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Professor's termination challenged

Teachers' union censuring U of M, health authority

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/4/2010 (3829 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canada's national union of university professors has begun the extremely rare process of censuring both the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) alleges U of M fired Dr. Larry Reynolds from his position as a tenured professor of family medicine two years ago without just cause or due process.

If U of M does not restore Reynolds to his job by November, CAUT will actively discourage academic staff in Canada and internationally from accepting appointments at U of M and the WRHA, or from accepting invitations to participate in academic conferences at the two institutions.

It's the first time in 31 years that CAUT has taken the extraordinary measure of censuring a major research university.

"They terminated him altogether. Tenure is not a guarantee of a job for life, it's a guarantee you can't be dismissed without just cause and due process," CAUT executive director Jim Turk said from Ottawa.

Reynolds' lawyer Garth Smorang said Reynolds is "in active discussions" with the university and health authority, and will not comment.

U of M public affairs director John Danakas said the university would not break privacy rules on a personnel matter. He acknowledged U of M has met repeatedly with CAUT.

"The university is prepared to stand behind its position. The university does not believe the story, as related by CAUT, represents a fair and accurate account of the situation," Danakas said. "Bias was present from the beginning of the CAUT investigation."

He would not elaborate.

WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham said the authority shares U of M's position, adding, "CAUT represents universities -- the WRHA is not a university."

Turk said CAUT launched an investigative committee composed of three senior physicians/professors of medicine, after Reynolds' five-year term as head of family medicine was not renewed. The focus shifted when Reynolds was dropped entirely by the faculty of medicine, Turk said.

"They've never asserted he's not a competent physician -- he continues to practise medicine" in emergency departments in Winnipeg, said Turk.

Turk said CAUT made a final appeal in February at a meeting that included U of M president David Barnard, then-CEO of the WRHA Dr. Brian Postl -- he becomes the dean of medicine this summer -- and other high-level officials. They wouldn't budge, said Turk.

"We don't understand their intransigence. Why they're taking such a hard line on this continues to mystify us," Turk said.

The ongoing saga is full of rare events. In November 2008, WRHA vice-president Dr. Brock Wright told the Free Press in an interview that Reynolds was dropped because of a poor job performance review. Public institutions almost never talk publicly about personnel issues.

"He did have a tendency sometimes to take his concerns directly to the minister, directly to the government, without letting us know in advance that he was doing so," Wright said. "That's not really appropriate for someone in an administrative role -- they're expected to bring their concerns right to us."

The health authority vice-president said multiple performance reviews unearthed problems with Reynolds' leadership and concluded he wasn't a "team player," and raised concerns about his ability to work with others.

CAUT's investigation quoted Postl as saying that tenure in the faculty of medicine depends on funding, and is different than tenure everywhere else in a university.

Not so, responded Turk.

Reynolds previously told reporters he was removed from his administrative post because he spoke out about the concerns of family doctors and publicly opposed the closing of the obstetrics unit at Victoria General Hospital in 2004.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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