The Hon. John Molloy,
Minister, Training, Colleges & Universities,
900 Bay Street,
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?
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.]