Volume 93, Issue 37

Thursday, November 4, 1999


Students charged for opt-out

Martin talks money

Biotech receives $20 million fund

Wearing two hats worries teaching association

LSAT's day in court postponed

U of M tenured prof grieves his June dismissal



Caught on campus

U of M tenured prof grieves his June dismissal

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

Mum's the word at the University of Manitoba, where a tenured professor is contesting his dismissal.

"My dismissal is being grieved through the [University of Manitoba's] Faculty Association and they've asked me not to grant interviews," said Valeri Venda, the tenured professor who was dismissed for alleged poor teaching practices.

Although Venda could not speak about the dismissal, he confirmed he was employed at the university since 1991 as a mechanical and industrial engineering professor. Venda added he was tenured the entire time he was a professor at the institution.

The university's media relations officer John Danakas said the university would neither comment on the case, nor confirm or deny Venda's dismissal. He said, however, word of Venda's dismissal came out of a Board of Governors meeting held June 24.

"He's filed a grievance and it's still pending," Danakas said. "It would not be fair to the case or the person to comment."

James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers said it did not appear to the CAUT that a serious or fair process was used in Venda's dismissal. "He was a tenured professor who was summarily fired by the university," he said.

Although the CAUTs director of public policy, David Robinson, said tenure did not guarantee a job for life, he explained it did permit an increased sense of academic freedom. "These cases are rare," he said, of the firing. "[The professors] have to demonstrate a commitment to research, teaching and the community. The people who are qualified and are good professors are tenured for a reason."

Western's VP-academic Greg Moran agreed with Robinson, adding there would have to be just cause to dismiss a tenured professor at Western. "He would have to be dismissed with cause, like failing to perform duties at an adequate level."

Moran added there are detailed procedures in place at Western which would identify the problems long before a professor was tenured. "It doesn't happen a lot," he said of firing tenured professors. "Only once at Western – and that was about 25 years ago."

Because the grievance has not yet reached the arbitration stage, Paul Fortier of the UMFA said the association preferred not to comment on the intricacies of the case. He did confirm they will step into dismissal matters to make sure faculty are treated fairly.

"Under the laws of [Manitoba] we are a certified trade union that represents the interests of our members. Many of our members are not interested in being dismissed."

Manitoba Students' Union president Steven Fletcher said university administration made the right decision by firing Venda. "It was a move that is positive for students because it reinforces accountability." Fletcher, who also sits on the Board of Governors, said the dismissal process was properly followed.

He explained the faculty association is obligated to stand behind their members regardless of if whether or not the member is right. "They don't have the same interests as the student union or the university."

Venda is now awaiting the arbitration process which could last an unpredictable length of time, Fortier said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999