asked me to meet with him before I was finally given a letter indicating the nature of the allegations against me. In my next post I will reveal what was in that letter. In the meantime, I’m sure people are wondering about those meetings. During those six weeks I was asked on numerous occasions to attend  meetings, supposedly so I would have a chance to tell my side of the story. So what was my problem? Why didn’t I just go to the meetings?

It’s funny that of all the people who ask me why I wouldn’t go to the meetings, hardly any of them ask why the University wouldn’t just put its allegations in writing. It’s a matter of due process and natural justice. I really shouldn’t have to explain the ABC’s of due process, but it goes something like this.

There are two possibilities in a situation like this. Either the University is represented by sincere, well-meaning people who really truly just want to hear my side of the story. In that case I ought to go to the meeting. The other possibility is that the University is represented by vicious, unscrupulous people who will stop at nothing to ruin me. In that case it is against my interests to reveal anything until they have laid all their cards on the table. Which will it be?

What “due process” says is that as the accused person, I am entitled to treat my opponents as though they are Type B; and furthermore, they are not allowed to draw any adverse inferences about my guilt through the fact that I choose to regard them that way.

I know we’ve all watched the movies where the “bad guys” get away with murder because they take advantage of the rules. What “due process” says, unfortunately, is that you’re not allowed to assume I’m a “bad guy” just because I take advantage of the rules. It’s the job of the university to make their best case against me, and it’s not my job to help them make that case. That’s why I wouldn’t go to their little meetings until they disclosed their evidence.

It’s funny how everyone still thinks I’m a badass because I take this hard line. What about the University refusing to disclose their evidence? Why do they get a free pass for their behavior? If anything, doesn’t it show that maybe they really are the malicious, unscrupulous people that I am entitled to assume they are?

I know what the University is thinking right now. “How dare Marty impugn our integrity, we refined, dignified educated people who have been put in a position of trust by society to administer its institutions of higher learning? Those rules are meant to protect people from the excesses of racist police officers, ambitious prosecuting attorneys, and corrupt government officials. No one needs rules to be protected from us, because we would never abuse anyone’s rights.”

Unfortunately, it is just this smug attitude of our-shit-doesn’t-smell that makes those same people capable of the most outrageous excesses.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In which my sponsorship is withdrawn

It had been over two weeks since I was tossed out of my practicum. Finally the Registrar had contacted me: it seems there had been an investigation, and based on its findings, he felt that charges of non-academic misconduct were justified. He was therefore asking me to come in and tell my side of the story. I replied that first I would require full disclosure, in writing, of all the allegations against me. I would wait two more weeks for the Registrar to respond to this request.

In the meantime, I had received acceptance to the WestCan Student Teacher Conference in Calgary. This was a spring-break event to which the Education Faculty annually sponsored a group of students, and I had been accepted for sponsorship in October. The Conference had accepted not one but two of my presentation proposals, and I was looking forward to going, so I informed Deb Woloshyn of my acceptance, and asked her to go ahead and have my travel arrangements set up. Two weeks later, I received the following reply:

To Marty Green,

The University of Winnipeg Faculty of Education provides financial support for students who act as University representatives at the WestCASTconference. Since your acceptance for WestCAST it has come to the Deans’ attention that there are conditions which now make you ineligible for the University’s sponsorship. This decision to revoke your participation at the WestCAST conference is based upon your:

a) declining to meet with the Faculty of Education Deans

b) status being under review by the Registrar’s office

c) being removed from practicum at the request of the host school

There has been no decision made regarding a Winter term practicum placement, as we await a decision from the Registrar.

Deb Woloshyn

Director, Student Teaching
Faculty of Education
University of Winnipeg

As I've said previously, I don't blame Deb personally for the content of these messages: obviously she's getting direction from the Dean's office. But either way, I've had my sponsorship withdrawn. It's funny that they still don't say what I've actually done to justify these sanctions, other than declining to meet with the Dean, which as far as I can see was nothing more than an assertion of my rights under due process. The other reasons for pulling my sponsorship are based not on my actions but the actions of other people: the Registrar reviewing my status, and the termination of my practicum by the host school. I was still waiting to find out what I was accused of.

I also learned from this letter that as long as the Registrar chose to drag out the procedings with regard to the non-academic misconduct, there would be no move on the part of the Faculty to restore my practicum privileges. One more example of due process at work, I suppose. In the meantime, I was determined not to let these things interfere with my right to take part in the university experience to the fullest extent. After all, I was only charged, not convicted. Believing that I would ultimately be vindicated on all counts, I wrote back to Deb:

Thanks for the heads up, Debra. I have registered for the conference and will be making my own arrangements for travel and accomodations. I trust that if the procedings against me are resolved in my favor, the Faculty will reimburse me for my expenses.

I received no reply.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In which I am contacted by the Registrar

I was now sitting at home while all my fellow students were out in their schools happily teaching their practicum blocks. I had been barred from my practicum with no prior notice and with no written reasons provided, and at the same time the University had charged me with non-academic misconduct, also with no written reasons. Furthermore, my department was now refusing to respond to my requests for any information as to my status, saying only that my file had been transferred to the Registrar and I would be contacted in due course. There was nothing to do but sit and wait.
On the sixth of December, fifteen days after I had been thrown out of my practicum, I received the following email from the Registrar:

Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 6:26 AM
Subject: non-academic misconduct investigation

Dear Mr. Green,

I am responsible for the administration of the Student Non-Academic Conduct and Discipline policy, which is available on the University of Winnipeg website at . Please note that due to administrative changes, the position of "Associate Vice-President (Student Services)" no longer exists, so references to that position in the policy should be read as "Registrar."

I am in receipt of several complaints about your conduct in the classroom, both at the University and on your practicum experience. I have had a third party conduct an investigation of these written complaints as required in Section IV.1.f of the policy, and that person has submitted a report. It is my view based on that report that the charges appear to be substantive enough to proceed with adjudication of the complaint.

Therefore, as required in Section IV.1.h, I request a meeting with you to review the complaints. I am available Wednesday, December 7 at 2:00, or Thursday, December 8 between 10:00 and noon. Please let me know if one of those times would work for you, or, if not, what your schedule would accommodate within the next few days and I will try to arrange a mutually convenient time.

My office is in 1B14, which is at the far south end of the first floor of Ashdown Hall, past the Student Services offices of Admissions, Records, Disability Resource Centre, etc.

Colin Russell
University Registrar, Student Services
Instructor, Department of English
The University of Winnipeg

I was being ordered to report to another meeting, and you know how I feel about meetings. I know people will say I was being difficult, but that is really quite unfair. An accused person has certain rights, and one of the most basic is to be informed of the precise charges against him. In the circumstances, where I had not only been accused but actually punished already, there was only one possible response to this demand, and so I replied the following day:

Dear Mr. Russell:

I will require written disclosure of all allegations against me. Once I have had a chance to review this information, I will contact you to arrange a meeting.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In which I am assured of Due Process

It had been three full days since I was forcibly removed from my practicum at Gordon Bell, and I still had no word from the University as to where I stood, or what I would have to do to salvage what remained of my prospects of ever becoming a teacher. Finally, at 4:00 on Wednesday the 23rd of November, I received the following email from the Director of Student Teaching:

In response to your email dated November 22, 2011, I would like to
provide the following information:

· When you declined to meet with the Faculty of Education Deans,

your file was transferred to the University of Winnipeg’s Registrar

· Currently, your status is under review. Due process will be

followed and you will be duly informed as the investigation moves

If you require further information, please contact the U of W

Deb Woloshyn

It was clear that my faculty was washing its hands of me. If I had any more questions, I was to contact the Registrar. It might have been nice of Deb to tell me the Registrar’s name or his email address, but apparently I was on my own when it came to that. In any case, whoever he was, this Registrar was obviously not about to get my practicum privileges restored. I guess I was just going to have to wait and be contacted. At least I had Deb’s assurance that due process would be followed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

In Which the University Stonewalls

It had been 9:00 on Monday morning when I had been escorted off the premises by the Vice Principal of Gordon Bell. At the end of the day I received a very short note informing me simply that my practicum had been terminated, and in response to my request for clarification of my status, I was further informed on the following day, rather ominously, that my file had now been "transferred to the Registrar's Office". As to who the Registrar was, or what he was doing with my file, the Education Faculty was apparently content to let me sit and stew.

There was nothing to do but persist: I wrote back again, asking what was going on:

Hi Deb

I have a couple of questions about my status; if you cannot answer them I
hope you will tell me whom I should ask. I don't exactly understand what you
mean when you say my file has been transferred to the UW Registrar. I have
assumed I am still a student in good standing within the faculty. Therefore
I am wondering:

1. What will the Faculty of Education be doing anything to find me an
alternative placement so I can get credit for my practicum?

2. Will I be provided with written reasons as to why Gordon Bell requested
my removal from the school?

3. Can you confirm that I am still a student in good standing, and as such
what steps will I need to take in order to complete the requirements of my


This letter was sent out at 12:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. I am sure you would like to know how the Department replied to this correspondence. If you can put yourself in my shoes for a moment, perhaps you can appreciate that I was quite urgently interested in getting an informative reply. However, at the time, the University in its wisdom felt it was appropriate to keep me waiting until 3:30 on Wednesday before giving me an answer, and for those of you following this story at home, that's also how long you're going to have to wait to hear what they said.

In the meantime, you might be wondering if I blame Deb Woloshyn for the way I was treated during those very difficult three days. The fact is Deb had always treated me quite well up to that point, and it is inconceivable that she could have been acting on her own in this matter. There can be no doubt that the precise timing and wording of her responses to me would have been carefully controlled by the Dean's office: she would have merely been given the role of spokesperson.

On the other hand, as a thinking feeling human being, she cannot possibly have felt that I was being handled fairly, and by putting her name to the correspondence, she was effectively endorsing the treatment I was being given, even if she was only following the Dean's orders. I like to think that if I were in her position, and the Dean were telling me how to answer a student who was in a similar position, I would  have told the Dean that I had a duty to the student to be as informative as possible: if the Dean told me that I was to tell the student exactly what the Dean wanted him to know, I would hope that I would have had the integrity to tell the Dean to find someone else to do his dirty work. Don't we have tenure in place to guarantee academics that they can act with integrity without fear of retribution? Or is tenure just an expensive perk written into the union contract to guarantee job security?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Can they kick you out just like that?

Let’s understand what had just happened. My practicum block was over before it had begun, and all I had was a three-line letter from the Director of Student Teaching telling me that I was not to return to the school. No reasons given, and there was no appeal process indicated. I had shown up that morning as a student teacher in good standing, and now I faced the prospect of being finished as a teacher altogether. What school would hire a student who had been kicked out of his practicum?

The lack of written reasons only made the circumstances of the termination seem all the more sinister. What could it possibly mean other than I had done something so unspeakably horrible that it was beyond even putting in writing? It was essential that I get to the bottom of this. So I immediately wrote back to the Director of Student Teaching:

I wish to be provided with written reasons for my termination, including reference to the relevant University policies and procedures under which the termination was carried out.

Marty Green
I received my answer the next morning:

The Certification Practicum Student Handbook states that "School administrators have the authority and right to remove or request that Student Teachers be removed from the school. This may occur on an immediate basis if deemed necessary by the school administration." At this point, any further process regarding your file has been transferred to the UW Registrar.

Deb Woloshyn

Director, Student Teaching
Faculty of Education
University of Winnipeg

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In which I am escorted to the sidewalk

When we left off yesterday, it was Monday morning, the first official day of my practicum block. I was sitting in the principal’s office waiting to be told the purpose of this unexpected meeting which I had been called into. Finally they appeared and sat down, the principal and the vice. After some perfunctory pleasantries, it was time to get down to businees. It seems they had been hearing bad things about me.

Just what had they heard? It’s really hard to say. I’d like to tell you what happened, but there is a problem. You see, up to this moment, I have not seen a written record of their version of what went on in the meeting, so for reasons that may or may not be apparent to everyone else, I feel it is not in my best interest to put forward my version. There are nevertheless certain facts which I do not believe ought to be in dispute:
1. My faculty advisor had already been called and would be meeting with the principal later that day.

2. Effective immediately, I was suspended from my practicum privileges until further notice.

I was then escorted to the sidewalk and told to leave. At 4:00 that afternoon, I received the following email from the Director of Student Teaching:

Hello Marty,

I am writing to inform you that your practicum block at Gordon Bell High School has been terminated for this term. You are not to return to the school. Please contact my assistant Monica Hoersch should you wish to set up an appointment.

Deb Woloshyn

Director, Student Teaching
Faculty of Education
University of Winnipeg

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In which I am invited to another meeting

The Faculty of Education courses are compressed from 13 weeks to 9 in order to accommodate a four-week practicum block. The mini-drama with the Dean of Education had played itself out during exam week, which falls between the end of classes and the beginning of prcacitum.  On Monday I was scheduled to begin teaching Grade Nine science at Gordon Bell. The unit was Static Electricity.

I had orignially been offered the chance to teach a very good class of Grade 11 AP physics students, but my co-operating teachers had the idea I might be interested in a real challenge instead. It’s hard for me to turn down a challenge, so I accepted. My new class consisted, I was told, mostly of students who were “supposed” to be in Grade 10. One of them was accompanied to each class by a parole officer. Another had recently been suspended for beating another student quite badly. You get the idea.

I previously mentioned that although the practicum block begins at the end of the term, we are already placed in out schools one day per week from the very start, so we get to know the students and teachers. Two weeks before the beginning of my block, the Grade Nine science teacher told me he was finished the Biology unit. He had originally planned to teach two weeks of Chemistry before handing off to me for Static Electricity, but now felt that he didn’t want to interrupt the Chemistry unit. “They won’t remember anything in January if we switch half-way.” So he wanted to start Static Electricity immediately.

I had already prepared for the entire unit, so I asked him if I couldn’t start then and there. He agreed, so with ten minutes advance notice, I ran around the lab grabbing all the props I could think of: magnets, balloons, iron filings, plastic rods, woolen rags: you know, basic science stuff. I was about to become a teacher for real.

This isn’t the time and place to go into the details of everything that happened, except to say it was unbelievable fun. By the time my official practicum block was set to begin, I had already taught seven full classes. Monday morning, the 21st of November, was going to be a very special day for me: my co-operating teachers had offered me the chance to teach not just one class, as was the norm, but two classes. My second class was a very bright class of Grade 10 Chemistry students, and I was looking forward to our first session.

When I came to the office to sign in, I was greeted by the vice-prinicipal. He told me he wanted to have a word with me before classes, and would I wait in the office? I sat down.

The clock ticked on while I waited, first five minutes, then ten. Half an hour later, the vice principal finally returned, accompanied by the principal. “We’ve been hearing some things about you that we want to talk about…”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I call the Dean's bluff.

On Tuesday, having reviewed the University of Winnipeg's posted policies on non-academic misconduct, I asked the Dean's office if they could show any reason under those policies why I should attend the meeting they had scheduled for Thursday. Wednesday morning I received the following reply:

Dear Marvin Green,

As mentioned previously, the Deans of the Faculty of Education wish to meet with you to discuss complaints from faculty members and students concerning your in-class behaviour. This is planned as an informal meeting. An unwillingness to attend will result in more formal proceedings.



Christy Campbell
Office Assistant
Faculty of Education
University of Winnipeg

I couldn't see anything wrong with that. (Othere than I never really cared for the name Marvin.) After all, it was me who had been holding out for more formal procedings in the first place. So I replied:

Thank you, Christy. I have decided that it is not in my best interests to attend.


Thursday and Friday came and went with no further word from the Dean's office. I didn't know that all hell was about to break loose.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Non-Academic Misconduct

When we left off our story, I had just been ordered to report to the Dean’s office to face unspecified allegations regarding my conduct in class. I was warned that “Failure to appear will result in further action under The University of Winnipeg Non-academic Misconduct Policy.”.
I looked up the University’s policies on “non-academic misconduct” on the internet. You can find them  here under "Regulations and Policies" You’ll see that Section 8a deals with academic misconduct: this is plagiarism, cheating, etc. Non-academic conduct is covered in Section 8b.

What is non-academic misconduct? The policy manual talks about the University being a community of scholars, and goes on about collegiality, fairness, learning environments and such, and finally defines non-academic misconduct as any “patterns of behaviour which,over time, cumulatively cause others to experience a perceived threat to their academic or social environment, or to their personal well-being.”

Unlike Academic Misconduct, where the rights of the accused and the appeal process are described in great deal, Section 8b is silent on these matters, referring the reader to the Registrar for further information. Significantly, we note that the crime of non-academic misconduct is defined not in terms of the actions of the perpetrator, but in terms of the perceptions of those actions by the supposed victims.

With no clear definition of the actual offense, and no procedures set out whereby I could defend myself, I felt it would be unwise to voluntarily take part in such a process without clear delineation of just what process I was being engaged in. So I replied to the Dean as follows:

I have consulted the University of Winnipeg Regulations and Policies document as posted on the internet and I am unable to find an reference in Section 8b as to how I can be asked to attend a meeting on this basis without some form of due process. If you can show me any reason based on University policies why I ought to attend such a meeting I will reconsider my position.

I was going to make sure whatever happened, the other side played by the rules.