U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Monday, December 31, 2007

Friends of Burma Requests that Ottawa U revise wall panel dedicated to Paul Desmarais

(Press Release, Ottawa, Canadian Friends of Burma, December 11, 2007)

The Canadian Friends of Burma urges the University of Ottawa to immediately revise the huge wall panel dedicated to the life and work of Paul Desmarais located on the university campus. The University must include information regarding Mr. Desmarias serving on the Board of Directors of Total, the French energy giant which operates a gas pipeline in Burma in partnership with Burma’s violent military dictatorship. The panel dedicated to Mr. Desmarais is on the ground floor of a new building at the university named after the billionaire. Mr. Demasrais, patriarch of the family that controls Power Corp donated $15 million to the University of Ottawa, the funds were used for the construction of the 12 storey Desmarais building.

Although the wall panel recounts in great detail Mr. Desmarais’s life there is no mention of his involvement with Total. Mr. Desmarias, served on the board of the French oil conglomerate from January 1999 till May 2002 when he gave his seat to his son Paul Desmarais Jr who continues to sit on the board. At present Power Corp. controls the largest shareholder in Total, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) a Belgium based holding company that owns a 3.9% stake in Total.

Total is infamous for its operations in Burma in which it partnered with the Burmese military and UNOCAL to construct and then operate the Yadana natural gas pipeline. The Burmese military forcibly relocated villagers from their land to make way for the pipeline. During the relocation the villagers were raped, tortured and killed. The Burmese military forced villagers to construct infrastructure for the pipeline including helicopter landing pads and barracks for the soldiers.

Over the eight years that Power Corp has controlled the largest shareholder in Total, both the Desmrais family and Power Corp have repeatedly declined to comment on Total’s activities in Burma. Refusing to even acknowledge the controversy surrounding Total’s operations in Burma is an insult to the thousands of people in Burma who suffered greatly at the hands of Burma’s military government so Total could make a profit.

A French Parliamentary mission that investigated the pipeline concluded in October 1999 that

“The mission judges that the link between the military presence, the acts of violence against the populations and the forced labor is established as a fact. Total had to be aware of that fact.”

The Parliamentary Inquiry added

“It seems artificial to separate the construction of the pipeline which required the hiring of qualified labor and considerable technical means from the measures taken by the Burmese regime to ensure its safety. . . These security measures were what generated forced labor and population displacements in the area”.

A February 1st 1996 memo from Total Business Development Manager Hervé Chagnoux to UNOCAL substantiates the claim that Total paid Burma’s military to provide security and also suggests that Total was well aware of the use of forced labour,

“As far as forced labour used by the soldiers in charge of security on our gas pipeline project is concerned, we must admit between ourselves, TOTAL and Unocal, that we’re probably in a grey area.”

Natural Gas exports are by far the largest source of revenue for Burma’s military Junta. Total’s operations alone have annually provided the military dictatorship with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue (some estimates are as much as US$450 million). Rather than spend the revenues on education or badly needed humanitarian supplies Burma’s generals continue to use their new found wealth to reinforce their own position by buying millions of dollars worth of weapons from China. These weapons are used to terrorize the population and kill scores of innocent people.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of Burma’s democratic opposition Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly criticized Total for its harmful presence in Burma. She told Le Monde newspaper “Total has become the main supporter of the Burmese military regime.”

For a detailed description of the human rights abuses committed during the construction of the Yadana pipeline please read the 2000 Report issued by Earth Rights International called Total Denial Continues.

Also see the February 2005 Report by The Burma Campaign UK called “Total Oil: Fueling the Repression in Burma

145 Spruce St. Suite 206
Ottawa, ON K1R 6P1
Tel: 613.237.8056
Fax: 613.563.0017

UofOWatch Comment:

U of O President Gilles Patry’s astonishing response to a December 11, 2007, public request to acknowledge these facts is described HERE.

Given a second occasion to respond, Patry explained that the $15 million Desmarais donation was a “personal gift” to the university.

Paul Desmarais is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a member of the Privy Council.

“As a university we have an obligation to provide people with the skills and understanding they need to take their place in the world. Because of our unique position in Ottawa and in Canada, the University of Ottawa has an opportunity to cultivate leaders showing what true Canadian leadership looks like …”

[Photo: Detail of the Demarais bio wall panel in the Demarais Building, University of Ottawa.]

Saturday, December 29, 2007

U of O Apologises for Dean’s 2005 Outburst

In a classic case of a hierarchical institution’s suppression of an employee’s rights and freedoms, the University of Ottawa continues a campaign against Professor Denis Rancourt based on bogus disciplinary investigations and unfounded disciplinary charges.

To date this has included a dozen or so charges that have all been overturned, dropped, or grieved. Grievances typically take two years to be judged. Several of the early charges and their outcomes were reported HERE and HERE. The first grievance arbitration hearings were reported HERE. Some of the ancillary pettiness is described HERE.
It is therefore important to report the cases as they are concluded. The present report gives the final outcome concerning a dean’s 2005 in-class intervention that was at least partly motivated by Israel-Lobby sentiment: LINK.

In September 2005, at the second class of term, Dr. Christian Detellier, dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa, barged into physics professor Denis Rancourt’s Physics and the Environment course to cancel the class and supposedly to save the students from a perceived threat of great harm from being exposed to activism and to a democratic pedagogical method.

There was strong student protest against the dean’s action (SEE LETTERS), which lead to the class immediately being reinstated, as reported in the media: HERE and HERE.

Rancourt formally grieved the dean’s in-class intervention on October 12, 2005, thereby requesting an apology addressed to him and to all the students who were subjected to the disruption and an assurance that the university would take steps to avoid such outbursts by its executives in the future.

The grievance was followed by several contrived disciplinary attacks against Rancourt which were later dropped by the university despite Rancourt’s requests that they be pursued in order to clarify their merit.

The university fought the grievance for two years but then offered a settlement at the last hour, just before the hearings for another grievance case with Rancourt were about to commence. Had the university not settled, the dean’s in-class intervention would have been part of the investigation that was about to start on November 5, 2007. Consequently, the circumstances, impact, and nature of the dean’s in-class tantrum would have been more fully investigated and judged and could have had more significant bearing on the second case.

The university first tried to propose a secret settlement with a non-disclosure clause but this was flatly rejected by Rancourt’s union (the APUO) after Rancourt intervened. The dean’s in-class intervention had been a public display and the apology needed to be public.

A more suitable settlement text was negotiated between the university and the union. Rancourt rejected this text because it was not a strongly enough worded apology; it was not directed to the students, who suffered most of the consequences of the dean’s actions; and it did not present sufficient guarantees that this could not reoccur.

Despite Rancourt’s objections, the APUO ratified the settlement and justified their position to Rancourt as follows (in a letter from APUO’s president Atef Fahim):

“the Executive [of the APUO] felt that the employer’s statement reflects a commitment about interventions in the classroom that is beneficial to members generally, and does not imply that Prof. Rancourt’s specific situation justified intervention. It felt that the employer’s acknowledgement strengthens academic freedom. Clearly the employer is acknowledging that the classroom intervention was wrong. The employer’s statement is an admission of wrongdoing and a statement of regret over what they have done, and should be considered an apology.”

It appears we must conclude that the settlement is as close to justice as it is possible to achieve in the university context in practice. It also appears that deans don’t apologise to students.

It is interesting to contrast this settlement with the dean’s initial comments to the media that he “followed proper procedure” and that “a few, I can’t name you a number, but a few” students had complained about the course. The recent arbitration hearings established that there had only ever been a single student complaint and that the dean’s action was not based on this student complaint. Did the dean lie?


Back in 2005, at the third class of term, when the course (which was popularly known as the activism course) was reinstated and allowed to proceed as planned by Rancourt, a student asked dean Detellier if he had learned anything from the events which his actions had precipitated. Detellier replied that it was too soon to tell and that he would answer this question later. The dean never did answer the student’s question. Maybe now it would be possible to formulate an answer?
[Photo: Detail of a 20-metre wall poster made by the students of the 2005 course at an end-of-the-year party.]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Student Appeal Centre Report Exposes Systemic Abuse at U of O

The first ever report of the Student Appeal Centre of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) gives the university administration and its executive an unqualified F.

The report was recently made public and describes a tyrannical administration imposing one-sided rules apparently designed to deprive students of both normal due process and unbiased treatment when contesting and appealing arbitrary and life-changing academic decisions made by professors, program directors, and deans.

In the words of the report:

“The most serious appeal cases are the ones related to intimidation, discrimination and unethical behaviour by professors or administrators […] Very rarely are these cases taken seriously nor are they handled respectfully.”

Place of higher learning? The report describes unimaginable regulatory circumstances that would be exemplary in a totalitarian state:

> complete absence of a policy against intimidation and (non-sexual) harassment of undergraduate students,

> professor’s testimony taken at its word versus required proof for student,

> strict deadlines at all stages for students versus no deadlines for the administration,

> cursory treatments and arbitrary case outcome decisions that depend more on who are making the decisions rather than the merits of the cases,

> a secret Senate Appeals Committee that will not identify its members or its chairperson, not even which academic units they represent, and

> terse final appeal decisions provided without documented rulings referring to the evidence or any indication of the grounds for the decisions.

Whereas 11 out of 15 recent cases to the Senate Appeals Committee were believed to be strong enough to win unambiguously, only 2 out of 15 cases won their appeals. The great majority of students, of course, do not take their cases all the way up to a final appeal, given the time, financial resources, and preparation that this requires.

All this is in sharp contrast to Canada’s university’s Vision 2010 mission statement and strategic plan which trumpets a “students first” self image.

The report concludes:

“For years, the Centre and its students have silently and obediently followed the rules and appeal process imposed by the administration. This simply does not work. It’s time for a change.”

The report is dedicated to the Centre’s students “who fought for fair treatment and who told us that ‘people have to know about this.’
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Friday, December 7, 2007

U of O limits access and arrests community members to block threatening agenda items

Today (December 6, 2007) campus democracy has attained new heights at the University of Ottawa.

Two community members were arrested and all community members and all non-Faculty of Science students were barred from attending a normally public Faculty of Science Council meeting so that certain agenda items would not be discussed.

The dean of the Faculty of Science, André E. Lalonde, has used a process technicality to motion offensive agenda items off the agenda. This Code Morin technicality, which allows a vote without discussion, is traditionally reserved to remove insignificant agenda items.

One agenda item in question, to create a second-year activism course, was significant enough for 300 students to sign a petition in its support, for the university to use City of Ottawa police “services” to arrest community members on bogus trespassing charges, and for all Faculty Council meetings in the last year to be cancelled over it.

Such is the twisted logic of a dean’s understanding of democracy and collegiality, at a university that, in its Vision 2010 mission statement, calls for increased community participation in its governance, and at which its president celebrates the importance of activism in his letters to community members condemning the cancellation of the popular first-year activism course.

So the dean has cancelled a fourth Faculty Council meeting in a row. As a result, there has not been a regular Faculty Council meeting in over one year and academic program development has come to a stand still.

A short history of cancelled meetings…

> April 5, 2007: Dean cancels meeting because student Council member Severin Stojanovic persistently complaints about dean’s illegitimate veto of his agenda item to consider approval of a second-year activism course. Meeting lasts 20 minutes.

> May 22, 2007: Dean cancels meeting because community member and independent reporter Karen Dawe refuses to stop video taping the proceedings. Meeting lasts 5 minutes. (Dawe was arrested by City of Ottawa police today, outside the Council meeting room.)

Stojanovic spearheads a campaign to have the Faculty By-Laws respected by the dean. VP-Academic, Robert Major, intervenes twice to claim that dean’s veto is legitimate. Administrative Committee claims that it has no power to force the dean to follow Faculty bylaws in running Council meetings.

> November 6, 2007: Dean cancels meeting after Stojanovic complains that proper process was not followed, that would allow new agenda items to be proposed. Meeting lasts 0 minutes.

Community member Jane Scharf legally submits an agenda item to discuss adding five community member representatives to the 40 or so member Faculty Council. The item is refuted without valid reason. (Scharf was arrested by City of Ottawa police today, outside the Council meeting room.)

New student Faculty Council member Daniel Cayley-Daoust submits an agenda item to discuss why the first-year activism course was not offered in the fall 2007 term.

> December 6, 2007: Dean has now added Stojanovic’s agenda item but the item is immediately motioned off the agenda as meeting begins. Stojanovic objects. Dean cancels meeting after Stojanovic refuses to leave the room. Meeting lasts 15 minutes.

Physics professor Denis Rancourt was to present the activism course item to Council and objected to this “dirty trick” being used to filter out unwanted agenda items (while being surprised that it took the dean eight months to decide to use a Code Morin procedural tactic to his ends rather than blatantly ignore the Faculty By-Laws). The dean would not let Rancourt make his point about misuse of the Code and instead asked Rancourt to leave. Rancourt used his academic collegial right to stay and make his point.

As the 2010 of Vision 2010 approaches at Canada’s university, we must wonder what the next Faculty Council meeting has in store for us. It does not look promising, as none of the tenured professor Council members saw anything anomalous in illegitimately invoking a Code Morin technicality to remove rather than discuss student and community supported agenda items…

Yet another milestone in applied democracy at the U of O!
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Students need to be protected from freedom – U of O Legal Council explains

The November 26, 2007, closing arguments in the labour law arbitration case of activist professor Denis Rancourt vs. the University of Ottawa greatly clarified the university position.

Legal Council for the university, Michelle Flaherty, backed by university HR officer Louise Pagé-Valin and ex-dean of science Christian Detellier, pleaded for the university discipline against Rancourt to be upheld. The arbitrator’s decision is expected within a month or more.

Flaherty explained that [despite the letter of reprimand’s profuse insinuations regarding Rancourt’s alleged subversion of course content] the discipline was limited only to Rancourt having allegedly advertised the course (PHY 1703, Fall 2005; required course in Environmental Studies, ES) on the web in a manner not consistent with the official Senate-approved course description.

Of particular concern to the university, were Rancourt’s uses of the words “new,” “bilingual,” and the use of an informal alternative title stressing activism.

This appears to be the first time that a university professor is disciplined for the manner in which she has advertised or promoted one of her courses, as Flaherty stated having found no relevant case law.

Flaherty argued that the discipline should be upheld because students needed to be protected from false advertisement; as this was unfair, irresponsible, confusing for students, and could have serious implications in students’ lives. Flaherty cited the university’s mandatory duty to protect students no less than six times in her approximately 90-minute presentation.

The executive members of the ES Student Association who unanimously endorsed the course were not consulted or allowed to testify, nor were any of the 87 registered students, or any of the more than 600 students who signed petitions to create more courses like the one given by Rancourt in 2005; nor were any of the related documents allowed to be submitted into evidence, by Rancourt’s union that wanted only “relevant” items.

Flaherty read out what the university considers the most damning elements of Rancourt’s “advertisement” as follows:

“The idea is that students will be able to follow their own interests and largely determine class content and direction, via a participatory democracy town hall-type process.”

“The course will largely be administered by a process called "participatory democracy" (PD). This means that the students themselves can (democratically and by consensus) decide on much of the course content, methods, invited speakers, class activities, readings, etc. All such decisions can be revisited periodically and the course curriculum and administration can be adjusted as we go. This means that the course can be greatly tailored to the needs and interests of the students.”

and explained that, therefore, dean Detellier had no way to guarantee that the students would learn science. (*)

Flaherty’s facial expression said it all: “You see. It was going all to hell…!”

There you have it.

That’s what it’s all about: Control, this notion that you can force students to learn. And that the university has a duty to force students to “learn what’s good for them.” And if we have to discipline our professors to understand this, then we will!

Who needs pedagogical research? We have PhDs.

[Photo credits: Ottawa IndyMedia]

(*) This allegedly stressed the dean to the point of performing an in-class tantrum at the second class of term, for which the university has since apologized in writing, just days before the start of the arbitration.


Israel Lobby elephant in the room
Did the dean lie?
52 profs complain about Rancourt
Academic squatting
Rancourt barred from all courses

Thursday, November 1, 2007

VP-Academic Robert Major explains gender equity and representative democracy

In a recent issue of the student newspaper The Fulcrum U of O VP-Academic Robert Major explained gender hiring equity at the U of O: “But is it that appealing for women to be working 24 hours, seven days a week as the president does? These jobs are time-consuming. Women have family issues and many personal responsibilities.”

So we learn that President Patry has a 168 hour work week. This may explain the President’s recent written decision to refuse sign-language interpretation services to hearing-impaired hopeful participants of the Ottawa Cinema Politica, a film and discussion series offered by the University as a service to the community?

In the same week, VP Major explained one of the finer points of university democracy to graduate student Severin Stojanovic.

Stojanovic was first told in writing by the Secretary of the University Pamela Harrod that neither the University Senate nor its Board of Governors had jurisdiction to intervene when a dean repeatedly violates his faculty’s By-Laws in running (chairing) the Faculty Council. Stojanovic therefore asked the Faculty of Science Dean’s direct supervisor, Mr. Major, to intervene.

Major replied by explaining in writing that it was OK for the dean to violate faculty By-Laws as long as Faculty Council members approved by voting down any complaints about such violations. He added that this was obvious; that the student’s request was “frivolous and vexatious,” with the entire Council in cc.

Dean of Science André Lalonde has repeatedly applied an ad hoc veto of Council member Stojanovic’s agenda item proposing that the possible creation of a second year activism course be discussed. A third attempt to hold a Faculty Council meeting without the Stojanovic agenda item is scheduled for Tuesday November 6th.

A student on-line petition calls for the forced resignations of Lalonde, Major, and Patry for their roles in barring the first year activism course.
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

U of O executives spontaneously develop psychological evaluation capabilities

The dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa, Mr. André E. Lalonde, has sent physics professor Denis G. Rancourt a letter stating that:

“The University of Ottawa has developed some concerns regarding your physical and mental well-being. Would you kindly advise if you require or may require accommodation measures under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

Should accommodation measures be necessary, please provide us with information which sets out what accommodation measures are needed.”

See letter HERE. (Click “PDF” in the left column.)

The “University of Ottawa” means the Board of Governors but in this case we can take it to mean the university’s top executives and the dean himself, presumably.

UofOWatch notes that this newfound capability to perform psychological evaluations on the fly could be put to significant use for the betterment of humankind and in optimizing the management of the university…

Whereas it is difficult to remove tenured professors from their positions without actually demonstrating some deficiency, university executives could be removed via simple votes from the Board once cumbersome mental issues or operational deficiencies are surmised.

Accommodations could be made for some deans. For example, they could be asked not to make comments to the news media concerning delicate issues, or to show their communications to superiors and to university legal council before sending them off, or simply to let the executive manage their faculty labour relations issues. To be fair, maybe this has already been implemented in some faculties?

It is worth asking how and why it was the University of Ottawa that has lead the way with this breakthrough in executive development, so that other institutions of higher learning might follow suit.

The possibilities for improved academic performance, given this hitherto undisclosed and underused ability to detect neural damage, are endless.

[Photo credit: University of Ottawa.]

Note: Dean André Lalonde appears to have developed the habit of taking down all of his personal web pages that UofOWatch has linked to its posts. UofOWatch will make every effort to mitigate this web rot problem.

YaYa comments the situation...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Politics and ethics are not physics – say U of O physicists

Physics professor Denis Rancourt was assigned to teach the 4th-year physics project course (PHY 4006) this fall. Each physics professor individually supervises one or more such projects in one of his (rarely her) areas of research.

Rancourt proposed the topic “Politics and ethics in the physics profession”, corresponding to one of his research areas.

Well, this caused quite a stir.

Although a professor’s topic selection has never previously been questioned, the project course coordinator, Professor Peter Piercy, decided that he could not decide and gave it to the Departmental Curriculum Committee (DCC).

Rancourt pointed out to the then chairman, Professor Richard Hodgson (retired in June), that the DCC did not have jurisdiction over course deliveries by individual professors. Nonetheless, the chairman scheduled a meeting to discuss Rancourt’s project. The DCC was split and decided it could not decide. Its members recommended that the question be brought to Departmental Council.

Rancourt pointed out to the new chairman, Professor Bela Joos, that the Departmental Council also did not have jurisdiction over an individual professor’s course delivery, because of a thing called rights, responsibilities, and academic freedom.

Joos agreed that neither the DCC nor the Departmental Council had jurisdiction here, but then argued, as follows, that all professors who teach PHY 4006 needed to approve Rancourt’s project:

The proposed project is neither physics nor science, so is not, in my opinion, acceptable. PHY4006 is the collective responsibility of Physics Faculty members. We have to ensure that the course fulfills its mission, that the projects are of comparable value and level of difficulty, and that the evaluation is fair. So, if a contentious project is proposed, we, as a group have to make a decision on it.

(Let’s democratically vote that slavery is OK…)

Rancourt then pointed out to chairman Joos that this was a load of crock that had nothing to do with the Collective Agreement or established academic rules and that courses don’t have unwritten “missions” (see long version elsewhere).

The chairman responded:

I stand by my earlier comments. PHY4006 Physics Research Project is a physics course in a Faculty of Science. It is common sense then that the project has to be physics, as a discipline of science and not social science. […] The course title says it all. The course description simply specifies that it has to be a project in a research group within the department as opposed to anywhere else in Ottawa or the country. Finally, your approach is not collegial. This is group teaching.

Group teaching or group think?

Rancourt next appealed to the dean of the Faculty of Science, Dr. André Lalonde, so that the dean might remind the chairman of this thing academic freedom and the rules and all that.

The dean only answered after being confronted in a meeting to do so, and his written reply was clear enough: “I support the opinion of the Chair of the Department.” The dean also repeated the stuff about this being a physics course, despite there being no such “physics content” restrictions in the rules.

In contrast, the physics profession officially recognizes that physicists can legitimately do research, as physicists, in areas that include: arms control; World Wide Web, internet; environmental regulations; social and economic systems; social organizations; anthropology; research in physics education; science and society; science and government; etc.

Most science and technology schools see a benefit to their graduates having been exposed to professional ethics and the social impacts of their work. No such course exists in the physics curriculum at U of O.

Rancourt has filed a grievance against the U of O in order to rectify his removal from PHY 4006. The letter of the grievance is posted HERE and the full grievance with letter and supporting documents (84 pages) is posted HERE.

Rancourt informed members of the physics department about the grievance. Professor James Harden responded to all physics professors this way:

Denis, The tone of this sounds like do things my way or there will be a lot of trouble for everyone. The closing comment "I hope this helps us to reconsider and discuss these important issues" assumes that your pet issues are automatically "important" to all. Many don't feel that way. Moreover, this sort of confrontational approach to the situation strikes me as distinctly selfish and lacking collegiality. Just my opinion. Jim”.

All other physics professors were silent.


Afterthought: A little birdie told UofOWatch that if Rancourt’s project had been “Military technology and weapons systems” (PACS 89.20.Dd) then the chairman and dean would not have had to “ensure that the course fulfills its mission”.



Thursday, August 9, 2007

U of O President confirms that VP-Resources lied and falsified, and agrees

The UofOWatch entry of July 21st described a mean-spirited affair in which U of O’s VP-Resources Victor Simon lied and falsified a document in attempting to justify his illegitimate reprimands and threats to two students who had dared to express their views on an academic matter, using campus email lists.

The students next individually wrote to President Gilles Patry to complain and to ask for reparations (rescinding the threats, apologies, etc.).

In his answers, the President confirms that Simon lied since he confirms that Simon provided “all documents” (only one, which is not a complaint to Simon’s office) whereas Simon had claimed several (in the plural) complaints addressed to his office.

In his answers, the President states that Simon indeed removed a paragraph from a document (that the student was entitled to see in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act of Ontario). The President confirms that Simon did this without informing the student. The President goes on to “explain” that this was justified because the paragraph in question was not something the university wanted to act upon…


The President put it this way: “The University did not consider taking any action regarding the final paragraph of the complainant’s email and it was on this basis that Mr. Simon did not include that information”.

The paragraph in question is highly incriminating for its author, Professor Vladimir Pestov, who suggests fabricating a case to remove student Jean-Paul Prévost from his PhD program of study, following the student’s first and only communication on an academic matter to a relevant academic unit email list. The paragraph in question de-legitimizes Pestov’s message and damages the credibility of his motives. Contrary to the President’s statement, it is entirely “relevant to the allegations concerning [your] misuse of University resources.”

The President concludes “I am satisfied that this matter was dealt with appropriately.”

The President also states to both students that he “has decided that the letter [Simon’s unfounded letters of reprimand and threat] is entirely appropriate and I will not take steps to retract it.” The President thereby goes on the record to condone and reinforce Simon’s original intimidation and harassment, and copies Simon to the entire exchange.

That’s how University Inc. (universities are legal corporations not answerable to the Ministry of Education) is run: By an unelected corporate executive that in practice answers to no one and that makes day to day self-preserving decisions about students’ lives without an oversight committee or an appeal process. There is no independent ombudsperson on campus and there is no policy that admits that the executives can mistreat students.

But it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

Epilogue: This means that, as it stands, both students are effectively barred from using the academic email lists for their legitimate committee work and collegial participation in university affairs, to the extent that their views will not be acceptable to the first enlightened academic who will scream “spam attack”.

Documents posted by student JP Prevost (in PDF, takes a few minutes to download)
Documents posted by student Severin Stojanovic (takes a few minutes to download)


[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lying and falsifying documents – All in a day’s work for U of O’s VP-Resources

You do what you have to do when it comes to suppressing the political freedoms of students.

Two physics graduate students at the University of Ottawa recently made the mistake of expressing their views regarding the pedagogical value of an activism course in the Faculty of Science.

Severin Stojanovic argued as a Faculty Council member that the possible creation of a second-year level activism course (SCI 2101) should be discussed at Council whereas Jean-Paul Prévost, having attended the first-year course (SCI 1101), explained the value of these courses to staff and student colleagues.

That was too much for several science professors who blasted the students. A certain professor Vladimir Pestov went so far as to ask the physics graduate chairman (now department chair Bela Joos) to bar the students from using faculty email lists and to consider ways that a case could be mounted to expel Prévost from the PhD program.

Joos faithfully forwarded these over-the-top complaints from Pestov to the dean of the Faculty of Science (André Lalonde) “for his information” without notifying the students. The dean’s office then forwarded these emails to VP-Resources Victor Simon, without written explanation and, again, without consulting or informing the students.

Simon, in turn, came down hard. He informed each student that he had received several complaints (in the plural) about their uses of university computer resources. He stated that their actions were in violation of the User Code of Conduct for Computer Resources, implying that they had been spamming the academy. He informed them both (individually) that if he received a single other complaint he would automatically cut them off from all computer resources.

The students individually responded by asking to see the complaints that justified such a severe reaction from a VP, no less. One of the students also independently filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain the complaints.

Simon proceeded to play a game of cat and mouse, showing only one partial complaint to each student and, eventually, after the Freedom of Information documents were obtained, reluctantly forked over everything he had.

In the final analysis, VP Simon had lied to both students about the number of complaints: There was only one document per student and none was a complaint made to his office. And he had falsified one of the interim documents, removing the Pestov attempt at collusion with Joos (to expel Prévost), presumably because Pestov’s words both incriminated two professors and made the student “violations” look insignificant in comparison…

All in a days work. Can’t have the societal implications of science discussed in the Faculty of Science: That would be subversive and counter productive.

The dedication of self-appointed university executives, willing to take the risks necessary to preserve “academic integrity”, is sometimes the strongest testament to the vitality of our public institutions of higher learning.

Epilogue: There is no policy at the University of Ottawa that protects students from intimidation by deans or executive officers – It is assumed not to occur. Meanwhile, the official complaints against the many professors who took it onto themselves to harass and intimidate the students for their communications are being deflected and resisted by both the dean of science and the dean of graduate studies (Gary Slater), while President Gilles Patry watches on.

Documents posted by student JP Prevost (in PDF, takes a few minutes to download)
Documents posted by student Severin Stojanovic (takes a few minutes to download)
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Did the dean lie? – Profs’ union doesn’t want to know

Has anyone never lied? Is everyone a liar?

Back in September 2005, as part of his critical pedagogy method, Professor Denis Rancourt made a bold open invitation to his students of the first Activism Course:

I am looking for irate or frustrated or angry or discouraged or depressed graduate or undergraduate students to be interviewed live on The Train, CHUO 89.1 FM. I want to counter the plastic smile Apathy-U marketing campaigns … with some gritty reality about student life.” (The invitation to all students still stands.)

The then dean of the Faculty of Science was clearly annoyed and immediately asked for “explanations”. The dean then initiated a disciplinary process claiming he had received a student complaint about the radio invitation.

Professor Rancourt pointed out his right to see the student complaint. The dean claimed that showing any part of the student complaint would identify the student and stated that he was therefore dropping the entire process and removing all related letters and documents from Professor Rancourt’s file.

Professor Rancourt insisted that no letters or documents be disappeared and grieved to see the student complaint. The grievance process showed that a separate student complaint about the radio invitation did not exist. The dean produced the only student complaint ever received about the Activism Course, a student complaint about course content, method, and use of language – all concerns that the dean was pursuing separately but now without the use of a student complaint.

An obvious case of “complaints musical chairs”...

At this point, Professor Rancourt filed a new grievance that the dean had lied in order to justify a baseless disciplinary process. Disciplinary processes are tedious and stressful and the same dean initiated three other bogus disciplinary actions (all unrelated to each other; that were either dropped or successfully grieved) within the same two-week period.

Does one detect a pattern? Does the term harassment come to mind? Would this have happened if Professor Rancourt was not promoting activism and was not critical of the institution and its methods?

On these questions, the professors’ union (the APUO at the UofO) is unclear or undecided at best: You see, lying involves intent to make a false statement and intent is difficult to prove. One cannot read a person’s mind so one must rely on the documented circumstances. That the “separate” complaint was about the radio invitation appears to be false but did the dean realise it was false? He could have simply misinterpreted the student complaint to be about the radio invitation…

The grievance that the dean has lied was recently evaluated by the executive committee of the union and has not been retained by the APUO, effectively leaving no other legal recourse to obtain arbitration.

In the words of the executive of the union: “The dean read what he saw in a certain way … it may also be part of a pattern. However, this is difficult to show. It seems as though the dean is dancing close to the line but, it is difficult to prove lying … Maybe it was an attempt by the dean to be deceptive, but the complaint could be open to interpretation … An accusation of lying is serious and requires strong evidence.

It’s called the preservation of class interests…


YaYa Canada on lying in academia...
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Friday, June 29, 2007

U of O’s Patry weighs in to defend academic freedom

Orwell would be proud…

No U of O president has ever made a public statement to denounce Israel’s immoral and brutal (now 40-year) occupation of Palestine – a strangle-hold that can only be characterized as a genocidal impoundment under severe economic and civil liberty restrictions, including regular military violence against civilians and state-sanctioned political executions; not too unlike Canada’s own treatment of indigenous peoples, that has also not been denounced by U of O presidents.

Indeed, university presidents in these times rarely take stands of principle but mainly promote an institutional image and congratulate their corporate donors.

Yet U of O’s President Gilles Patry recently felt compelled to speak out against the threat to academic freedom posed by a UK University and College Union (UCU) resolution to encourage and study a possible boycott of Israeli universities.

The president’s statement parrots similar statements made by US university presidents, thereby giving deep integration an academic dimension.

The president’s “argument” is that boycotting Israeli academia (that has been complicit in the occupation) can only move one away from a resolution. That would be true if Israeli academia were visibly and significantly opposing the occupation rather than collaborating with it.

Patry has hauled out the convenient myth that tenured professors, by virtue of their academic freedom, naturally fight injustice and side with the oppressed. It follows, in Patry’s fairy tale scenario, that limiting academic freedom of association and collaboration (not of research and expression) with a boycott would only hinder progression to a more just world.

This is analogous to arguing that, given the myth of economic trickledown, the economic boycott of South Africa only frustrated an inevitable progression towards more democracy.

Notable exceptions notwithstanding, academics serve and legitimize power, are true to their class, and make students into obedient employees that accept and defend the logic of systemic oppression. This is what makes the UCU and its resolution so extraordinary. (It must have been hijacked by activists, as apologists have explained. Or maybe it’s the ‘Colleges’ component?)

Media bias and U of O’s affiliation with CanWest notwithstanding, Patry’s statement is either ignorant or disingenuous and politically motivated. I believe it is mostly the latter, in which case it will not matter to its author that it is wrong. If there is a movement in North America for university executives to denounce the UCU then to not join this movement is to invite Israeli lobby contempt. To join is to make points with the Israeli lobby and its parliamentary allies.

“Canada’s University” knows when to l*ck *ss.

Gabriel Ash – Why Boycott Israel?
IHRNASS-Executive - In Support of Academic Freedom
Jason Kunin – Supporting CUPE’s Israel Boycott
Steven Rose – Why Pick on Israel?
Tanya Reinhart – Why Academic Boycott
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It’s called transparency…

The dean of the Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa, Dr. André Lalonde, called Professor Denis Rancourt, to a forced June 20th disciplinary meeting, under the threat of dismissal.

The professor was convened under the Star Chamber paragraph ( of the Collective Agreement. This type of meeting is on-the-record; a professor is bound to answer all questions, and the answers can be used against her.

Normally, this emergency mechanism is used only for grave acts or omissions such as related to sexual harassment. In this case, the professor is suspected of intending to offer a course, on his own time, that hundreds of students want but that the administration has removed from the professor’s workload.

The charge, therefore, is insubordination.

The meeting was cancelled by the dean before its official start, after 45 minutes of intense negotiation, because Professor Rancourt would not sign away his right to tape record the meeting. The meeting has the full force of labour law where all on-the-record proceedings are public.

Bad habits are hard to break: Dean Lalonde has also recently cancelled a public Faculty Council meeting, after two minutes of proceedings, because community members would not stop “harassing” the tenured and publicly-funded council members by taping the proceedings. Three community members present have since been served with trespass notices informing them that they will be prosecuted if found on university property in the future.

To be continued…

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Allergic reaction to activism in the Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa

“A vital lesson of the last century is that it is dangerous for scientists to focus exclusively on their technical work and leave it to others to decide the associated moral and political issues.” (Jeff Schmidt, author of Disciplined Minds.) Science professors at the University of Ottawa have not learned this lesson.

Although a first-year-level Science in Society course was created in 2006 (after an 11-month and 16-committee meeting battle) it has now been removed from the professor who developed it, under the pretence that “it did not follow the curriculum.”

Those involved in the battle to save the course know that the real reason is that the course was critical of both the role of corporate science in society and the role of the corporate university in sustaining the present technology-based economy of global exploitation. Those involved know that the real reason is that proposed solutions included activism and resistance rather than servitude and compliance.

In the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa one cannot teach independent thinking or the virtues of opposing power. That science serves power is the only allowed lesson.

This unwritten law of corporate science education is being most clearly illustrated in the present battle to create a second-year-level Science, Activism, and Society course, supported by a petition of 300 students and community members (1% of the student population).

After the Undergraduate Program Committee (Science) trashed the course without offering any rational explanations or any feedback to the professor proposing the new course, beyond asking him to retract his request, a student Faculty Council member tried to advance it as an agenda item for Faculty Council (Science).

The dean of the faculty promptly vetoed the agenda item, thereby breaking the Faculty’s own By-Laws. When the student member objected, citing the By-Laws, he was intimidated and rebuked, giving rise to official complaints of unethical behaviour against fourteen professors to date.

Another student was intimidated and directly threatened when he met one-on-one with the Secretary of the Faculty (Science) who had offered to clarify the dean’s procedural “justification” for the veto.

Yet another student suffered a similar fate when he wrote a public letter of support for the Science in Society project. Records appear to show that two professors conspired to attempt to have this student removed from the PhD program for his crime.

To date, two Faculty Council meetings have been closed down by a dean who refuses to hear student and community member concerns. On April 5th the Council room was cleared using security guards after only 20 minutes of deliberation. On May 22nd the dean shut down the Council meeting after only two minutes because observers refused to stop videotaping the public proceedings. Both events were reported in the Ottawa Sun newspaper.

Student Faculty Council member, Severin Stojanovic, is filling a judicial review of the broken rules next week, given that the VP-Academic and the President have officially sided with the dean’s illegal veto. Notably, the illegal agenda was also “democratically” approved by eager-to-serve Faculty Council members (35 for, 1 against) at the April 5th meeting.

That’s a lot of resistance for a simple agenda item that would have opened the floor to “discussing the possibility of a second-year-level Science, Activism, and Society course…”

Science professors at the University of Ottawa have not learned the lesson and appear not to have studied history, but they continue to be treated to an excellent example of science, activism, and society. There is hope.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Responsible Intervention versus Executive Incompetence in the Faculty of Science

Fifty-two of the 150 or so professors in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa have taken things into their own hands and signed a letter to the dean signalling alleged abuses of professional behaviour perpetrated by professor of physics Denis Rancourt, such as:

-“harassing his colleagues with unsolicited open letters,”
-“undermining [the] climate of freedom, responsibility and mutual respect […] of the university […] for nearly two years,”
-“being counterproductive ‘in promoting and enhancing the University’,”
-“hindering and impeding the proper democratic functioning of the Faculty,”
-“constantly distorting the facts when he presents them,”
-“knowingly turning [assigned courses] into courses which do not accomplish their initially intended functions,” and
-“[showing] no regard for the academic freedom of others, as he deliberately defies the measures adopted democratically by his peers.”

The original letter of complaint is posted HERE. (It’s worth the read.)

The Dean of the Faculty of Science, André Lalonde, promptly initiated a formal disciplinary investigation, since he is bound by duty to do so when presented with such compelling evidence of wrong doing.

Obvious questions arise.

Why did the dean not notice these grave breaches in professional behaviour, occurring during two years, until one third of the professorial staff needed to risk speaking out and spell them out in writing? What of the harm done to students in that period?

What about the other two thirds? Were they not harassed by the open letters? Have they not been reading the CANWEST editorials? Are they being so irresponsible as to not take action to preserve the ‘academic integrity’ of their Faculty?

Why did these 52 colleagues of Rancourt write this letter anonymously and under the cover of a formal complaint? Is tenure not enough protection to express one’s criticisms directly? Should additional safeguards be developed?

The dean feels compelled to preserve the identities of the 52 professors making their legitimate effort to improve the functioning of the university. How can the community celebrate the contributions of these brave professors to protecting student welfare if these professors are not identified?

U of O Watch will report the evolution of this dossier, using advanced investigative techniques, and will continue to attempt to answer these questions…

End note: The students who suffered Prof. Rancourt’s “courses which do not accomplish their initially intended functions” had THIS TO SAY, AND THIS, AND THIS, AND THIS.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

U of O Removes Activism Course – Prof Files $10M Grievance

Physics professor Denis Rancourt filed a $10 million grievance on May 18th against the University of Ottawa for alleged violation of academic freedom, executive interference, sustained harassment, slander, and misfeasance, by the President, Mr. Gilles Patry, the VP-Academic, Mr. Robert Major, and the Dean of Science. The first-step required mediation attempt is to be scheduled before the end of next week.

This followed workload attributions where Prof. Rancourt was removed from all three first-year courses that he developed, including the controversial SCI 1101 Science in Society activism course, and from the popular Cinema Politica series that he organizes, and given only final-year and graduate physics courses.

The full text of the grievance is posted HERE.

Student and community member supporters have formed the Freedom of Expression Committee (FEC) to rectify the situation. The FEC campaigns are described on THIS web site.

The FEC is calling for the resignation of Patry, Major, and dean André Lalonde and has initiated an aggressive petition campaign. The petition can be reviewed and signed electronically HERE.

Age Discrimination at U of O – Human Rights Complaint Served

Ten year old twins Douglas and Sebastian Foster were expelled from a course at the University of Ottawa, half way into the fall 2006 term, after being admitted as special students, paying fees, receiving their student cards, and having demonstrated their ability to succeed in the course.

They filed separate human rights complaints that were served to the University of Ottawa last week by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The original November 2006 filing was front page news in Ottawa and attracted international media attention; being covered by several daily papers in Europe, Africa, Australia, and North America.

A support group of fellow students was formed and many details, including the original human rights claim statement, are posted on this site.

They continued fully participating in the SCI 1101 Science and Society course to the end, wrote the final exam, and the professor has reported that they have passed the course.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Students sue U of O for not providing TAs

During the 11-month and 16-committee battle between students and the university to have the first activism course approved for September 2006, the university promissed that a workgroup pedagogical method could be used and that teacher assistants (TAs) would consequently be provided. Instead, a formula of one TA per 50 students was used, corresponding to grading assignments rather than leading workgroups.

After the students exhausted all other means, five students sued the university to recover part of their tuition costs because TAs would not be provided. The action is supported by the more than 300,000 Ontario student member Canadian Federation of Students.

This was extensively covered in the local media and the ongoing campaign is described on this site. The first Ontario Superior Court of Justice-imposed settlement conferences are being held this week.