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, March 17, 2008

Oli Cosgrove to Minister of Education - UofO Campus Arrests

January 10, 2008
The Hon. John Molloy,
Minister, Training, Colleges & Universities,
900 Bay Street,
3rd Floor,
Mowat Building,
Toronto, ON M7A lL2.
Dear Mr. Molloy,
I’m writing to express to you my worry and disgust at attitudes and actions on the part of the University of Ottawa’s Executive that have recently come to my attention.
Firstly, at the Executive’s instigation, police arrested three Ottawa residents on the university’s campus early last December. The two women and one man had attended a public Faculty of Science Council meeting there last May in support of a second year for an activism course. The university allowed the course’s first year only after nine months of intensive lobbying. After the May meeting, the three were served with trespass notices. That alone was an insolent act. However, it was unenforced until one of the three submitted an agenda item to the Faculty Council for a December meeting.
The women were arrested on campus on December 6. The man was arrested on December 8, told he was trespassing on private property, and was escorted off campus in his wheelchair by three City of Ottawa police officers and several University security guards. He had offered to leave before the police arrived but was restrained so police could serve him with a summons. He is to appear in court on January 31. At least one of the women has vowed to take the matter to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
The attached article provides further details on this matter. [See LINKS below.]
Since when, Mr. Molloy, are universities, supported by public funds, private property? And, if public meetings are held on campus, how is a member of the public to know whether they are or are not allowed to attend them; whether they will or won’t be served with trespass notices should they attend them?
Furthermore, these arrests blatantly contravene the University’s “Vision 2010 Academic Strategic Plan.” In ‘Our Vision” under that plan, the University states that it is “an integral part of its community, open to the world, and distinguished by … its high-quality learning environment, its passion for knowledge and innovation …. its openness to diversity ….”
My second concern: the University’s Executive seems determined to eliminate Ottawa Cinema Politica (OCP), a Friday evening film course open to the public, given by Professor Denis Rancourt. I attend as many of these evenings as possible, there is seldom an empty seat, and sometimes there is standing room only. The Executive has tried before on false pretexts to put a stop to them. It is trying again, this year by claiming that the sessions are not part of Prof. Rancourt’s workload.

Either the Executive can’t read, has no memory, or has ulterior motives for its actions because these sessions have been repeatedly included as part of his workload in Prof. Rancourt’s annual reports and in other official past records. Additionally, it is part of a professor’s responsibility to provide community service, and Prof. Rancourt is committed to these sessions.

Up to now, the University has always provided an auditorium and projection equipment for these sessions. Now, however, it has made the auditorium difficult to book, and has refused to provide sign language access for the deaf community members, contravening the Ontario Human Rights Code.

This second heavy-handed action on the part of the University Executive again contravenes the University’s Vision 2010. In “Our Values” under the plan, the University states that it “values its community … encourages freedom of expression in an atmosphere of open dialogue, enabling critical thought, supported by intellectual integrity and ethical judgment.”

It is my observation, Mr. Malloy, that University President Gilles Patry and his Executive are trying to dictate which courses can and cannot be offered, and who can and cannot attend them. These actions of theirs make a mockery not only of the University’s Vision 2010, but also of the whole purpose of a university. It appears to me that the President and Executive are, therefore, unfit to head up any academic institution, particularly one supported by tax dollars.

I hope, Mr. Minister, that you will investigate these occurrences at the University of Ottawa. I know only of the incidents which I’ve mentioned here, but there may be others like them. We cannot allow leaders of our academic institutions to practice even the slightest repression of academic and civic freedoms. Apart from the repression, what sort of example does it set for our youth? Do we want them graduating with the impression that repression and dictatorship are acceptable?

Yours sincerely,
Oli Cosgrove

cc: Mme. Madeleine Meilleur
Prof. Denis Rancourt
The Ottawa Citizen
The Ottawa Sun

Enc: letter to President Patry
article by Prof. Rancourt

[Photo credit: From Minister's government web page.]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dean Gary Slater Reads Contempt

March 13, 2008

Gary Slater
Faculty of Graduate Studies
University of Ottawa

Re: Your letter about me to Dean André Lalonde dated January 29, 2008.

Dear Dr. Slater,

In your letter of January 29th to the dean of the Faculty of Science you complained about my late cancellation in serving as a thesis examiner on a student’s MSc thesis.

These were exceptional circumstances. I explained the circumstances to those making the thesis defence arrangements and the defence proceeded without negative consequences to the student.

It is your duty to act in such a way as to ensure optimal functioning of graduate programs, however, in your letter you allowed yourself to gratuitously conclude that “This behaviour [of my having to cancel an engagement due to unforeseen circumstances] shows contempt for the rights of students”.

That is an unacceptable statement from you about my character; that is not based on the facts of the matter and that is inconsistent with my professional ethics of the last 22 years.

I find your communication to the dean of Science in this regard to be unprofessional and unethical, unless you have discovered a magical gift for extrapolating into the heart of a person using only circumstantial administrative events.

I ask that you apologize to me and that you rectify your letter to the dean of Science by March 20th. I make my request public in an effort to discourage the use of such internal administrative documents such as your letter that gratuitously disparages a member of the university community.


Denis Rancourt
Professor of Physics

cc: APUO
cc: dean of Science
cc: made public, media

[Photo credit: University of Ottawa.]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Censorship is a serious matter – explains Professor Keith Benn

Professor Keith Benn (Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa) has recently joined Professor Jeremy Kerr (Biology, University of Ottawa; see PREVIOUS POST) in attempting to protect the University of Ottawa from out-of-control radical professor Denis Rancourt (Physics, University of Ottawa).

Benn “take(s) serious offence” at Rancourt’s November 30th 2007 email accusation of censorship practiced in the Faculty of Science. Dean of the Faculty of Science André E. Lalonde immediately responded in accordance with the responsibility of his position by initiating yet another formal disciplinary investigation of Rancourt in this serious matter. (We’ve lost count of the number, but it’s well over a dozen.)

All relevant documents (Dean’s initiation of discipline, Benn’s formal letter of complaint, Rancourt’s November 30th email, and the censored document) are posted HERE or HERE.
Highlights of the Benn complaint are as follows.
I take serious offence to the accusation of censorship that is contained in the following passage […]
Rancourt must know that the term ‘censorship’ is a highly charged one that carries some awful baggage in the public psyche. Tossing about accusations of administrative censorship in widely circulated emails [to members of the Faculty Council] […] is reckless and reprehensible, and shows a profound lack of respect for our institution and for our colleagues. It is especially troubling that such an accusation should be made within our University [Canada’s University] and it is unacceptable that it go unchallenged. If such an accusation should go unchallenged then the clear message […] is that the accusation has merit, i.e., that discussion of important issues facing our Faculty and our University are being suppressed.

Benn continues: “Rancourt’s accusation of censorship, if unchallenged, could do long-term damage to the reputation of our institution.

[…] if the accusation were found to be unjustified, then Rancourt should apologize to his victims. […] At the very least, an apology from Rancourt should be forthcoming and recorded in the public record.

UofOWatch vows to record any such apology when it is forthcoming, to help rectify this violation of the public trust.

UofOWatch trusts that the Dean’s investigation will be thorough and professional, will leave no stone unturned, and will establish whether or not censorship was indeed practiced in the Faculty of Science, as brazenly reported by Rancourt.

Censor n. 2. official with power to suppress whole or parts of records/documents on ground of obscenity, seditiousness, etc. 6. v.t. act as censor (sense 2) of; make deletions or changes in. (Concise Oxford, Seventh Edition)