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, August 4, 2008

UofOWatch Blog Too Much for UofO – Board to Decide on Suspension of Professor


This very blog, which should be celebrated by the University of Ottawa as an example of open self-criticism and vibrant discourse (e.g., see Professor St-Amant’s many contributed comments to the previous post), has in fact been threatened with legal action on two counts and its creator, Professor Denis Rancourt, has been disciplined and is now under review for suspension.
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Professor Rancourt’s final supplementary brief (posted HERE) in the matter of his suspension for the blog was deposited today. The Board of Governors (BOG) of the University of Ottawa has 40 working days to provide its decision and its reasons therefor. BOG meetings are public.
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A brief history of the University’s reactions to the UofOWatch blog is as follows.
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First, on August 20, 2007, University of Ottawa’s VP-Resources Victor Simon initiated a “private” action against Rancourt using the third largest national law firm in Canada, Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG), which is known to specialize in libel and defamation cases. The Chairman of the BOG of the University of Ottawa is a Partner in BLG.
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The BLG letter of threat “Notice under the Libel and Slander Act” is posted HERE. It is signed by BLG Partner J. Bruce Carr-Harris who has been involved in high-profile fund raising activities for the University.
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The letter states:
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“Mr. Simon hereby demands that you immediately remove the two blogs [THIS ONE and THIS ONE] … from your U of O Watch blog, failing which we expect to receive instructions to commence the requisite legal proceedings to do so.
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In addition, we require a full, absolute, and unequivocal and fair apology and retraction of all defamatory statements…”
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Similar letters of threat of legal action, in this matter of Victor Simon and UofOWatch, were sent to graduate students Jean-Paul Prévost and Severin Stojanovic (for allegedly providing material support) and to three (student) staff members (Editor-in-Chief, Director General, and the journalist covering the Victor Simon matter) of the student newspaper La Rotonde (presumably to intimidate the paper away from publishing on the matter).
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La Rotonde bravely published a full spread on September 10, 2007, with copies of some of the BLG letters. Rancourt did not budge, trusting truth as the ultimate defence. The lawsuits never materialized.
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Next, on August 28, 2007, came a letter from the University of Ottawa’s Legal Counsel (Michelle Flaherty). This letter is posted HERE and states: “the University of Ottawa hereby requires that you immediately remove the images of Tabaret Hall, of the President of the University of Ottawa with Mr. Telfer and of the President of the University of Ottawa and Mr. Lau from the U of O Watch blog site … If you fail to remove these images by August 31, 2007, the University of Ottawa may take whatever action it deems necessary to protect its intellectual property rights.”
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The Flaherty letter explained that it is University policy that the images “may be used by faculty, staff, students, and the news media solely for the positive promotion of activities related to the University of Ottawa.”
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Having been informed of the University policy, Rancourt responded by making more widespread use of copyrighted University images, which greatly enhanced the blog.
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The Dean of the Faculty of Science, André E. Lalonde, next enthusiastically took on the job of “protect[ing] [the University’s] intellectual property rights.” The Dean initiated his own investigation on November 23, 2007 (see letter posted HERE). In his letter, the Dean explained “I am concerned that your refusal to remove the copyrighted images from the U of O Watch website constitutes insubordination.”
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What followed was a long series of meetings, exchanges of letters, and procedures (see Rancourt’s brief HERE for a summary) in which Rancourt tried to explain to the dean that both criticism and allowing criticism were positive and that, consequently, the University policy was not being violated.
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The Dean disciplined Rancourt and warned of more discipline if the images were not removed. The Dean then appealed to the good judgement of VP-Academic Robert Major to ask that Major schedule the continuation of the investigation in order to pursue a suspension of Rancourt. Major obliged – leading to the present evaluation by the Board.
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The Executive Summary of Rancourt’s BRIEF to the Board reads as follows.
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The University of Ottawa has a stated policy of allowing professors to use its copyrighted images from its web site “for the positive promotion of activities related to the University of Ottawa.” (See Legal Counsel’s letter to Denis Rancourt dated August 28, 2007.)
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Denis Rancourt uses credited copyrighted images from the University’s web site in the UofOWatch blog that he manages (see attached item-1).
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The UofOWatch blog features commentary and critical articles about activities of the University of Ottawa (see attached item-1).
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The credited copyrighted images from the University’s web site significantly enhance the UofOWatch blog (a picture is worth a thousand words) and show a positive image of a university open to self-criticism.
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University professors have academic freedom in their research and communications, including in criticisms of the university itself. The university has a duty to support the work of its professors, within the usual limits of resource constraints.
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The University has disciplined Professor Denis Rancourt (Letter of Reprimand dated February 5, 2008) for not removing the copyrighted images from the UofOWatch blog.
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Dean André E. Lalonde presently seeks further discipline (a one-day suspension) to be approved by the Board, before a grievance (filed on February 24, 2008) against the first discipline has been heard.
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The University’s discipline and the on-going attempt to further discipline are not legitimate and appear to constitute attempts at ideological (political) censorship. The actions of the dean (and of Legal Counsel) appear to be petty and contrary to fostering a vibrant and critical university intellectual environment in a free and democratic society.
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In addition, there are many procedural anomalies that point to serious problems in ethical and responsible management. These include illegal gathering and use of personal information and unwarranted legal threats.
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In wrapping up his BRIEF, Rancourt states:
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“Criticism is positive, healthy, and necessary to produce change. Congratulatory niceties only support the status quo. Not exposing known problems encourages their continuation. Criticism is vital work that needs to be encouraged rather than censored and attacked.”
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Let us hope that the Board, in its collective wisdom and mandated fairness, will find a way to celebrate freedom of expression and inquiry at the University of Ottawa.
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[Photo Credit: University of Ottawa. Mr. Marc Jolicoeur, BLG Partner and Chairman of the University’s Board of Governors.]

79 comments:

afterfostercare said...

As a citizen of Ottawa, who is not affiliated with Ottawa University I am impressed that the University allows this blog to exist and congratulate the University on allowing constructive criticism of itself.

This blog, and the University's apparent tolerance of it is a breath of fresh air in a Society which all too often opresses constructive criticism.

John Dunn
12-1160 Meadowlands Drive East
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K2E 6J2

This post by myself and all of its content is permitted by myself to be made public, used as deemed fit by anyone.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Prof. Rancourt that the action of the dean and legal counsel in this instance are petty and,I would add, petulant. I would have thought universities would have higher standards than to make a fuss about a minor borderline matter like this. While the university immplies that it wants the copyrighted photos to disppear from the blog, its actions only draw attention to them and to its petulance. Its actions also suggest that far from open-minded, the university is overly sensitive to criticism and indulges in intimidation worthy of a tin-pot Communist regime. I believe the university administration and Board of Governors need to lighten up.

Oli Cosgrove
405B MacKay Street,
Ottawa, ON K1M 2C5.

Alain St-Amant said...

Gosh, I did not realize that my e-mails trying to outline how most everything posted by DGR is ridiculous and distortions of the truth constituted "vibrant discourse" and "self-criticism" of uOttawa. I thought I was only criticizing DGR.

Just to be clear about how receptive DGR himself is to open debate, he had tried to launch disciplinary actions through the professors' union against myself for comments I've made to a student newspaper and ensuing discussions. As far as I know, even the union is not taking up his cause on this one.....

I guess that if DGR can't stop my comments, he might as well put as positive a spin on them as possible.

Jesse Freeston said...

Alain St-Amant,

Your participation in these blogs is EXACTLY what this blog is all about, as I understand it. The opening of a space to discuss the merits, intents and consequences of what goes on at this institution. It is imperative that someone fill your role and provide a viewpoint that differs from that of the blog's manager, DGR. So thank you for your continued participation.

Now to that vibrant discourse.

As for your last statement, "If DGR can't stop my comments...", I can't really figure out what you're getting at here. That because DGR took up an action regarding comments you made that that somehow gives weight to punishing him for running UofOWatch? Some clarification here might be in order.

The bottom line is that this blog is necessary, and the university admin's response to its existence (as exemplified by this attempt to discipline its manager) is just another example of why it is necessary. This strength of DGR's argument still stands and is evidenced by your ongoing participation, that this blog is one of the most 'positive' things about this university. That we have a place to discuss UofO actions freely without fear of reprimand. And this manifestation of freedom of expression (a recognized principle of democracy) must prevail over the fear of exposure (an emotion deriving from guilt) of the upper admin when this issue goes in front of the BofG.

Alain St-Amant said...

I'm not "punishing" DGR...just trying to shed light and point out a few inconsistencies in his "logic". I think that if he were a true champion of free speech, he would not try every means possible to stifle others.

Philippe said...

So who's bringing back that "dead issue" now?

I think it's clear that some people believe that Alain St-Amant's claims in the Charlatan were false. Spreading false claims is not protected under free speech (see libel laws, etc.).

Now it's ok for Mr. St-Amant to disagree with us about this. What is not ok is for him to pretend we're opposing him expressing his opinions. We only complained about what we perceived as false claims.

Anonymous said...

"most everything posted by DGR is ridiculous and distortions of the truth"
-- Alain St-Amant

most, adj.: In the majority of instances.

distortion, n.: A statement that twists fact; a misrepresentation.

ridiculous, adj.: Deserving or inspiring ridicule; laughable.

Alain St-Amant said...

Philippe,

Can we at least agree that the fact that the subsequent Ottawa Citizen editorial said exactly the same things I said to Carleton's student newspaper (with different words and tone, but the take home message is the same) and the fact that DGR's grievance regarding my statements fell flat with his own union (when presented with the same evidence) indicate that there were very valid concerns expressed?

The votes within any committee for anything related to SCI 1101 (the format used in 2006, not the official course description) in the past two years have been so overwhelmingly negative. It really is incumbent upon its supporters to address all of the issues that I (and the Ottawa Citizen raised). Other committee members are not as vocal as me perhaps, but their concerns are the same I would expect.

Simply put, without acknowledging that there were serious problems with the Fall 2006 course and proposing real changes/solutions, you cannot expect much support with any of the committees you must convince. Any proposal that starts with statements like "Follwing the highly successful Activism Course of 2006..." and then just proposes more of the same simply won't fly (in my opinion).

I'm just one vote amongst many for a few of those committees, and I may be totally wrong, but I don't think so.

Philippe said...

No I won't "at least agree" with that. The Ottawa Citizen (their latest and most critical editorial about it) talked about bias mostly, if I remember, they said something like "only the Palestinian side was represented", and didn't claim there was "antisemitic crap", for example. That you claim it is equivalent only further shows, in my opinion, the fact that your initial statements were misguided, in that respect at least.

Philippe said...

In addition, to my knowledge there has been only one negative vote related to SCI1101 in the Faculty Council, and maybe one other negative one for SCI2101 in the Programs Committee, in the last two years (i.e. since SCI1101 was given). The only vote at the Senate was a motion to refer the issue to the Faculty. You make it sound like there were a lot more votes.

Besides, I don't think the results of these votes "prove" that SCI1101 was not a success. It would be inappropriate for scientists to say that votes determine reality, they don't prove anything other than the opinion of the precise individuals voting. And as far as I know, almost all, if not all, the people who share your opinion on these committees never attended one session of SCI1101, something at least I (and others) can base our claims on.

Alain St-Amant said...

Philippe,

I think you are sugar-coating what the Citizen editorial said. They did not say that just the Palestinian side was represented. They said that the Palestinian-Canadians provided "both sides". It's called sarcasm (google "Rancourt Ottawa Citizen editorial") and it sends as strong a condemnation as my comments. I think that if someone did not have certain biases, he would have invited both sides to the discussion for such a complex issue. That's just my opinion.

Beyond all that, all my other concerns regarding topics of classes, grading scheme and amount of work needed to pass the course, etc. etc. are also covered in the Citizen editorial as well.

As for the votes in question, I am including votes to not include it on the agenda (I believe that vote was 34-1 just before the Spring 2007 Faculty Council was cancelled because a certain member would not accept the democratic vote). There was also another vote that was clearly going to drop SCI1101 from the agenda when another Faculty Council had to be cancelled because certain people would not let the democratic process unfurl. Add to that a vote not to force the Dean to give SCI 1501 this year. In all of these, at best 2 out of 36 votes in favour of anything to do with SCI 1101.

And yes, many of us did not attend SCI1101 lectures. We do however look at the course website and listen to what its supporters write and say in its support. And even with this material (which you would assume is putting its best face forward), the course (as given in September 2006) had serious problems (in our informed opinions).

I will concede that votes might not prove something is wrong, but my point in the previous post was that unless something changes in the proposals being made, then you cannot expect much to change since the overwhelming majority sees very big problems with what is being proposed and what had happenned the last time the course was given. I think that you'll agree that you have a near impossible task of having the majority see your way given the current proposals and situation.

You can choose to stand pat and claim that 34 out of 36 people are wrong and consequently never get anywhere. Or you could acknowledge the concerns of the 34 people and try to come up with something positive that improves the situation. It's a choice that has to be made.

Philippe said...

"I think that if someone did not have certain biases, he would have invited both sides to the discussion for such a complex issue. That's just my opinion."

Sure, that much I can agree with. Some people have bias on the preferred issue to a geopolitical conflict.

But how is that equivalent to being antisemitic (i.e. guilty of hate crime against a religion)? That's where the logic seems to break down.

Philippe said...

"As for the votes in question, I am including votes to not include it on the agenda (I believe that vote was 34-1 just before the Spring 2007 Faculty Council was cancelled because a certain member would not accept the democratic vote). There was also another vote that was clearly going to drop SCI1101 from the agenda when another Faculty Council had to be cancelled because certain people would not let the democratic process unfurl. Add to that a vote not to force the Dean to give SCI 1501 this year. In all of these, at best 2 out of 36 votes in favour of anything to do with SCI 1101."

The 34-1 vote was just to adopt the agenda. There wasn't any motion proposed to add SCI2101 to it. Basically 34 people wanted the meeting to proceed even if SCI2101 was not on the agenda. The fact that they were ok with not discussing it doesn't mean they were totally against discussing it.

As for the vote that was "clearly going to drop", I think it's useless at this point to make conjectures on votes that never happened. I'm not even attacking your opinions here, I'm just attempting to clearly state the facts and not overblow them.

-------------

"You can choose to stand pat and claim that 34 out of 36 people are wrong and consequently never get anywhere. Or you could acknowledge the concerns of the 34 people and try to come up with something positive that improves the situation. It's a choice that has to be made."

I would say the attitude of the Faculty that just assumes any student who wants something much like SCI1101 is wrong, is just as immature. I would add, far more immature than one would expect of someone that raises themselves to a Faculty officer position.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I let it to anyone here to judge whether it's fair to be treated as an enemy of the Faculty by people like Dean Lalonde or Secretary Giordano just because I support broadly (not necessarily in the details) an original course that is requested, appreciated and useful to many students in our faculty, in other faculties or outside the traditional university clientele.

It takes two sides to make a war, and war is the path that the Faculty administration chose as well - who cares anyway, only those unimportant students will lose in the end...

Alain St-Amant said...

Philippe,

I would hate to think that there is a perception that a "war" is going on. Obviously I'm not a fan of what went on with SCI 1101 in the Fall of 2006, and you are. But I'll come out and say that you're a good guy who did a lot of good things for this University. We just disagree on this matter (and probably quite a few more). I would think a lot of people think this way. Even if I did not personally respect you (and to be clear, I do respect you), it would be foolish on my part to deny that you have garnered significant support and admiration from fellow students on campus.

What I don't like is the constant assumption that people are not listening to student proposals. We are listening, but we are also disagreeing with you. We are allowed to disagree (but fortunately, I think professors and students are mostly on the same page). As I said before, even if you strip out all non-student votes, the Faculty Council student votes are overwhelmingly against anything related to the course. Personally speaking, if ever you did get to a point where student support was strong, I'd have to consider altering my vote because I can't ignore the fact that the students' elected representatives are strongly supporting an issue.

As for the comments about a certain geopolitical conflict, I think that purposely shutting out one side of the conflict and dismissing their concerns is wrong and entitling the presentation as "Jewish Fear and the Palestinian Right of Return" is needlessly inflammatory to one side (why not just "Palestinian Right of Return"?). Was my statement incorrect? How about I just say that more knowledgeable people might think I'm wrong, but I'm personally comfortable with what I said.

Anonymous said...

The best way to oppose this blog is to just let it die. No one in the community places great weight on most of what is said by it or the relatively few, but ardent, defenders of it and similar projects.

His Climate Change blog died because no one paid attention. This will too. Don't hesitate to post one or two comments outlining how ridiculous/biased these posts are, and then move on. Most of the bias is evident to the observant reader in the use of qualifiers, unnecessary quotes and similar suggestions in the text itself.

It would be inappropriate for scientists to say that votes determine reality, they don't prove anything other than the opinion of the precise individuals voting.

Perhaps you should've taken a science course or two in the science faculty, and not political ones.

Alain St-Amant said...

I'm not 100% sure that ignoring DGR is the best way to go.

I assume you read DGR's latest mass e-mailing to profs today. From his own statements, it's obvious that he's now badly screwing up the careers of his own graduate students and the undergrads that have no choice but to take classes with him (the legitimately good students get totally screwed when he just assigns an A+ to everyone just to piss off administration).

So there are true victims of his actions, so it's perhaps not the wisest thing to just think of him as a harmless kook and ignore him.

At least he's now barred from teaching (from his e-mail, it's fairly obvious the Dean is following a recommendation from his own colleagues...otherwise he would have said the Dean was over-riding the workload assigned to him by the Physics DTPC or Chair) and it looks as if he's well on his way to being excluded from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Once we get assurances that all the students are protected, then I think we can afford to ignore him.

BTW, the occasional DGR supporter is a solid student with a bright career ahead of them, and I think it's important to engage with them and try to figure out exactly why they support him despite DGR's total loss of credibility. Perhaps we can learn something meaningful from these students and extract at least a few positives from this entire DGR fiasco.

Philippe said...

anonymous:

Are you challenging or agreeing with the part you're quoting? I didn't even think it was controversial at all. When I go vote in an election, I know I'm giving my opinion the political direction of the city/province/country, and so is everyone else. That is what democracy is about.

Philippe said...

Pr. St-Amant:

I'm a bit too busy right now to pursue this debate outside what directly concerns me.

I think you're referring to Dean Slater's comments about DGR's graduate students.

I know for a fact I'm one of the students mentioned by Dean Slater, and I already told him that I thought using me as an example of DGR's bad supervision of graduate students was ridiculous. The only basis of Slater's claims, as far as I'm concerned, is an arithmetic mistake on my thesis which I've corrected in less than two weeks (by re-running the simulations). Besides that the reviewers (including Pr. Giorgi from your department) found it to be very adequate for a M.Sc thesis. I don't feel my career is screwed.

I know one of the three other students mentioned by Slater had similar comments about the Dean's claims. I do not know who the two other students are, but with my knowledge so far it seems Dean Slater has been "fishing" on this one rather than responding to actual student complaints.

Michel said...

What a waste of Internet... :-)

Alain St-Amant said...

Philippe,

Without knowing how obvious the arithmetic error was (picked up by an outsider reading the thesis for the first time, but not by your research supervisor who should be following things pretty closely for one or two years), I guess I can't comment any further.

However, speaking as a chair, you've got to respond to a sudden surge in theses requiring major revisions and students just dropping out of the program. It sounds to me that the DGR group in Physics has recently had as many "problems" as my entire department (roughly 100 grad students at any given time) has had in my five years as chair.

There has to be a response from those entrusted with maintaining a quality university. Absense of complaints is not surprising when you bear in mind that grad students depend on their supervisors, past and present, for reference letters.

We've implemented changes in our own programs because of a single incident. It's just a question of protecting, as best you can, future students from going through the same problems endured by past students.

I think that instead of denigrating the Dean, you have to applaud him for at least trying to rectify a problem. Trust me, it's a thankless job, and sometimes you just wonder if it would not just be far simpler to bury your head in the sand, hoping the problem just somehow miraculously goes away without your intervention....and after you think that for a brief instant, you get back to work for the greater good and you do what's best for the students, no matter how much extra effort it requires.

Philippe said...

There have been only 2 students leaving their grad program and 2 thesis revisions in Chemistry in 5 years? That's very surprising. I quote a previous article in The Fulcrum, taking its data from Maclean's:

"In his Maclean’s article, Potter looked specifically at the reasons why it often takes so long for students to make it through graduate school—if they complete it at all—using his own experience as an example. Potter wrote that, like many students, he got side-tracked with other school-related activities like “teaching, reading, coursework, student unions, journalism, [and] university service.”

This lack of focus may contribute to the generally low completion rates for PhD students in Canada. In the humanities, only 45 per cent of doctoral students will complete their degree, while 55 per cent will finish in the social sciences, a number that, while slightly higher, is not very inspiring when compared to the sciences, where 70 per cent of PhD students will graduate. These numbers have sparked the interest of the Council of Graduate Schools, which has launched a project to look into the low levels of completion among graduate students. "

http://www.thefulcrum.ca/oldfulcrum/view.php?aid=39484

70% finish their Ph.D. That's barely 2 out of 3. We don't hear about it because it's a kind of taboo.

Hey, while we're at it, let's just look how many of Slater's grad students left their program in the last few years, compared to Rancourt's. Is that really where we want to go?

From a student's point of view, I would say that there's many reasons a student would leave their program, not all bad reasons, also. This is quite a complex issue and the last thing we want to do is put a "stigma" on these students.

Philippe said...

As for the "major revisions", it's actually the Dean of Graduate Studies who has the final say on whether the student can wait after the defense or not to make the revisions.

Mine were minor (2 weeks is not long to revise a thesis), yet I wasn't allowed to defend and I had to pay 1000$ to register. Now the same Dean is using his own decision as an argument against the supervisor? Who is in his own department? Basic rules about conflicts of interest should apply here.

---------

Still, let's assume a theoretical situation where Dean Slater was really worried about my well-being as a graduate student and didn't just want to find cause for discipline for Rancourt.

I did tell him that from my point of view, there's been no problem about how I was supervised and I would like him to stop using my case in these procedures against my consent. Well he refused even that. And at least another student targeted by the letter is as angry as I am about it.

Now how can Slater claim to act for the student's good after this kind of feedback from the concerned student? Unless the Dean thinks he knows what's good for us better than we do ourselves? Ironically, last time I said he was being "paternalistic" on this blog (a couple posts ago), Dean Slater was insulted enough to send a private e-mail to the GSAÉD president, hoping GSAÉD would react against me (of course, this didn't happen).


Let me put it this way. If I had any problem with Pr. Rancourt's supervision during my whole M.Sc., all I needed to do was to talk to either Dean Lalonde or Slater and surely they wouldn't have hesitated a second to initiate discipline. However, do I have any recourse against something unfair either Dean might have done? No. In the current system, Deans are assumed to be flawless. This, I think, is where graduate students can "get screwed" the most, in your words.

Philippe said...

A final note on my part (because I seriously need to stop commenting here and work on more important projects):

My latest few posts have been about the administration's response. And from what I saw so far, I have no choice to believe that they are going out of their normal ways to discipline Rancourt and to avoid acting on any complaint by a student who once showed support to Rancourt's initiatives.

Of course, if anyone would show me evidence that there's no differential treatment, that all students and all profs have been treated the same by the Deans in that whole story, I would reconsider my opinion on this specific matter. After all we have to remain scientific...

severin said...

Philippe has been accepted to do a PhD at Berkely, has, I'm assuming, an unblemished grade point average, as well as a pending (?) publication in either Science or Nature.

Yup, I concur with Alain. Dean Slater has cause for concern regarding Philippe's well-being under Rancourt's supervision. After all, Berkely is no UofO!

Alain St-Amant said...

Severin,

I like how you paint the picture that a trans-Atlantic war between the editorial boards of Science and Nature is being waged for the next DGR manuscript.....

I would imagine that "pending (?) in Science and Nature" is your way of saying they will be sumitted to Science and Nature. After all what are the odds it won't be accepted for publication?

As for Philippe, read above and I think he's a great student. He's no doubt a past NSERC PGS award winner who could have gone to Berkeley straight out of his B.Sc.

As for the depressing stats on graduate students, Chemistry has prided itself on doing well by our own students. I applaud GSAED's efforts to improve the situation university-wide, but almost every issue is not very pertinent to our own students as we've voluntarily raised our minimum stipends well beyond the university norm and issues such as office space and TA working conditions have been handled long ago (even before the CUPE local was created). Graduate students are the life-blood of our research groups, so it's in everyone's best interests to keep them happy. It's "good business".

As for deans singling out DGR, I can honestly say, without any doubt, that any professor who did as many idiotic things inside, and outside, of the classroom as DGR would be facing significant discipline from deans. And I think it's no longer fair to say its "the deans". Almost certainly, his own DTPC and chair have lost all confidence in his ability to teach physics, hence the non-existent teaching load. These are his colleagues. It's no longer just administration.

severin said...

Howdy Alain!

Just to clarify, Philippe had mentioned to me that he submitted to one of the journals Science or Nature. I can't remember which one. To my recollection, he did not submit to both journals, but since I can't remember which one he did submit to I mentioned both.

Well, it's the beginning of the semester, so let the brain-washing and indoctrinations begin! BTW, are you teaching anything this fall?

Alain St-Amant said...

Yeah,

Like I said, I think Philippe is a very good student and I'm not going to say anything bad about him.

However, as for DGR...kudos to DGR for actually submitting an article to either Science or Nature....it's sometimes really tough to write the correct address on the envelope and scrounge up the money for the postage for such top flight journals!!

As for my teaching: CHM1711 and CHM2532 in the Fall and CHM2754 and CHM4141 in the Winter. I'm actually leaning towards actually teaching the material that's listed in the official course descriptions...I'm such a corporate stooge!!

Philippe said...

Ok, I'll just stop these rumours no and say that there is no current paper being currently reviewed by Nature or Science.

There was a paper in Fall 2007, by DGR and myself, which made it through the first screening by Science. Both reviewers pointed out some corrections to be made, but in the end the editors mostly said that the reviewers weren't enthusiastic enough for the paper to compete for Science's limited space.

Severin: I'm sorry if I forgot to tell you the latest developments about that.

Everyone else: I feel there's no need for me to comment on Pr. St-Amant's gratuitous insults towards DGR, but it shouldn't be interpreted as an agreement. I just don't have the time anymore to challenge everything going out in Ottawa that I disagree with.

Alain St-Amant said...

Thanks Philippe for the confirmation. That I knew Severin's statements were a little off base was entirely a reflection of my knowledge of DGR, and not you.

As for what might appear as gratuitous insults towards DGR, I am simply trying to expose the true facts behind his numerous "crusades", and I prefer to do it in a (hopefully) comical fashion.

People with a little knowledge of how things run at the university already know that DGR is distorting the truth to make good people (Detellier, Lalonde, Slater, Major, Simon, Patry, Harrod, ...) look bad. I'm doing this more for the outsiders who may think uOttawa is acting in bad faith because they assume some of DGR's claims are true.

For example, for this recent Cinema Politica thing: if DGR claims that it was part of his "official workload" in past years (a claim that might seem reasonable to an outsider), my question would be how many "units" in the Faculty of Science workload guideline was that worth? If DGR can't provide a number other than zero/zippo/nada, then obviously his claims are false....and BTW, where did he plunk his $1500 personal allowance from uOttawa if not on Cinema Politica and a deaf interprator? You would think these things were fairly important to DGR seeing as how much noise he's made. Good thing the student's union offered to step in and bail poor DGR out.

But I'm sure DGR spent his $1500 on things that he felt were more important, and I would never be one to question DGR's good judgement or even raise the possibility that he simply cashed out his $1500.

severin said...

Wow, Alain, your posting on DGR's blog at 5:20 am. You have such dedication to the University! Surely this should earn you a citation from Vice-President Robert Major, thus putting you in the same class as former President Gilles Patry!!! You know, the class that excludes women.

Also, if the "good people" on your list look bad, then it's only because they do it to themselves. DGR is only exposing them. Vice-President Resources Victor Simon falsified a document, not DGR. Vice-President Resources Victor Simon made false statements in letters of reprimands that he illegitimately issued to two students, not DGR. Vice-President Resources Victor Simon violated the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act by inappropriately using and disclosing University held documents to an external law firm (BLG), not DGR.

There really is a difference between "attacking" and "exposing". Attacking is when the Vice-President Resources Victor Simon threatens ludicrous and baseless lawsuits against two students for exposing malfeasance of office.

Michel said...

DRG and his brain-washed followers are always right; they can not be wrong. Never! The rest of the University, namely its administration, is doomed to failure. The story is over-played...

Anonymous said...

"Wow, Alain, your posting on DGR's blog at 5:20 am. You have such dedication to the University! Surely this should earn you a citation from Vice-President Robert Major, thus putting you in the same class as former President Gilles Patry!!! You know, the class that excludes women."
-severin

The vast stretches of logic in that paragraph could span the universe; maybe you could put that in your thesis? How's that coming by the way??

severin said...

Nah, I think I'm going to leave that part out of my thesis. But to answer your second question, my thesis is coming along quite well now. Given that the admin has more-or-less stopped harassing me I can actually get some work done. I found some really interesting limit cycles in my PDE system!

Michel: do you want me to add you to the mailing list for DGR's seance sessions? Come and join us so you too can believe!

Alain St-Amant said...

Severin,

As for the 5:20 AM thing, I don't need as much sleep now that I can see into the future....the Penn State vs. Oregon game just started ten minutes ago (3:30) and I can see a 28-0 Penn State blowout by precisely 11:11 of the second quarter......SCARY!!

Anonymous said...

test

Alain St-Amant said...

Severin,

Oregon will mount a comeback but Penn State will respond right back with a touchdown. I foresee a 35-7 score precisely 1 hour in the future.......

Alain St-Amant said...

Severin,

One of three possibilities:

A) I really can see precisely 1 hour in the future

B) this website is on Central Time

C) the all-powerful Victor Simon controls all of NCAA football and is feeding me this information....

Alain St-Amant said...

....gosh darn my faulty clairvoyance....I mistook Beavers for Ducks.

Make that 35-7 for Penn State over Oregon State.

Alain St-Amant said...

Now that I had a little fun with the 5:20 AM thing (I actually got up at 4:00 AM that day to catch up on some business), I'd like to address the other issues raised.

For the Patry "excluding women" comment, I have no idea how to mock it since I have no idea what you're talking about.....

For Victor Simon, he's a big boy who can protect himself, and I assume that your claims will be proven in some sort of tribunal one day...maybe the exact same day that DGR Science (or Nature) article comes out!! I guess I don't need to use the expression "when hell freezes over" anymore.....I got an even better expression now!!

Whenever I've interacted with Victor Simon in a rational and constructive fashion, he's been a stand-up guy who does a very good job for the University.

Alain St-Amant said...

BTW,

I chuckled seeing "Anonymous" sending the test message at 3:46 Central Time four minutes after my message....was that DGR himself checking out if maybe, just maybe, I could see precisely one hour into the future?

I'm done for tonight...

Anonymous said...

anonymous.alien.from.three.hours.past.is.merely. reading.your.reports.of.the.future.to.include.in.general.intelligence.operations

Anonymous said...

(PREVIOUS MESSAGE CONTINUED)

.intelligence.operations

severin said...

Alain, the "excluding women" comment is in reference to another post on this site:

http://uofowatch.blogspot.com/2007/11/vp-academic-robert-major-explains.html

"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."

Severin Stojanovic said...

The full link got cut off. Here's the rest of it:

/vp-academic-robert-major-explains.html

Alain St-Amant said...

Severin,

Look at what you wrote originally and you're implying that ex-president Patry had a problem. That's clearly not the case.

As for VP Major, when he chose his Associate VP Academic, he went with the best candidate, Sylvie Lauzon. That speaks volumes, and his actions say a lot more about him than a poor sound bite.

Change the quote from "women" to "anyone" and I would not disagree. There is a dearth of candidates, male and female, for positions in administration. The profs are not afraid of hard work, but not many are willing to add administration to the research/teaching/family mix.

Look at it this way: identify the most talented professors (male or female) in the university and offer them an administrative position. The answer you'll likely receive is "No", and for the very reasons VP Major listed.

....and I think we're all smart enough to know what 24/7 means, and yes it does apply to a university president.

Anonymous said...

So, what happened today at the BoG Executive meeting?

Alain St-Amant said...

I guess we just have to wait and see.....if everything suddenly goes to hell in a handbasket for one day (and one day only) then dollars to doughnuts good ol' DGR is serving his one day suspension and he's not around to protect all the students and profs from the evil administrators by "exposing" them.

Oh how I fear that day.......

J. Coates said...

First God created idiots. This was just for practice. Then God created University bureaucrats.
All these idiots are doing is giving more attention and publicity than this episode deserves.

Michel said...

J. Coates, you are absolutely right and I agree with you. Those idiots should have fired DGR's ass a long time ago. This way, there wouldn't be any unwanted attention and bad publicity anymore. Damn...

Anonymous said...

"Those idiots should have fired DGR's ass a long time ago. "

"This way, there wouldn't be any unwanted attention and bad publicity anymore."

If: controversial prof is fired from university
Then: no media attention

Jesse Freeston said...

For those interested in what took place at the BofG meeting on the 11th. Too bad, it was closed to the public and even to the defendant(Prof. Rancourt). For those interested in what took place OUTSIDE of the meeting during that time. Check out the video at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-sYMh84RV4

I have to tell you how scary the last two entries were from Michel and Anonymous. You seem to feel for the university´s governance being exposed in the media, or even on this blog. And a discussion forced.

Universities are meant to be OPEN in every way possible. The fact that you yearn for a day when the university can operate in secrecy appears to me like you do not belong at a university, I find your reverence for an institution with a horrendous recent track record in recent years nothing short of offensive.

The amount of cynicism that I am detecting in the attitudes of those who oppose DGR's actions and those of others who have taken the sides of full Freedom of Expression. I am not one to tell others what to do, but if I were you I would look inside for a moment and try and discover exactly what principle (what Plato would call a 'form') is at the root of your actions. If you cannot answer this simple question then I suggest you reconstruct your position. As for mine? Freedom of expression/intellectual freedom/freedom to say what others do not want to hear/call it what you want. What is yours?

Also, I have to applaud St-Amant's Tony Snow-esque justification of VP Major's 19th century vision of gender roles. "Just replace women with anybody". Hahahaha. This is ludicrous. Alright, then just replace the N-word with pilot on Michael Richards' infamous rant "He's a pilot! Oh my god there's a pilot!". You're right that the comment is very reasonable, and not at all sexist if you TAKE THE REFERENCE TO SEX OUT OF IT. But valiant effort nonetheless. In my opinion, that is the sort of comment which should land a university official at a disciplinary meeting in front of the Board of Governors. But instead of punishing overt sexism from those in positions of power, the University is too busy punishing those who seek to report on those actions which inform us petty students, staff and community members about what goes on behind that locked glass wall in Tabaret Hall (see video).

And yes, I am one of Denis' brainwashed supporters. Forgive me if I do not line up to support an administration which accepts funding from repeat human rights offenders (Paul Desmarais and Ian Telfer), thinks women's lives are too busy with familiy commitments to be President of the University, falsifies documents, legitimizes the act of falsifying documents, thinks that physics students don't need to know anything about the world around them despite the statistical fact that 80% of those students will end up working for the military, refuses to fund deaf access to a popular documentary and discussion event and then months later uses that refusal as justification for cutting the event as a whole, stands behind a professor who (on tape) threatened a student, seeks to remove a professor from supervising his students do to 'harm' despite the fact that all those students have objected to this, and on and on and on.

You are right, this blog be damned, the UofO is in no need whatsoever of oversight.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-sYMh84RV4

Philippe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alain St-Amant said...

Jesse,

I don't think that anyone minds oversight, it's just that we mind that it's being done by someone who grotesquely distorts the truth. Look above at how I immediately saw through the "paper pending in Science or Nature" foolishness. To you, it probably sounds rational (and that is not meant as an insult). To someone with a little knowledge of DGR's stature, it was obviously wrong.

Same thing goes with all the issues about the deaf translations for Cinema Politica. Anyone who understands the issue of professors' workloads knows that it was not part of DGR's workload. See my comment above about how many "units" it was worth. It was worth nothing. The fact that DGR can't produce a value is because nobody ever assigned a value. It was not part of his workload. It was not University business. End of story.

Should the University financially support professors' hobbies outside of their work duties? Beyond the $1500 allowance, I think the answer is obviously not. And if anyone is so cynical as to think that the University does not care, come join the 350 or so witnesses in my first year general chemistry course. There are two (not just one) interpretors working pretty hard translating for a deaf student as I lecture. You can think all you want that the University does not care, but the facts say something clearly different. They do.

As for comments about the military, I'll just say that

1) as a person with family members in the military,

2) as a person who has had his hometown saved twice from natural disaster by the military, and

3) as a person proud to have seen the ex-NATO Chairman of the Military raised in his hometown of 500 back in rural Manitoba,

I'll just assume that you're saying we should deeply care about their education.

And guess what, we do. All evidence to people who understand workloads would surmise that DGR's workload is a nil workload this year because his own colleagues cannot trust him anymore to teach effectively (if this were not the case, DGR would be saying the Dean overruled the DTPC in assigning him a nil workload).

And do the students think he can still teach effectively? Assuming you are a uOttawa student and have access to the teaching evalaluations on INFOWEB, just look at DGR's performance last year (all his teaching was in the Winter I believe). In all instances, the majority of the students say they disagree with the statement that they learned a lot (Question 10) and the majority also felt the course was very easy compared to other courses ("real" courses) (Question 11). So much for educating and challenging our future proud members of the military.

Makes you wonder how all 23 students ended up with an A+ in one of those classes....

What you have above are verifiable facts. No spin.

factcheck said...

how about some objective measure of scientific research output?

Denis G. Rancourt's h-index (using Google Scholar): 19

Alain St-Amant's h-index (idem): 11

André E. Lalonde's h-index: 9 (the two most-cited papers are co-authored with Denis Rancourt)

Alain St-Amant said...

Hi Factcheck,

Good point about Alain St-Amant's productivity. Using Web of Science, I come up with similar numbers to you. However, I must confess my sordid past.......

Prior to the mid 1990's, I went by the name Alain StAmant on most scientific databases (note the absence of the dash). He had a good career, with an h-index of 8 and a pair of papers cited over 400 times each. Unfortunately, on a trip to Reno for a big chemistry conference (I was an invited speaker!!), my utter evilness could not be suppressed any longer and I shot a man (yes, you guessed it, just to watch him die). I then had to go undercover with the ingenious addition of a dash (-) between the St and the Amant. I've been keeping a low profile ever since.

BTW, I have a bigger NSERC than DGR. BTW, near half of my career at uOttawa has been spent as Chair of the Chemistry Department (kind of a time drainer). BTW, I'll probably finish out two three-year terms as chair at an earlier age than DGR achieved tenure. BTW, DGR has about a ten year headstart on that h-index thingie which is a lifetime achievement...that kind of helps a lot. BTW I'm teaching 3 courses this year (again, kind of a time-drainer)...and DGR? No need to beat that dead horse.

My advice: Don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

BTW I love the above line in The Untouchables (minus the slightly offensive ethnic slur beforehand)...but then again Sean Connery gets hideously gunned down by the second assassin with the Tommy Gun just after saying it...so I better watch out.

Michel said...

I will admit that dismissing DGR is obviously not the right solution, I was only being cynical. Although some university members may wish for it, I don’t think that it would not be good for anyone. But some of you need to realize that for the vast majority of students (and probably professors and staff too), this whole story is really getting irritating. Although I have followed this from far away like most other students, I feel that university officials have been more than patient and generous. Overall, the University’s image and reputation are being negatively affected. This whole situation would not be tolerated anywhere else other than at a university. Nowadays, a university has to be run like a business; agree or not, want it or not, that will not change, it’s not a choice. On a larger scale, it has become a societal issue and a marginal group of students, some anarchists and one single professor will not achieve anything other than aggravating the situation if they continue to be confrontational and defiant with university officials. I’m not saying that the University didn’t do anything wrong, but there are very competent persons leading this University/Faculty and dragging them in the mud does not serve any useful purposes. That was just my two cents.

Mike

severin said...

Alain, would you be willing to have a public debate on campus about the issues discussed on this blog?

You set the terms.

factcheck said...

Pr. St-Amant is correct that age should be taken into account:

Denis Rancourt (Ph.D 1984)

Alain St-Amant (Ph.D 1992)

André Lalonde (Ph.D 1986)

We also note that h-index is comparable between physics, chemistry and earth sciences (mean citations/paper in the same range).

We also note that last uOttawa researcher of the year winner from one of those three disciplines (Gary W. Slater from Physics, Ph.D 1984, received the award in 2001) has a h-index of 22.

Factcheck is satisfied that Alain St-Amant's assertions regarding the quality of Denis Rancourt's research are overwhelmingly unfounded. We will not comment further.

Alain St-Amant said...

Hey Factcheck,

Thanks for confirming when I got my Ph.D. I postdoc'd in San Francisco and I'm still a little fuzzy on the early 90's and everything. I said a 10 year difference between me and DGR, and it turns out to be 8 for the Ph.D.'s....

....but I bet you did not know that I was a precocious little scientist back then who graduated early by being a "skipper" (my school felt they had to challenge me a little bit more by accelerating my progression...which back in my home town meant you moved your desk one row to the right!! True story!!). So yeah, it's pretty much the ten years I stated above.

Nice point about the geology/chemistry/physics issue. Won't argue that one.

Won't argue about Slater winning the Researcher of the Year Award back in 2001. I was at the awards ceremony myself when he accepted the award and gave a talk on his research. It was fascinating stuff.

I'm really looking forward to the day when DGR wins the Researcher of the Year Award and presents his talk, as then, and only then, will I be able to be totally awed by the total awesomeness of his awesome intellect.

I gotta admit I admire your spunk at coming right back at me with those amazing facts after I pointed out your less than complete analysis of the state of affairs.

I'm kinda sad though that I couldn't work in an "hommage" to Johnny Cash or Sean Connery as in the previous post. Trust me, I tried.

Alain St-Amant said...

Sorry Severin,

One of the nice things about this blog is I get to do this on my own time (late at night chillaxing after having spent the whole day suppressing students yearning for freedom of speech....or early in the morning giddy with the thought of spending a whole day suppressing students yearning for freedom of speech...or in the middle of the day gnoshing on a snack to refuel my batteries so I can better suppress students yearning for freedom of speech).

I did love your challenge though....brings me back to my days as a kid watching wrestling and having one challenge the other to any kind of match and they'd end up with an "I Quit" match inside a steel cage!!

severin said...

Bullshit Alain. You know that you will lose, even on your terms. You're scared of publicly being made to look like a fool by a student.

Alain St-Amant said...

Gosh Severin,

You're good. You saw right through me.......

severin said...

That's right Alain. We're all courageous hiding behind a computer. But your cowardice in not speaking at Faculty Council says it all.

And what about those times when we pass by each other on campus, or the mall, and you look away and take a detour?

Yup. I see right through you.

Alain St-Amant said...

Wow, this blog has taken a rather nasty stalker-type kind of vibe......

I'm off to do my course in Colonel By. Gotta leave a few minutes earlier than expected since the direct D'Iorio to Colonel By route through MacDonald (the Physics building for those not aware) seems to be out of the question. I guess the King Edward route looks like a safe bet.....

BTW, last Faculty Council: major surgery in my mouth just a few days earlier....kind of made talking a little difficult....but I have to admit that the painkillers made the SCI1101 proponents a little bit more tolerable.

severin said...

Stalking? HAHAHA!!! Yeah, I can't get you out of my mind. You're irresistable.

As for Faculty Council, you had about a year and a half to say something. Or were you recovering from brain surgery during this time?

Alain St-Amant said...

OK OK Severin,

Next Faculty Council I promise to stay off the painkillers and I'll deliver my stirring tribute to Jimmy Stewart and re-create his fillibuster from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".

I was originally leaning towards the Mel Gibson speech from "Braveheart" or the Al Pacino half-time talk from "Any Given Sunday", but I decided to go with the classic.

Happy now?

...and don't even think of asking me to team up with you to re-create the Jack Nicholson/Tom Cruise "You can't handle the truth!!" scene from "A Few Good Men". Been there, done that (the Faculty Council of October 1995 if I remember correctly).

Jesse Freeston said...

Some points.

#1 - Who the hell cares who has a better H-score or whatever. This is not an academic beauty pageant.

#2 - The science/nature point is not important to me, what is important to me are the mountains of evidence of abuse of power, malfeasance, fraud, and general poor conduct on the part of this administration and certain staff members which are never contested by DGR's critics...they prefer to bring up the same unrelated attacks, but never defend the actual actions which he is criticizing. These events which this blog has documented ARE true. If they were not true then the Admin would be meeting in secret to punish Denis for libel instead of for the inapropriate use of university images.

#3 - I would really appreciate it if every one of these points did not come back to an ad hominem attack. I do not care what your opinion is of DGR, I want to know why you choose to defend those who have committed very serious abuses of power.

#4 - The Military. Regardless of our opinions on the value and virtuosity of the work of the North American military complex (both public and private), I think we can all agree that those who will go on to dedicate their creative life's work to a cause should learn about the applications of that work. Particularly for those in a field such as physics where the student originally becomes interested due to innocent curiosities ("Why is the sky blue?") and ends up working their entire life on how to build a better bomb. In an undergraduate degree, a physicist is required to take 30+ classes on phsyics, but not one on how the applications of physics affect the lives of those in the real world. I don't think we should allow sentamentality over our loved ones in the military (I too have them) to masquarade as a response to a valid criticism of a serious imbalance in our education system.

#5 - Mike, reading your last post disturbed me greatly. Who the hell are you to tell me that I have to accept that universities are businesses, that there is no choice. I just spent 6 months in El Salvador living two blocks from the National University a 100% public institution. In fact, there are ZERO corporations allowed on campus, and free speech is encouraged instead of punished. Spray-painting is expected, and as a result the campus is not only the most beautiful I have ever seen, but also the most intellectually stimulating. But this situation was not given to the students by the government, nonono, the students have fought repeatedly for this, and continue to fight for these freedoms. So dont tell me I have to accept it. There are plenty of examples around the world of students who have not accepted this and have as a result created campus environments which are truly conducive to learning.

#4 b) - In a previous post I asked people here to think about what eternal principle(s) they were standing for when they take their position on issues like the ones we encounter on campus, what idea do they use as their guiding light to analyze the situation. From your post Mike I can only gather that it is protection of the university's reputation that you value above all else. This is terrifying. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you yourself are probably not this character, but your post sounds like the words of a top administrator in Orwell's ministry of truth. "Do not point out the contradictions and inconsistencies in the institution because it will harm the institutions reputation". I am sorry but this whole idea has to be flat out rejected. And yes, you are right, only at a university could this be allowed to happen. THAT IS THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY, IT IS WHERE IDEAS COME OUT TO PLAY IN A FREE ATMOSPHERE. IF IT DOESNT HAPPEN HERE, WHERE COULD IT HAPPEN, THIS IS WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR. I hope that this comment from Mike does not speak for all those on here who criticize this blog, because if this is where you are all coming from, if we cannot all agree that the University is the place in our society for the unimpeded flow of ideas, then I will stop posting for good.

Alain St-Amant said...

Hi Jesse,

For point 1, it was somebody else who brought out the h-index and I was simply having fun with the fact that it often really messes up with people with "strange" names such as myself or with women who change their names upon marrying.

For point 2, I simply disagree that there is credible evidence on so many issues. If you understand how the University functions, DGR is really distorting the facts to make it seem as if he has a valid case.

For point 3, I think many of us have a major problem with DGR's abuse of the concept of academic freedom (a very powerful concept). This morning, I have the power/freedom to go into CHM1711 and teach first year general chemistry any way I wish to do it. But I cannot abuse the trust placed in me to actually teach chemistry in a chemistry class. DGR chose to abuse that power/freedom with his academic squatting.

BTW, don't think of it as attacking him...I am merely criticizing/exposing, and from what I've been told by good old DGR, that's a "good thing".

As for corporate support for the University...I have no problem with profs using unrestricted grants from corporations to hire paid graduate students and train them for high paying jobs in industry. I'll come out and say it: Thank you Merck-Frosst, Boehringer-Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, etc. etc.

Really understand what it's all about and it is not so sinister as you make it out to be.

Alain St-Amant said...

...just a little addendum on the last point that might not be clear to all: the money from the corporations is most often used to conduct the very same type of research that would have been conducted without corporate support anyways.

Why would any company give a researcher money to conduct research of no direct importance to them? It's merely a question of developing highly qualified personnel that can become valuable assets to the company in the future. And by no means are these "assets" exploited: these jobs are intellectually demanding/satisfying and carry attractive salaries.

Should that research money come from the government rather than industry? Government supports us enormously, but not enough to hire all the graduate students wishing to study in our department. The industrial support is allowing us to take on these students and give them a chance at a very rewarding career (be it in industry, academia, or government).

factcheck said...

No measure of research output (i.e. reducing a creative process to a number) can be perfect. Professor St-Amant, however, has yet to produce any single piece of evidence that Professor Rancourt is a bad researcher (as alleged by Dean Slater).

Concerning actual support towards Professor Rancourt's ideas in the department of physics, we point interested readers to Marc Kelly's blog: http://unfamiliarfreedom.blogspot.com/

A quick reading of the first post allows one to see how divided a 3rd-year physics class was on the issue of grading, with many students being at least sympathetic to the radical idea that grading should not happen at all.

This is not an activism course. These are all third/fourth year physics students.

For Mr. Freeston, we repeat that this is not an exact measure, yet it should be relatively satisfying in the current factual vacuum of this discussion.

Alain St-Amant said...

In all seriousnes, I think that it's safe to say that DGR's status as a researcher is in decline. His NSERC Discovery was drastically cut this past year.

In all fairness, mine was cut a couple of years ago (but by a considerably smaller amout), but that was also the year that "blood was in the water" in the Physical/Analytical Chemistry GSC and only a select few (roughly 20%) stayed pat or improved. Also factor in that many department chairs suffer this fate due to other duties taking away from research time.

This year was a better year at NSERC, and obviously, DGR has no administrative responsibilities holding him back. No teaching duties now either. He's basically worked himself into a very undeserved and ass-backwards research chair. I could think of better ways to spend the roughly $130K of his salary.

And is he an admired professor amongst the activist crowd? It's doubtful. Just go to his other blog and read Chomsky's comments on DGR. Not pretty (and you think I'm bad in my criticism?....I could only hope to be 50% as negative as Chomsky on my best day).

Does this qualify as a "single piece of evidence"? Factor in the two students who transferred out and the two students requiring major revisions.....not good signs as well.

Alain St-Amant said...

For those who missed the Chomsky quote, here's a "cut and paste" (note that the "I" is someone else....and curious that Chomsky himself notes that DGR's "facts" are a little questionable...where have we heard that before??):

I passed your post to Chomsky, who had the following to say within about 39 minutes of my sending a message to him (not an uncommon response time for anyone who writes him):

“I have no idea who Rancourt is, and he has no idea of what I do. Perhaps he is what he describes: an intellectual who keeps to books. If so, he would be unlikely to know anything about me, since my life continues to be immersed in activism just as it was during the 60s, which I suspect he also knows nothing about.

“This is simply a diatribe, an expression of his completely uninformed opinion. There are no arguments. He offers no facts that can be checked. It's simply his personal inventions. There is no way to respond, and no need to pay attention.”

Jesse Freeston said...

Surprise surprist. We are back to trashing DGR instead of explaining how ANY of the accusations levied on the UofO Paschas...err...Administrators are untrue or even exaggerated.

I don't care if this blog was managed by Charles Manson, if it produces true information which incriminates those in positions of great power in our society, it is an invaluable resource. Would someone PLEASE tell me what it is that, as Alain has said, "I don't understand about how the university works" which justifies these acts?

Alain St-Amant said...

Hi Jesse,

Please note that the above comments were related to whether or not DGR was being singled out by the administration with the possible expulsion from FGPS. That's what was being addressed. There have been lots of problems, and burying our heads in the sand is not the best course of action.

Look above and obviously any claims he's brought against the administration about the deaf translation is bogus. It was not part of his official workload and Cinema Politica was not a uOttawa endeavour. DGR even had a $1500 fund to dip into if he felt so strongly about the issue, yet he chose not to. Like I said, I have a deaf student in my CHM1711 class, and I can assure you that the University is providing two deaf translators, full time: lectures, labs, and DGD's (a total of 7.5 hours of week for my class alone...multiply by 5 for her entire courseload this semester alone). If the University really had to do the same for Cinema Politica, they would.

For matters such as supposedly sexist comments, we can either focus on an unfortunate sound bite or we can tackle the issue that most professors (male and female) are not willing to step into administrative roles and that this is a major problem for the future. It's a decision that has to be made, and I'd rather try to solve the problem than join a group of well-intentioned people (I will grant you that) who would rather lay blame that actually move forward.

If you want to talk about closed meetings where DGR is not allowed to attend, there are reasons why such things occur. Some meetings have to be closed. Trust me, DGR had his chances to address the charges laid against him. As someone who personally had to go through DGR crap through our union (actions initiated by DGR himself), DGR has his chances to address the people who make the decisions.....and there are reasons why these people ultimately go against him. They tend to value cogent arguments, and this is not to DGR's advantage.

Please understand that it is difficult to address many of these DGR pet issues without pointing out how warped the arguments are and how bad the situation has become.

Jesse Freeston said...

This is the kind of post I have been looking for, thank you Alain.

On the deaf access front, if it wasn't part of his workload, why did the University pay for the translator at the beginning in the first place before announcing out of nowhere that it would be discontinued. Moreover, where does the University get off using a student as a pawn in their mission to destroy everything Denis touches. In case no one noticed, it is the University that the student is bringing to the Ontario Human Rights Comission to defend its cancelling of her translation.

Furthermore, and this is more important. Do you not believe that Cinema Politica should be considered part of Denis' workload? You tend to talk a lot on here about the little that Denis does given the removal of his teaching duties, in comparison with all the work that you do as a prof and chair. I put serious doubt on anyone who would argue that a Documentary and Discussion forum...which is free to all, taking on the most controversial and important issues of our time...does not fit within the idea of what a university should be. And certainly should be embraced by the institution which penned the beautifl Vision 2010 document. Accepting this, should not that same institution dip into its $68 million surplus to make that event accessible to all community members who wish to partake in such a worthwile and academic activity.

On the topic of Major's sexist comments. I think this 'unfortunate soundbite' represents a more important issue than the shortage of professors who want to take on administrative roles. Unless you want to argue that this is the reason a clearly incompetent bigot like Major has ascended to such a position, lack of competition. But on the whole, I tend to find the issue that such a comment was not punished in any way, shape or form a VERY large issue.

Lastly. Why do some meetings have to be closed?

Alain St-Amant said...

Hi Jesse,

From what I've heard, the University did pay once for a translator. However, this happened when the translator had been told by DGR that the University would pay and the translator came in good faith and translated. However, DGR had not asked for the University's permission in advance. Rather than leaving the translator "high and dry" for a night's work, the University paid the translator. This is a classy move on its part.

It is very disturbing to see this act of kindness twisted by DGR into the University having set a precedent of paying for translation.

You argue that Cinema Politica should be supported by the University because it is worthy and it was associated with one of its profs. That may sound reasonable, but the University does not foot the bill for many important things since it is not its responsibility. NSERC and CFI fund pretty much everything we have in science, but when I go across the country to do a site visit for these organizations, it is NSERC and CFI who pay for it, not uOttawa. When I judge at a science fair at the regional or national level, it is the science fair's sponsors who pay for the medals we award, not uOttawa (though uOttawa is most often a sponsor). And when I want to buy research equipment or hire a graduate student, its up to me to find the money, not uOttawa.

The point I'm trying to get to is that it is not the University's responsibility to pay for everything that we consider important or everything we do for the community. The University provides us with salary, office space, free utilities, laboratory space, scholarships for the top students, etc. etc....so they are providing us with a great deal. It's up to us to do the rest.

And was Cinema Politica part of his official workload? I really doubt it since DGR would be stating that he was given "x" amount of teaching relief for it. He isn't doing that. And was running Cinema Politica that hard a task? It probably does not compare with the amount of work many of my department members do reviewing papers and grant proposals....and this is just one of many tasks we do outside of teaching and research.

I did not mean to imply anything of the sort when I talked about a dearth of candidates for administrative positions. Check the c.v.'s of the people in question, and they are impressive. Check the people they have hired to fill key roles, and you see a representative survey of the University population.

However, that being said, most of the University's top positions are filled by career academics and the reason they chosen to be career academics is because they enjoy research and teaching....not administration. It's often tough to convince people to step forward and play these administrative roles. But even if it's tough, you eventually end up with very good people since these jobs are just too important to give to just anyone.

Some meetings have to be carried out behind closed doors. One obvious one would be tenure and promotion decisions. I personally would not mind opening up my files to the public, but many would not (how about it DGR??). I'd also hate to have public disciplinary meetings for students caught plagiarizing documents.

But note that in all of these instances, the profs/students get a chance to state their case in writing or in person in preliminary stages. However, the final deliberations are held in private.

Perfect example in everyday life: a case is heard in court and everyone gets a chance to present their case....but the final deliberations of the jury are held in private. It gives them a chance to reflect in peace and come to the best decision possible.

Anonymous said...

Alain... consider, please:

You have now contributed far more to this blog than Rancourt himself.

Which means this is now, for all intents and purposes, your blog attacking the UofO, admin, and staff.

I'll say it again: the best way to oppose this blog is to just let it die. No one in the community places great weight on most of what is said by it or the relatively few, but ardent, defenders of it and similar projects.

What's your purpose? An argument, or an elucidation of actual fact?
Who's your audience? DGR's advocates, or the people who might become so?

Once you've firgured that out, pick a better forum/start your own site.

Sincerely,
A Friend.

Alain St-Amant said...

OK,

Don't know if I agree with you that ignoring is the best option, but obviously I've made my point and I guess that it's time to call it a day.

Just like Brett Favre, I'm riding into the sunset (blogging-wise of course)....

factcheck said...

As a scientist, Alain St-Amant should know that facts must be independently verifiable. "Trust me" doesn't count.