Robert Klein Engler, an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, told a small joke in his “City and Citizenship” class in 2010:
“There was a sociological study done in Arizona, and they discovered that 60 percent of the people in Arizona approved of the immigration law and 40 percent said, ‘no habla ingles.'”
His class was discussing Arizona anti-illegal immigration act SB 1070. Engler said the joke was just a way of stimulating discussion. “I wanted to get the students involved in a discussion on it so I told them I had heard this joke and wondered what they thought about it,” he said. But someone’s feelings were hurt.
Roosevelt University, which declined to comment on the matter, claims that Engler was fired for failing to cooperate in a harassment investigation. Mr. Engler offered to cooperate in the investigation, but only if the school put the details of the allegation in writing. When he brought a lawyer with him to the hearing, school administrators abruptly canceled the meeting. The University fired him not long after.
According to Roosevelt University’s student newspaper, the Torch, a student–Cristina Solis–who filed a written complaint against Mr. Engler over the joke is apparently pleased with Roosevelt University’s decision to terminate her former professor:
“If that [Mr. Engler’s firing] 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. 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.”
That a school “based on social justice” (Roosevelt University’s website confirms Ms. Solis’s assertion) denied Mr. Engler a chance to fairly defend himself reeks of hypocrisy. If Roosevelt University is committed to the basic tenets of social justice–defined on their website as “a belief that fairness, honesty, integrity and impartiality should resonate throughout every institution within a civil society”–they should begin by explaining their actions to Mr. Engler.