Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Gregory Bird and Lethbridge College

In a previous posting, I reported that Gregory Bird, a psychology professor at Lethbridge College who had been fired by Lethbridge for having consensual relationships with three Lethbridge students had been ordered to be reinstated by a Lethbridge arbitration board.

Although the term arbitration implies a final judgment, such is not necessarily the case.  Many universities and corporations involved in an arbitration proceeding and facing a judgment they do not like, appeal to the civil courts arguing that the arbitrator violated the rules of the arbitration.  And this is exactly what the Lethbridge administration did- they appealed.

As reported by the Lethbridge Herald,

A judge’s decision was reserved Monday, more than 26 months after a Lethbridge College instructor was fired for having sex with his students.

Justice C.S. Phillips gave no indication of when her decision would be handed down, after hearing arguments from two Calgary lawyers over the college’s termination of psychology teacher Greg Bird. Earlier this year an arbitration board ordered him reinstated by May 1, but college officials went to Court of Queen’s Bench to appeal that ruling.

While Bird admitted to his actions, the instructors’ lawyer told the judge, the college’s response was too severe. College officials maintain their action was proper because he’d violated a professional code of ethics.  Lawyer Bill Armstrong, acting for the college, said the provincially appointed arbitration panel’s decision was inconsistent with the facts it cited in reaching a verdict. He also held the college’s lack of a specific policy on personal conduct between students and teachers should not be sufficient to warrant reinstatement.

…William Johnson, representing the college faculty association, cited cases from other colleges and universities across Canada to show firing was too strong a punishment. A hot-tub party involving students and a faculty member at an Okanagan Valley college provides the most recent case law, he said.

In the college’s collective agreement with its faculty, he said it’s stated disciplinary actions would be “reasonable” under the circumstances. When he was hired more than a decade ago, Johnson said the dean of student services advised Bird and other new faculty there was no policy but they should “be discrete” about their interactions with students.

After two years and two months away from the classroom, he held, Bird has faced enough punishment.
Both lawyers submitted extensive written arguments as well.
“There’s a lot to go through here,” the Calgary judge said, reserving her decision. Court officials say issues like this, heard in Calgary chambers, could be resolved in less than a month or take as long as one year.

Of course, the Lethbridge administration may be hoping that the judge takes one year or more to reach a decision.  Such may represent a strategy to simply wear down Bird so that he would voluntarily withdraw from the university in the context of a minimal financial settlement.

It is the dankprofessor’s hope that Bird cannot be forced out.  I agree with Bird’s lawyer that firing is an excessive punishment for engaging in consensual relationships with students.  I would also agree in the context of this case that Bird’s punishment has already been excessive.  And, of course, based on the dankprofessor’s personal perspective, Bird should not have been punished at all.  Any punishment in this case is too much punishment.  Consensual relationships are simply not the business of persons other than the persons involved in the relationships.

In response to my prior posting on this case, I received personal communications from students of Bird praising him as a great teacher and lamenting the actions taken against him by   Lethbridge College.  If Gregory Bird should read this post, I encourage him to contact me; I would value the opportunity to personally communciate with him.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008
 
 

May 3, 2008 - Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, fraternization, higher education, Lethbridge College, litigation, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating

2 Comments »

  1. wow, i was suprised to find this, im a student in his class…

    Comment by Stephen | October 13, 2010 | Reply

  2. We are all human and we make mistakes, we should not pass judgment on him because of his faults. He is an amazing teacher regardless of his past. look at the plank in your own eye before you look at the plank in another persons!

    Comment by anonymous | October 26, 2010 | Reply


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