Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In which the University takes the gloves off

Despite the fact that I had not yet been convicted of any wrong-doing, I was now suspended from classes and removed from my practicum program. My sponsorship to the Student Conference in Calgary had been withdrawn, and I had been fired without cause from my part-time job teaching piano in the after-school program at Gordon Bell. Despite all this, I was still determined to continue in the program, believing that once I had a chance to defend myself against the charges, that I would be vindicated. Accordingly, as soon as I received the suspension notice, I emailed my professors asking them to make arrangements for me to continue doing my assignments and writing tests. But it was not to be. Shortly after sending out these letters, the Registrar hit me with another blow:

Dear Marty,
I regret to inform you that a decision has been taken to bar you from campus. I am attaching an e-version of that notice, and a hard copy will be sent to you tomorrow. I will render a decision as soon as possible on the non-academic misconduct case. I will include information on the option of appeal as you have requested. If you wish to meet to discuss your situation, an appointment can be arranged to vary the trespass order to allow you on campus for the time of the meeting. For the time being, you remain registered in your courses and you are welcome to continue doing course-work that can be conducted without coming to University property.

I was not just suspended from classes, I was barred from campus property altogether. If I set foot on University property, the Registrar had issued instructions that I was to be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In which I am suspended

When I showed up for class that afternoon, the Registrar was waiting for me, accompanied by two security officers. He handed me an envelope, with a letter in it. This is what the letter said:

Dear Marty:
As I stated this morning, the perception of your behaviour as aggressive and disruptive in
your classes has not been addressed. There are concerns on the part of instructors and
students regarding the University’s responsibility to provide a safe learning environment,
which I do not think will be addressed through your suggestion of attending class
accompanied by a security guard. Therefore it is the University's decision that you not
attend classes at this time and that you should not attempt to do so. Any attempt to go to
class will be treated as an act of insubordination and a wilful disregard of the instructions
of a university officer doing his duty.

I hope for a speedy resolution to the investigation, and, again, I am willing to meet with
you to “review the matter and determine whether the facts as disclosed by the
complainant are in dispute,” as stipulated in the Policy on Student Non-Academic
Misconduct and Discipline. Please contact me at (204) 786-9337 or in order to arrange another day and time.
Yours sincerely,
Colin Russell
University Registrar

I ought to explain the part about attending class accompanied by a security guard. The whole "safety issue" was clearly an invention of the Registrar; no one had ever complained that I was a physical threat; if they had, I think the Registrar would have mentioned it in the letter where he summarized the complaints against me. I am "rude, disrespectful, dominating class time..." but nothing about being physically intimidating. I think he would have mentioned that if there was anything there.

So when he started raising the safety issue as a reason why I shouldn't be allowed in class, I asked him why they couldn't have a security guard accompany me to class, at least while my case was being decided? That's not so unusual. When I was in Gordon Bell one of my students was accompanied to all his classes by a parole officer. I even offered to pay for it out of my own pocket.

But safety was never the issue. The whole point of the suspension was to coerce me into going to the meeting. Which I wasn't going to do...not before the University put its complaints in writing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In which I go to a meeting

The Registrar had just written to me that I was suspended from class on the basis of Professor Metz's complaint. He said I would not be allowed back in class until I attended a meeting with him. There is no such procedure in University Policies for compelling attendance at such a meeting. I wrote back that I would attend the meeting and I would expect him to provide me with Professor Metz's written complain. Naturally, when I showed up, the Registrar was not willing to give me anything in writing. I told him I was not interested in discussing the question of non-academic misconduct: I only wanted to know what avenues were available to me to have the suspension lifted. He answered that it wasn't a "real" suspension; he had just done it because he wanted to talk to me. Since I was now talking to him, the suspension was lifted. I told him in that case, I was going back to class that afternoon. Then I left.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In which Prof. Metz complains about me

I think the idea was that after kicking me out of the practicum in December, I was just going to give up on the whole thing. I think people were pretty surprised when I showed up for classes in January, business as usual. But Prof. Metz didn't seem very happy about it. In the second week of classes, he complained to the Registrar that I was up to my old tricks. The Registrar was quick to act:

Dear Marty,
I understand that there was another incident in Professor Metz's class yesterday, in which your behaviour was described as disruptive and threatening. This ongoing situation is unacceptable, and you need to meet with me to discuss these concerns.
Accordingly, you are not to attend classes, effective immediately, until you have met with me, which you must do before the end of this week. The days and times that I have available are:
Wednesday, January 11, at 9:30 or 12:00;
Friday, January 13, at 10:00 or in the afternoon.
Please let me know what time would work for you.
What was the supposed incident which provoked this? The University had not yet put its version in writing, so it is not in my interests to disclose my version. In any case, I was going to have to deal with this, so I agreed to meet with him the next day:

I will be there 9:30 tomorrow (Wednesday). Please be prepared to give me a copy of Prof. Metz's written complaint.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In which I ask to be reinstated

It was the second week of classes, and I was treating it as business as usual. Of course it wasn't. Even ignoring the misconduct procedings, I had been kicked out of my practicum with no explanation and no appeals. The University had said that they would not reconsider my practicum placement until the misconduct issue was settled, and the Registrar was dragging that process into months. I decided it was time to re-assert my rights, so I sent the following letter to my Faculty:
Dear Debra:
I am writing you at this time because when you wrote me last November to inform me that I was being suspended from my practicum and that the matter was in the hands of the Registrar, you assured me that I would be afforded due process. Unfortunately this has not materialized; the Registrar continues to refuse my request for full disclosure of the information against me, and most recently he has threatened to return a finding against me unless I relinquish my rights to this information. He acknowledges that this is my right under the doctrine of "procedural fairness", but then claims that this right does not apply to me because "this is not a legal proceding".
Because of this unexpected development, I find that my expectation of being able to resume full participation in the program is in serious jeopardy. I am therefore writing to ask if you would consider having my practicum privileges temporarily reinstated, at least while the procedings against me continue to drag out, so that I am not being unfairly punished in advance of being convicted. I understand that this decision may not be entirely yours, but I am hoping you will want to take it up with the powers that be.
Marty Green
My letter was ignored.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In which the Registrar sticks to procedure

In my appeal of my final grade of Professor Bush's course, I told the Registrar I wanted to explain my side of the story. It seemed to me that this was just what he had been asking me to do all along, so I thought he would jump at the chance to hear me out. But it turns out he wasn't that interested after all:

Dear Marty,
Though this was a 9-week course that ended back in November, the approval of Fall grades has not yet occurred, so any grades are unofficial at this point and an appeal of a final grade would occur once your final grade is posted on WebAdvisor later this month.
A grade appeal is not related to the other matters under consideration to which you refer, so if you are dissatisfied with the final grade when it is official you should follow the regular process as outlined in the Calendar, and that process will be conducted without prejudice and reference to the other matters.
Best wishes,

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Which Professor Bush Gives me an F

Around this time I saw my final marks posted in Theory of Science Teaching, a first term half course. I actually passed the course with a C+ which was OK with me except everyone else had A's and B+'s. The big hit was my final assignment, a three-lesson learning cycle plan for Grade 11 Chemistry. The prof gave me an F on that, and I thought it was a pretty low mark considering. So I wrote up the following letter of appeal, and sent it to the Registrar with a copy to the prof:

To: The Registrar
Prof. G.D. Bush
Vice-President, Academic
Dean of Education
Re: Final Grade in EDUC 15.4869
This letter notifies the University of my intent to appeal my final grade in “Theory of Science Teaching”. The grounds for my appeal are that the overall assessment of the final grade is demonstrably unjust.
Under the University procedures, I am required to submit my appeal in writing to the Registrar, who then forwards it to the Departmental Review Committee. In view of the circumstances of my case, which the Registrar is familiar with, I am asking him to consider a variation in this procedure whereby I would be allowed to present my case orally. The reasons for my request are as follows:
1. As the Registrar is aware, I am presently engaged in a conflict with my department whereby they have refused to engage in communication with me concerning my status, instead referring me in all matters to the Registrar’s office. I therefore feel I cannot expect a fair hearing from my department.
2. The requirement to put all of my arguments in writing places an excessively onerous burden on me at this time, given the complexity of my case, the demanding course load I am dealing with and the extremely stressful conditions of my studies at this time, the reasons for which are familiar to the Registrar.
3. In making my case, I wish to point out the extreme discrepancy between the marks I was awarded and the obvious quality of the work submitted. I intended to draw an inference of malice from this circumstance, and will wish to support my inference with evidence of various incidents throughout the term. I feel this is by its nature a case that ought to be argued orally and in the presence of the instructor.
I am therefore suggesting that the Registrar convene a committee to be composed of himself and two members of the Education faculty, including one of my choosing. I am willing to submit a written outline of my claim to the committee, including copies of all relevant supporting documents. The professor whose grade I am appealing should be a party to the hearing.
Please give this matter your most serious consideration.
Marty Green

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let's Think Twice about Bombing Iran

The Israeli threats to bomb Iran are nothing new. They’ve been going on for about five years. But this last week or so there’s been a disturbing upsurge. So I feel I have to say something. If there’s a one in a thousand chance someone might hear me, I have to try. And if no one listens, at least I’ve said it. So I’m double-posting this article in both my blogs, for what it’s worth.

Can we think twice about bombing Iran? Let’s say we could actually stop them from getting the bomb. Even then, I’m not sure we should try. We have a bomb, what makes us think they shouldn’t have one? But that’s a moot point. Everyone agrees that the best case scenario is that we’d slow down their bomb program for a year or so. If we’re afraid they might use the bomb on us, doesn’t bombing them first pretty much guarantee it?

I know what’s going on. There’s an atmosphere of panic in Israel, whipped up by our leaders. “Achmadinejad is the new Hitler, and he wants to wipe out Israel and all the Jews.” Well, I don’t buy it. If they love killing Jews so much, why don’t they start with the 20,000 Jews living peacefully right in the middle of Iran? And by the way, if they tried to do that, I’d be the first to say let’s hit them with everything we’ve got, and damn the consequences. But life goes on pretty much normally for the Jews of Iran. Can’t we just leave it that way?

Iran is a proud country, the home of an ancient culture, that has not launched a war of aggression in some five hundred years. They have no love for Israel, but that is their business. It is true that they provide material support to our enemies in Lebanon and Gaza, but that is their perogative, just as America supplies us with arms. Iran does not threaten to bomb America on that account; why should we threaten to bomb them for the same reason? It is true they might have had a hand in the outrage committed twenty years ago in Buenos Aires, and that is arguably less forgivable; but equally despicable acts have been carried out by agents of the American, British, and other secret services. Do I need to mention Pinochet, the Contras, and even the SAVAK?  At least support of these kind of acts does not appear to be an element of current Iranian foreign policy. Can we say the same for ourselves? Before we climb up on our moral high horse, we ought to watch what we’re sitting in.  

The leaders of Iran are not shy about expressing their dislike of Israel; but at the same time, they have clearly stated that they have no interest in interfering with any agreement we might reach with the Palestinians. They have a legitimate interest in seeing that any such agreement is not arrived at through undue coercion, and we need to respect their support of Hizbullah and Hamas in that light. And other than the occasional tasteless comments questioning the Holocaust, I find their public positions on these matters are much more reasonable than Israel’s ongoing campaing of threats.

And what about the consequences? I don’t want to argue that we should hold back because we’re afraid of Iran’s response. If we need to do it, we need to do it. But let’s be realistic. We got away with this kind of thing twice before, in Iraq and recently again in Syria. Let’s not push our luck. Those enemies were not in a position to do us much damage. Iran is another ball of wax. If we poke them they will hit back with everything they’ve got, and it won’t be pretty. Think World War III, Armageddon, End of Days…you get the idea.

The point is it’s all so unnecessary. The surest way for us to avert the threat of an Iranian attack is to make peace with the Palestinians. The Saudis have done all the diplomatic leg work for us, getting the whole Arab League to sign on to their peace plan, and yet we just ignore them. I just don’t know where we think we’re going with all this.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In which the Registrar explains my rights

The Registrar finally explains why he is not willing to put his allegations in writing: because this is not a legal proceeding. I am therefore entitled to only those rights which the Registrar wishes to accord me, as he explains in the following email: 
Dear Marty,
I am not refusing to provide you the information on the accusations; I do not wish to provide it to you prior to our meeting. I find that the language you are using is the language of legal proceedings, and this is not a legal proceeding. I have heard one side of a story and I want to hear your side. Otherwise, I have to make a decision based on the information I have. I really do want to talk with you and hear your concerns as well as finding out what explanation you have for the perceptions that others have developed of you.
You remain a student in the program and are able to attend class, but I need to get to the bottom of the situation with the concerns. Regarding the removal from the practicum at the school, again, the Education Faculty is awaiting the resolution of the process of addressing these concerns, in order to move forward.
Best wishes,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ripped off Again by Greenshield

Last month I wrote about how my U of W dental insurance provider, Greenshield Canada, ripped me off on a broken tooth. My dental bill was $400, and they sent me a check for $38. After I complained, they followed up with another check for about $100, but that's still short by half of the 70% coverage they're supposedly providing.

Then, a few weeks later, I lost a filling. I went back to the dentist for repairs, and it came to $280. At a copay of 30%, I should have had almost $200 coming back to me. Today I got the check from Greenshield: it was $109.97. I'm sure they have some reason why the services I got were supposedly not covered, but it stinks. You break a tooth or a filling falls out...aren't those the kind of things a dental plan is supposed to cover? This is nothing but a scam.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Enough is enough already

Sent Jan. 5 2012:

TO: The President of the University of Winnipeg
Vice-President Academic, University of Winnipeg
Colin Russel, Registrar, University of Winnipeg
RE: Suspension from my practicum at Gordon Bell High School
Dear Prof Russell:
I reluctantly find that your ongoing refusal to provide full written documentation of the allegations against me constitutes an egregious violation of my right to procedural fairness. You should know that this right is explicitly guaranteed me in University policies; and even if it were not, it would still be available to me under the principles of the common law. It is not in my interests to share with you at this time the reasons for my insistence on this information, other than to point out that you do not have the right to continue to withold it.
It has now been seven weeks since I was suspended from my practicum and I have not yet been given the opportunity to see the allegations which led to this suspension. I find it outrageous that my rights continue to be violated in this way on a daily basis and insist that you immediately provide me with complete information, including all testimony recorded against me and any other evidence you have relied on up to this point, as well as full listing of the charges which you intend to press against me. Failing that, I demand that all charges be dropped and I be immediately restored to my previous status as a student in good standing with all the associated privileges.
Marty Green

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In which the Registrar plays the safety card

It was only a matter of time. Go back and read the Registrar's original indictment of me. I'm rude, disrespectful, dominating, you name it. But there's nothing about me being dangerous, is there? What about that bit about me being "prone to personal attacks on students and professors"? I think if they had meant physical attacks, they would have been a little more specific, wouldn't they? No matter. Now my presence in class has become a safety concern:

Dear Marty,

My purpose is to ensure a safe learning environment for all students, including you, and to ensure the opportunity for student success, including yours. The allegations that have been made attest to perceptions of you that have developed in the minds of some of your instructors and peers, as well as staff and administration at your practicum placement. If those perceptions are based on malice or erroneous assumptions I need to counter-act them in order to restore your standing and reputation. Point 1 below indicates to me that you have your own perceptions, and counter-allegations against those instructors and peers, and I would very much like to hear your account. I will go into the detail of allegations in our meeting as pertinent, and I will be happy to hear details of your allegations, but the point of the meeting is to have a general discussion about this matter so I can fully understand the situation. An innovative solution such as a transfer to the Access program is an interesting one, and I reiterate that I am committed to seeing how you can complete your educational goals, as well as ensuring a safe learning environment for you and everybody else. I again request that you meet with me immediately in order that we can address this matter. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I am currently available between 11:30 and 2:00.

Best wishes,


So the Registrar wants to hear my side of the story so he can restore my standing and reputation for me. I hate to tell him, but that's my job, not his. God help me if I was stupid enough to rely on the Registrar to restore my reputation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can they expel you for being an a**hole?

Let's say everyone agrees I'm a terrible person. Can they expel me for that or do I actually have to do something first?

I follow the news from Israel via Haaretz Online, and the other day there was a story I found outrageous about a Palestinian being arrested for "being a security threat". Maybe it reminded me of my own situation vis-a-vis the University, but I wrote a talk-back comment where I asked what kind of crime it was to "be a security threat". I didn't know if anyone else would find that peculiar: certainly the University considers it a very serious offense to be "rude, confrontational, aggressive etc". without finding it necessary to specify what actions constituted the supposed rudeness etc. on my part. In any case I was gratified to check in later and find that not only did many others post to express very similar opinions to mine, but my own post actually had the highest approval rating (118:5, thumbs up vs thumbs down) of all the 31 talk-backs posted online.

I'm not used to people agreeing with me, but it's kind of nice once in a while.

In which I tell the Registrar to s*** or get off the pot.

I couldn't very well expect the Registrar to disturb his two-week Christmas break by worrying about my little problems, so instead, I spent two weeks waiting for the Registrar to respond to my request for disclosure. After giving that request, his due consideration, I received the following response the day before the resumption of classes in January:

Dear Marty,

I would like to have a meeting with you to hear your response to the allegations, but it is not designed as a setting in which you have to defend yourself. I do not want to send you the documents that constitute the complaints; my summary establishes the nature of the complaints and I simply want to talk with you about the concerns that have been raised. I hope that you are available in the next day or so to meet. I could meet anytime between 9:00 and 4:00 tomorrow, Wednesday, or between 10:00 and 3:00 on Thursday.

Best wishes,

Wow, it's like he's my best friend now. I don't even have to defend myself; he just wants to talk to me. The problem is, I don't buy it. Call me a hardass, but it's not my job to help him make his case. Either he shows me his case or he doesn't have a case.  I replied the next day:

Dear Mr. Russell:
My sole purpose throughout this affair has been to ensure that I am able to graduate with a teaching certificate along with the rest of my class in 2013. If you are willing to discuss means whereby I can achieve this goal, I will be willing to meet with you. But I have already suffered serious damages to my reputation and employment prospects, not to mention the incredible distress caused to myself and members of my family; therefore, I must be assured of total vindication with regard to all the malicious allegations against me. If the University is not willing to provide a documented list of detailed complaints, including times, dates, and signatures, especially those with regard to the termination of my practicum, then I must insist that all proceedings against me be terminated without delay, and that I be restored to my previous status as a student in good standing. In addition to the immediate restoration of my practicum privileges, this means:
1. An end to being singled out for ridicule and scorn in front of other students by professors including Bush, Metz, and Bell, and in the case of Bush, a public apology for the incident of which he is fully aware and an undertaking to never again conduct the kind of in-class “experiment” which led to the incident.
2. An end to being given low or failing grades for work which would otherwise have merited A’s according to the normal standards of the Education Faculty.
3. The restoration of my sponsorship to the Calgary student teacher’s conference, which was arbitrarily cancelled following initiation of these procedings.
4. Compensation for loss of income due to being arbitrarily fired without cause from my job as a piano teacher in the after-school program at Gordon Bell.
5. Compensation for lost earning power as a result of time which I may need to spend making up for my lost Fall practicum next spring.
I understand some of these demands may fall outside your immediate jurisdiction, but given the treatment which I have already suffered I feel they are the minimum which I can accept at this time. As a practical matter, I feel it might facilitate a speedier resolution to this issue if the Faculty would consider allowing me to transfer to the Access Program. I have already discussed my situation with faculty there and they have responded positively to this idea.
Marty Green