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Dr. Bowles is suing the university for allegedly terminating him without justification.
Katy Anderson/the Gauntlet

Professor sues U of C

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A prominent University of Calgary faculty member is taking legal action against the university. Haskayne School of Business Law professor Dr. Peter Bowal has filed a lawsuit accusing the university of wrongfully withholding his salary and for an abuse of trust and discretion, causing 'incalculable personal hardship and torment.'

"I feel like a rape victim," admitted Bowal, winner of several teaching excellence and research excellence awards, including two Dean's Awards for Research Excellence and one for 'Most Outstanding Faculty Member.' "Specific people have been gunning for me, personally and privately."

Bowal has taught at the university since 1991 and earned tenure in 1995.

A hearing was held January 24, 2006 in Alberta civil claims court. While no settlement was made, the court did make an award of costs to Bowal, meaning the university is accountable for all legal fees for the hearing. The next court date is scheduled for September 2006.

U of C provost and vice-president academic Dr. Ron Bond refused to comment on the matter.

"The university is unwilling and unable to comment as this is a personnel matter," he said.

Bowal said he spoke to the Gauntlet only because the case is now considered public record, after the court hearing.

The lawsuit stems from a situation in the 2001-2002 academic term, when Bowal was denied an eight week leave of absence following sabbatical, during which he had been on a fellowship for the United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

"It was all approved at the university, at five different levels," said Bowal. "I was selected for the fellowship--a very prestigious one--and there was a great deal of excitement. The university used my fellowship as material for many school references, publications and press releases."

Conflict arose on the last business day of June 2002, when Bowal was sent an email while in Washington from the U of C, saying he was expected to assume duties on campus as of July 2. Bowal stayed in Washington.

"I wanted to finish off my fellowship, which did not end until August--it was a 12 month term, and had been approved," Bowal explained. "I had no reason to be in Calgary, no graduate students to supervise on return, no classes until November. It was better to research in Washington, where I had special access and privileges to the Library of Congress because of the fellowship."

On July 17, 2002, Bowal was sent a letter regarding his termination of employment, signed by then acting provost and vice-president academic Dr. J. Frideres, for failing to return to campus without approved leave. Included in the letter was a statement of assessment to repay approximately $50,000 in wages to the university.

When asked about the letter, Frideres was hesitant.

"I wouldn't have been involved in that," he said. "My mandate was not at the personnel level and I did not deal with hiring or firing. I do vaguely remember [the letter], but I'm not sure about its content, or the circumstances I signed it."

Bowal was more forthright.

"I was suddenly and retroactively terminated, for no purpose," he affirmed. "No one spoke to me about what had happened. I believe that this whole thing has been in retaliation for a report I made years ago about a colleague's conflict of interest. It's about showing me who is boss. [My family and I] were in the United States, left vulnerable. There was a newborn who needed vaccinations, another with an infection, and we were left with seemingly no health benefits."

Upon receipt of the letter, Bowal attempted to contact the provost and vice-president academic but claimed he was refused contact via phone or fax. His lawsuit alleges that it was only after current associate vice-president human resources Sandy Repic made unilateral decisions to change his leave to time off without pay, that he was permitted resumption of his position.

"I was forced to sign [a new agreement] to save my job," Bowal acknowledged. "It was completely outside procedures and practices. There was no cause, no justifiable reason for it. Other faculty members have been permitted years of leaves from campus after time on sabbatical."

Bowal then quit the fellow- ship to return to Calgary.

"They made me come back for no reason," he added. "I had no office, computer, email, or keys. I was left to wander around campus."

Bowal is now asking for the lost salary for the 2001-2002 school year, which had been deemed leave without pay and other small bills, which total approximately $7,400.

"I've tried to settle with them, right up to the day before the hearing," said Bowal. "Instead, it's going through the courts, costing hours of work and thousands of dollars. Your tuition is being spent on high-priced law firms."

International law firm Macleod Dixon is representing the University of Calgary. Legal costs annually are not reflected in university financial statements.

Other U of C staff, including Repic, acting Haskayne School of Business dean Vernon Jones, and general counsel for the university Linda Barry-Hollowell declined to speak about the suit or make comment.

"They certainly have a funny way of engendering loyalty among faculty," Bowal said. "I've tried talking to people, sending messages to Dr. Bond, to President Weingarten. No one will talk to me. It doesn't exactly contribute to recruitment and retention."

There have been further actions against Bowal stemming from the dispute. A letter from Haskayne School of Business dean David Saunders contested the stipend Bowal had received for the fellowship. It was later allowed under section 16.18 of the collective agreement with the Faculty Association.

U of C Faculty Association president Anton Colijn, had no comment on the situation.

"We treat contacts between faculty and the association very confidentially," he said.

Colijn did add, "I work very closely with university administration. By and large, our relations with administration are very good."

Bowal was further issued a counselling letter in December of 2002 accusing him of "insubordination and lack of judgement" by Saunders, approximately a week prior to Saunder's own resignation from the U of C.

"The real story is that it's important to do what you say you do," explained Bowal. "The gap between what the university says and what it does is huge. The retaliation is so deep and personal here."

When asked about why he remains on at the U of C, Bowal is candid.

"It's important to fight for what is right--it's a principle," he said. "I've been here for 15 years, I've worked hard, and I'm settled here with a family and five kids."

"Do this if you care about students, about teaching and learning," he said.

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Comments

I took the advanced busines law from Peter in 2004. One of my favourite professors at Haskayne. Didn't know he went through this at the time.

Took Peter's Law course (part of my MBA program) at the U of C. Phenomenal teacher!
I graduated a few years ago but kept in touch with him - he has always been very helpful in many situations when I needed advice.

His international activity is, in my opinion, very beneficial to the U of C and to us, the students.

This article stunned me. I am surprised that the U of C chose silence over dialogue.

A friendly reminder for those who gun for other people: sooner or later the truth comes out.

It takes a brave person to fight a battle like this - well, Peter is your man!

I am shocked at this University's approach and treatment of Dr. Bowal. I have known him for years at various academic conferences and he is known for his scholarship, ethics, values, and professionalism. To say that U of C is wrong in this case is an understatment! The international press should run with this story of how academic jealousies and petty politics undermine the very foundation of education. Shame on this university!

After reading this article, I could not find the right words to describe my disbelief and anger. Professor Peter Bowel has been one of the most inspiring professors I have ever had. I took his advance business law class in 2004 and I have always found that he is willing to go the extra mile for his students, hence the reason he has received so many teaching awards. I have kept in touch with Peter over the years and I found that his most enduring qualities was his ability to listen and provide advice if you ever needed it. He genuinely cared, which I canít say about some of the other professors. I donít understand how the administration can treat such a valuable faculty member so badly. He is an asset to the institution and student alike. I am rooting for Peter 100%!

Peter Bowal is one my most respected colleagues. Moreover, he has had two Fulbright grants, in addition to the Fellowship from the Supreme Court of the United States, both among the very most prestigious of all academic grants.

As an American employment lawyer, I am appalled at the vindictiveness apparent in the actions taken by University of Calgary, and I am confident that Peter will prevail. I am personally very proud to have Peter among my friends. He deserves respect and accolades taking legal action against an unlawful, immoral, and unjustified abuse of authority. Most of us would not have such strong principles.

I have know Peter Bowal in a professional capacity for at least ten years. This story is disturbing and distressing. There are few more conscientious, good-humored, and--if I may say--sweet-tempered people in my professional experience.

There are always two sides to every story. Peter has told his side and offered an (unflattering) explanation for the impolite behavior on the other side. Perhaps there's more to the story. I hope all of us who admire Peter will be able to hear it.

Daniel M. Warner

I had the privilege of meeting Professor Bowel and am extremely upset about the highly suspicious treatment he received during his University approved sabbatical. At all times he remained a most impressive, honorable and intellectually astute Professor. I cannot underscore enough the due diligence he showed while teaching at this University.

The retroactive unilateral change in the terms and conditions of his temporary leave betray faculty/university relations, and further demonstrate an injury to the student body as a whole.

Professor Bowel's attempts to settle the matter ultimately speaks volumes of this most unfortunate episode.

Thanks for the comments, but why not send a letter to the editor instead: gauntlet@ucalgary.ca

The administration U of C seems to have put the laws of natural justice on hold.

Dr. Bowal is a distinguished educator and lawyer. He has suffered injustice at the hands of power. Arbitrary treatment such as this can never be tolerated or justified.

We should all support and encourage Dr. Bowal as he seeks justice.

I have been a student of Peter Bowal's more than once and can tell you he is one the Haskayne School of Business' top professors, if not the best!

I find it disgusting the university is gagged and won't comment? Have they nothing to say in their defence? If Peter's comments are false why not try and disprove them? This is a black eye on our already battered university.

I have known Peter as a friend for many years and can attest to his sterling character. I earned two degrees at the University of Calgary many years ago and can also attest to the fact that the institution was rife with unpleasant politics at that time too. Unfortunately, the U of C is hardly atypical in this regard. Petty egos, professional jealousies and mind-numbing political correctness pervade the ethos of far too many universities.

I've had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of such small-mindedness and bigotry myself on more than one occasion. So much so that I finally gave up on the academy and took refuge in a think tank environment. I now spend my days among like-minded folk who not only let me pursue my research in peace, but collaborate with me in mutually rewarding intellectual endeavors.

I recognize and honor your desire to fight the good fight, Peter, but when it's over and you've won as you should, perhaps a position at a think tank with a suitably conservative bent will be in the offing. If it is, I encourage you to take it. Your accomplishments deserve to be rewarded and celebrated and it's obvious that those who've been making your professional life a living hell lack both the character and the intellect to do so.

My best wishes to you. If I can ever do something to help, please contact me - you know where I can be reached.

BLG

I was a student of Professor Bowal's in 1998 and I was inspired by his teaching methods. Since that time I have kept in contact with him because he is a honourable and professional man. I feel that Professor Bowal would not have taken any actions against the U of C if he was not convinced that his actions were justified. I have been proud to say I am a U of C graduate and I hope that I can continue being proud.

I will re-state that. Peter Bowal is the best professor in the Haskayne School of Business!

We pay the university's bills and they owe us an explanation. What a culture of secrecy and entitlement, they remind me of The Liberal government! Why will the not comment on the case? And the only ass pirate that would can't even remember the facts.

My tuition is being squandered as the university plays Law and Order unsuccesfully, this is serious bullshit!

I find the treatment of Dr Bowal and the lack of support of faculty members to be incomprehensible. I must commend Peter for his defense of his and all faculty membersí rights and principles.

I do not understand how a teacher as brilliant as Peter can be treated so shamefully. His achievements should be shouted from the mountain tops instead of hidden, as the U of C appears to prefer. Peter should be treated in awe, instead of persecuted. Shame on you, U of C administration!

I have known Prof. Bowal for over 7 years now. He has been nothing but a complete professional in my dealings with him. There is certainly not a unethical or untoward bone in his body. The university is clearly in the wrong legally, but more importantly, ethically in this issue. I hope they do the right thing quickly and end this mess.

I have known Peter Bowal for almost 30 years and can only say that he is an honest, straight man

I assume that the Faculty Association has not done anything given the Presidentís no comment. The fact that the Faculty Association enjoys ìrelations with the administration [which] are very goodî suggests that the good relations may have more importance for the Faculty Association than fighting for a member who is facing a bureaucracy with no conscience and little accountability.

I too have known Peter for some time and know him to be an honest, hard-working, solid citizen, both in the university and in the larger community. It appears that Peter is guilty of not grovelling in subservient humility to the powers who think they be by refusing to accept bureaucratic nonsense.

The real irony is that the Haskayne School of Business only needs to look in an OB text or an HR text to figure out the problem. Obviously they forgot to consult the materials that they teach! For that, they deserve an ìFî.

Go get them Peter!

Peter was the worst professor of my life. He was boring and did not care about the progress of the students. I think the University is correct in letting an instructor go that is not meeting the requirements of the students.