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Felix to sue over university sacking

Felix Bethel

Felix Bethel

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE University of The Bahamas has fired Professor Felix Bethel, setting the stage for a potentially ugly legal battle. Mr Bethel, scheduled to teach a class last Saturday, was denied entry to the university’s Michael Eldon Complex.

He returned on Monday with union representatives only to face seven police officers who denied him entry again. His lawyer, Wayne Munroe, QC, intends to file a trade dispute alleging wrongful and unfair dismissal. Mr Munroe said he would also file an action declaring breach of the Employment Act. He said a defamation claim could follow. The 69-year-old professor was denied the chance to clear out his office, he said. The university wrote that it will send his items in packages, behaviour Mr Munroe considers defamatory.

Mr Munroe said he may seek as much as $250,000 in damages for his client.

The reason for Mr Bethel’s dismissal was unclear yesterday. His termination letter did not provide a cause, according to Mr Munroe. The university issued a statement that said: “The University’s Office of the General Counsel has advised that the university offers no comments in the public domain on any matter involving the confidential contractual affairs of a former employee.”

Some students have been alarmed by the sudden events. One wrote on Facebook: “So for my (Politics) 313 Monday & Wednesday Felix Bethel 6pm-7pm class. We really just about to accept this? No explanation. No warning. No nothing (sic).”

Observers have speculated Mr Bethel’s dismissal springs from a highly-publicised controversy involving a student who accused him last year of making indecent comments about her body during a class.

But Mr Bethel said to his knowledge no official investigation was ever launched into that matter; Mr Munroe said the matter is not referenced in the termination letter.

The professor of 45 years is known for brashness. He prides himself on bluntness that some may find offensive. Yesterday, he said the university’s top two officials, President Rodney Smith and Provost Linda Davis, have longtime personal grievances with him which he feels led to his termination. 

He recalled being a prominent critic who called for the firing of Dr Smith during a plagiarism controversy that culminated in Dr Smith’s resignation in 2005. However, he said the pair repaired their relationship in 2014 when Dr Smith returned as university president. 

He said relations between them frayed last year when he requested financial support from the university for an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s death. 

“I went to Rodney David Smith,” he said. “I said ‘brother, the PLP’s victory of April 1968 coincided with King’s assassination in April 1968. This an opportunity to be a part of a great celebration.’ ‘Bethel that’s a great idea,’ he said, ‘a great idea.’ He said put together a budget. We did. We got zero, zero, nothing from him and it hurt me but with the help of Philip Stubbs, pastor at St Michael’s Methodist Church, we did a celebration, a service of thanksgiving for the life and witness of Martin Luther King Jr.

“When they asked me to speak at the event, I’ll tell you what I said, I said ‘ladies and gentlemen and brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to thank Rodney David Smith for all that he has done and all that he has not done to make this event the success that it has been today. That was blow number one. I also said, ‘beloved, I have to share with you one little secret, I am the real president of the University of the Bahamas. I can show my face anywhere in the world, thank you very much.’”

That event was broadcast live on ZNS, and Mr Bethel believes it upset Dr Smith.

Mr Bethel said his issues with Ms Davis go back to 2003 when he was accused and charged with “making threats of death” against her.

That year he became incensed about being denied increments and he held her responsible, he said. The pair argued about it. He recalled a verbal attack he launched against her but denied using threatening language. 

“I went through the court system for two years,” he said, “at great cost financially and to my health, which eventually ended with a nolle prosequi.”

The Tribune asked him about the woman who accused him of making indecent comments in class. He could not say if the university investigated the matter. But he said not long after the claims surfaced, the president’s office sent him a letter indicating the university found a technicality with his contract: he did not sign one for the upcoming year. He said he was nonetheless scheduled to teach classes this term.

The current circumstances have left him with little desire to return to the university as a lecturer, he said. The university offered him $69,000 for the period from January to July. A father of 20 children, he found this tempting, he said. However, he said he has decided to seek more money to which he believes he is entitled. 

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 6 months ago

Has anyone noticed that we now have a growing cadre of lawyers who recognize that suing our dumb FNM or PLP led governments (including all government-related enterprises) is a sure win situation and most lucrative livelihood (?!) And that millions of our tax dollars, i.e. the tax dollars of honest and hard working Bahamians, are being transferred annually to the coffers of these lawyers who know they are assured a win for their clients whenever they go up against our dumb governments (?!!!) LMAO

DDK 5 years, 6 months ago

Funny, Mudda, I was just thinking the same thing. Law suits are becoming extremely popular :)

sheeprunner12 5 years, 6 months ago

In 45 years ........... is there no one who he has mentored to assume his post ......... so he can retire and die in peace?????? .......... He needs a lot of God's grace and mercy for his deeds.

BahamasForBahamians 5 years, 6 months ago

His mentees were smart enough to not settle for UB's undervalued compensation

hrysippus 5 years, 6 months ago

Did I read correctly that this man has fathered 20 children? How many of these children are illegitimate? How did he find the time to seduce so many women while holding down a full time job as a lecturer (lecherer?) at COB. I wonder where he first met all these women who fell under hhis charm? And how did he manage to pay for all that wooing on the relatively small salary paid by COB, later UB? I want to know his secrets so I can learn how to become so successful in the fatherhood stakes.

Sickened 5 years, 6 months ago

I can only shake my head, then laugh, then sigh!

birdiestrachan 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr: Bethel deserves respect. Show this man the respect due to him.

ohdrap4 5 years, 6 months ago

LET US JUST RESPECT HIM IN THE SAME VITRIOLIC MANNER HE RESPECTS OTHERS

DEDDIE 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Bethel was my professor when I attended COB several decades ago. He is a bit brash but his classes were some of the most exciting and intriguing classes I ever attended. I doubt he has much of a case due to the fact that his contract is year to year. That is usually the case after you pass sixty-five. My concern is the fact that the government and its entities have very little savvy in the way they get rid of people. What you do is tell them you are giving them a retirement/vacation cruise and that a ceremony will be held to celebrate there tenure at the end of the school year.

licks2 5 years, 6 months ago

Told to go and did want to leave. . .ya think? This happens in public services all the time. . .

joeblow 5 years, 6 months ago

This man has had sex at least 20 times?? Wow!

hrysippus 5 years, 6 months ago

SLowblow, he short man too.

Sickened 5 years, 6 months ago

Is he the same guy by Saunders Beach who does that one arm salute as cars go by? I thought he was a homeless man... come to find out he's a university professor!

geostorm 5 years, 6 months ago

Lawd what a time in Bahamaland! The man says he has 20 children! @Sickened, I am with you......."I can only shake my head, then laugh, then sigh!". ........and then LAUGH again!

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 6 months ago

And just think how much of our scarce conch this man must have eaten to produce the 20 children he knows about, not too mention all the other ones he can't remember or doesn't know anything about !!!! LMAO

pablojay 5 years, 6 months ago

I understand why he is supported by Birdie. My daughter came home from one of his classes saying that he must have been a diehard PLP . In the class he taught political science in The Bahamas for the years 1967-1992 and after 2002 as he deemed the Ingraham Administration foolishness,calling 1992-2002," The Yap Yap Years".

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