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, February 9, 2009

Activist Teacher banned from campus, arrested, cuffed, and fired

Activist Teacher (aka physics professor Denis Rancourt) was barred from campus on December 10, 2008, and escorted off the premises by university police at the University of Ottawa, under the pretext of having assigned high grades in one physics course (24 students) last winter.

The story has been covered locally (Ottawa), nationally (Canada), and internationally.

The best web site for relevant background, media links, letters of support, official documents, etc., is:
[Photo copyright Pawel Dwulit 2006]


Anonymous said...

University of Ottawa makes a public media statement.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and the U of O press release in question is linked on the front page (home, media links) of http://academicfreedom.ca/

Point is: academicfreedom.ca is the best single source for all the media and blog links following the Rancourt case.

Plus original background documents.

Anonymous said...

Logic 101

1. The U of O press release states:

"In addition, the administration is able to confirm, as was reported in the national media, that a significant number of faculty colleagues had voiced concerns regarding Mr. Rancourt's conduct."

0. Rancourt wrote in one of his letters to the University:

"Suspension of the faculty member during the proceedings is justified only
if immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by the
faculty member's continuance."

1. The University wrote to Rancourt:

"In the meantime, I am placing you on administrative suspension from the University, while the recommendation on your dismissal is proceeding under the collective agreement. You are not allowed on University premises during this suspension, until a decision is rendered on the recommendation."


"You are under administrative
suspension and have been issued a direction to remain off campus, except
to communicate with your bargaining representative. I urge you to comply
with this direction. Disregarding this direction from your employer is
evidence of uncooperative behavior and insubordination. It could be
presented as such in future instances.

We are not seeking unnecessary conflict in this matter and are working to
ensure that your opportunity to be heard and to present you challenges
under the Collective Agreement is processed expeditiously. I invite you
again to reconsider your decision to disregard the University's direction
to you."

The University has never publicly stated why Rancourt is banned from campus. Could it be because Rancourt poses a clear and present danger to the physical safety and well-being of others???

Anonymous said...

speculation without evidence is un-scientific.

Anonymous said...

I love this article in the New York Times slamming Rancourt!!!

Rancourt's idea of academic freedom = Rancourt can do whatever he wants.


Anonymous said...

"speculation without evidence is un-scientific."

Think of it, rather, as a hypothesis. The scientific method goes both ways:

empirical evidence followed by hypothesis (Darwin)


hypothesis followed by empirical evidence (Einstein).

Where is the "evidence" for electricity? After all, the scientific community has yet to actually see an "electron". Or would you say that the electron is an un-scientific speculation?

Feel free to live in the stone age, but the burden of proof is on you to prove the non-existence of the electron.

Now prove my legitimate hypothesis wrong.

Anonymous said...

so which future experiment do you plan to conduct to verify if your theory is true?

because as Popper pointed out, theories that cannot be falsified are non-scientific.

oh btw, Stanley Fish believes that academia is only valuable when it's useless. read his books.

Anonymous said...

Nothing Rancourt says matters, especially not at this point. Even potentially sympathetic press can see the self-proclaimed emperor has no clothes. Another amusing link:




I am glad it's over. Nothing can save him now.

Anonymous said...

Dear old Denis is right, of course, the best place for his point of view is the ironically titled "academicfreedom.ca". There you will find the definitive, encyclopedic listing of selectively one-sided newspaper articles.

Just like back when he was a prof, he was not really promoting academic freedom for anyone but himself. Suppress everyone ... but himself. Criticize anyone... but himself. Blame everyone... but himself. Even the arbitrator thought it was obviously dishonest.

Anonymous said...

in all fairness all student and mainstream media article and commentary are posted on academicfreedom.ca, up to the most critical ones mentioned here.

isn't that ridiculous that no one bothered to register the domain name before?

Anonymous said...

Indeed the U of Ottawa press release, in comparison, has been quite selective on which media to link to.

Anonymous said...


"The best web site for relevant background..."

yeah right.

It's no better than FOX news.

Anonymous said...

what's your alternative suggestion?

Anonymous said...

"because as Popper pointed out, theories that cannot be falsified are non-scientific."

Let's take a look at Popper's philosophy of science:

"This problem arises from his position that the truth content of our theories, even the best of them, cannot be verified by scientific testing, but can only be falsified. If so, then how is it that the growth of science appears to result in a growth in knowledge? In Popper's view, the advance of scientific knowledge is an evolutionary process ..."

"In response to a given problem situation (PS1), a number of competing conjectures, or tentative theories (TT), are systematically subjected to the most rigorous attempts at falsification possible. This process, error elimination (EE), performs a similar function for science that natural selection performs for biological evolution. Theories that better survive the process of refutation are not more true, but rather, more "fit"—in other words, more applicable to the problem situation at hand (PS)."

So, according to Popper, a scientific understanding of Rancourt's situation, namely the banishment from campus, is an evolutionary process of which the particular conjecture, namely the banishment from campus is because of a physical threat of harm by Rancourt to others, needs to be falsified.

There are, then, two possible ways we can proceed to test the hypothesis:

1. Assume Rancourt is already insane or progressing to a state of insanity irrespective of external influences, which may lead to violence; or

2. The evolutionary progression of Rancourt's ostracizing from the campus community and his subsequent defeats will push Rancourt into a state of insanity which may lead to violence.

The ideology of violence is a given axiom, since Rancourt ideologically subscribes to insurrectionary anarchism as espoused by Errico Malatesta, an author, incidentally, you will not find listed among others on academicfreedom.ca as having an influencing effect on Rancourt's ideology.

Now, for Test 1 to falsify the hypothesis we would leave Rancourt alone and observe his mental progression.

For Test 2 to falsify the hypothesis we would observe Rancourt's mental progression by correlating it to the (inevitable) defeats Rancourt achieves.

Because Rancourt has lost practically every single battle he has engaged in against the University, the hypothesis is strengthened by the evolutionary process suggesting a strong correlation between his victorious losses and his progressing insanity.

In the end, the ultimate invalidation of the hypothesis will be when Rancourt, aka Socrates, drinks his own hemlock without harming anyone else in the process. Rancourt is a physical threat to others, but he will not act out against others because he knows the minute he does he's finished. Everything for him will collapse.

Rancourt's self-destructive behaviour is exactly that - his aggression has turned inwards and has initiated a self-death drive (see Freud's "Civilization and its Discontents").

Rancourt's anti-social behaviour is actually social because it will lead to him eliminating himself from our society.

Therefore, the initial hypothesis that Rancourt is a physical threat to "others" is not actually invalidated but evolves. It evolves exactly BECAUSE it is valid.

Anonymous said...

Denis, you only put 11 A+'s. Shouldn't it be 24?


Oh, and don't forget one F.

Anonymous said...

to whoever just posted about "hypothesis testing"...

so you're arguing that if Rancourt does something AFTER he's being punished, it proves the reason for punishing him in the first place?

sounds awfully like Philip K. Dick's "minority report" to me...


and in at least another way, your logic doesn't make sense.

you're proposing that there is some undisclosed reason (undisclosed because it's not in the letter from Major to Rancourt) why the administration suspended him.

the burden of the proof lies on the person who proposes the existence of something, not the people who deny it. because it would be impossible to prove the negative in that instance, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I am not proposing that there is some undisclosed reason why the administration suspended Rancourt. It is very clear: Rancourt is on academic suspension in connection with the attribution of A+'s.

As for Rancourt's banishment from campus, I am not proposing that there is some undisclosed reason for this. It is very clear (via Major's letter to Rancourt): Rancourt is banished, but the administration is not disclosing why.

Academic suspension does not equal banishment from campus, but there may be a correlation.

What I AM proposing is the reason for the banishment.

This is an interesting article that may aid the discussion: "How to fire an employee".

Examine ALL the documents Rancourt has posted carefully for yourself. What is not written can often be more powerful than what is actually written.

As for the argument "that if Rancourt does something AFTER he's being punished, it proves the reason for punishing him in the first place?"

No, this is not what I am arguing at all. In fact, I am not arguing anything: I merely put forward the proposition that Rancourt's banishment from campus is because of a potential for Rancourt to act out violently against others.

Do an Internet search on the statistics for workplace violence of employees who have been terminated. It's quite scary... ever heard of the expression "going postal"? Rancourt's behaviour, conduct, and exchanges with the University allow my hypothesis to be legitimately formulated.

Now, with regards to my expose, I merely give examples how Popper's definition of falsifying a scientific theory can be used to test my hypothesis for the reason(s) of Rancourt's banishment from campus, as a result of a previous comment on the blog.

I never said that I believe Popper's definition of a scientific theory... if it leads to a "minority report" type outcome, don't blame me - I'm just applying the Popper template to my hypothesis. If you understand Popper, you would have realized that his prediction is that Rancourt actually will NOT act out violently against others.

If you have difficulty reconciling philosophical logic with scientific logic and what implies what, that's not my problem. If you are ready to dish out cliches and quoted snippets, at least understand them.

Anonymous said...

That the interdiction to enter campus has reasons different from the suspension is something you're purely making of, and there is no hint of it in Major's letter.

Anonymous said...

Rancourt, and those that believe in him, have put forward a proposition: Rancourt is banished from campus because of A+'s. I propose that Rancourt is banished because of a threat of violence and mental instability. I believe that my proposition is more well-founded and logical than yours. Remember in 2007 when the University developed concerns regarding Rancourt's mental well-being???

You are positing that Rancourt's interdiction to enter campus has reasons not different from the suspension.

There is no hint in Major's letter exactly why Rancourt is banished. This is one of the reasons why Rancourt and his acolyte (in the singular) keep losing - they see things and make connections that have nothing to do with reality.

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that Rancourt's fight to not grade ended up in him "grading" - give everyone an A+.

I find it ironic that Rancourt believes in an S/NS system of "grading", yet fights to have the right not to "grade".

Rancourt, if you truly believed in "education" as opposed to "grading", you would have handed your Dean a class list with absolutely no grades. No A+'s, no satisfactories, nothing.

Oh right, the battle isn't about education... it's about yourself. Because the Collective Agreement and your Arbitration award does not permit you to not grade AT ALL.

Ahhh... all the wonderful contradictions that surface when you lie... or blatant stupidity manifesting itself.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rancourt, I hope Ronald Caza milks you for all you're worth.

Anonymous said...

"You are positing that Rancourt's interdiction to enter campus has reasons not different from the suspension."

Occam's Razor

Anonymous said...

It's about time. This embarrassment to our institution has been going on long enough. Rancourt is clearly not competent; he is bordering on delusional. I hope he gets the help he needs, so long as it is far away from campus.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Occam's Razor... once again your naivety prevails.

Occam's Razor:

"The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory."

Anonymous said...

Just in case you didn't understand the logic of the previous post and what it implies...

In order for Occam's Razor to apply, you must have a hypothesis. Occam's Razor then applies to the hypothesis.

And if you didn't follow the logic once again, the hypothesis should at least be reasonable.

Which is the most reasonable hypothesis - Rancourt is banished from campus because of:

1. Giving A+'s

2. The price of tomatoes.


3. A physical threat to the well-being of others


Banished because of A+'s??? A+'s??? Yeah, we live in 1984...

Didn't the Dean's letter to the Board of Governors recommending Rancourt's dismissal state something to the effect that the Dean has taken into consideration previous disciplinary actions against Rancourt in deciding to recommend Rancourt to be fired???

Previous disciplinary actions against Rancourt you say? Really??? It must be an Israeli lobby conspiracy. Oh, right, we should add this one as a hypothesis for Rancourt's banishment.

Anonymous said...

"Banished because of A+'s??? A+'s??? Yeah, we live in 1984..."

Hey, you're the one bringing up Orwell, not me.

Seems to me that you're inventing point 3 (threat to well-being bla bla bla) because the only facts we have are so counter to your prior ideas that you're victim of some mental blockage.

Sorry I can't help you for that.

Anonymous said...

Unless sending mass e-mails is a threat to physical well-being, if so, maybe university professors need more exercise to boost their constitution a bit...

Anonymous said...

"...because the only facts we have are so counter to your prior ideas that you're victim of some mental blockage."

Riiiiiiiiiight. And how many people are supporting Rancourt's cause??? And those of us that don't are either part of the Israeli lobby or in need of a Messiah (read: megalomaniac) to free us from bondage...

Here's another example of Rancourt posing a physical threat: Rancourt stating many times on what used to be his radio show, that the "sword is mightier than the pen."

What does it mean that the "sword is mightier than the pen"?

But I do admit that I suffer from mental blockage and have distracted myself on pedantic matters from the important issue: Rancourt will be fired and he wont be coming back.

Scream all you want... or better yet, keep sending mass e-mails... after all, that is a freedom you can still enjoy...

Anonymous said...

"Here's another example of Rancourt posing a physical threat: Rancourt stating many times on what used to be his radio show, that the "sword is mightier than the pen." "

And the catapult is mightier than the sword.

Did I just pose you a physical threat by expressing that opinion?

Anonymous said...

Of course not. But you did not convey it in a manner to insight an uprising. The context in which it was said by Rancourt on several occassions is clear enough.

Anonymous said...

Here's another example of Rancourt posing a physical threat: Rancourt stating many times on what used to be his radio show, that the "sword is mightier than the pen."

What does it mean that the "sword is mightier than the pen"?

It means he carries a sword at all times, and if he ever sees you, he will stab you in the face.

carboniferous said...

I find this quite fascinating, given that I'm aware of a similar situation at Carleton, in the Mass Communications department, and the administration looked the other way.

Joe said...

Emphasis in the media is placed on Rancourt's having awarded all students an A+. Of course that devalues the mark which appears as a misrepresentation when a student applies for a job or grad school. BUT the trigger was his having been totally dishonest with the university and the students by announcing a course entitled Physics and the Environment, then teaching a social activist course therein.

Though Rancourt may be scientifically brilliant he is nothing more than an over aged adolescent trouble maker. He seeks confrontation, and has somehow brainwashed a few students as well. Those students risk losing their careers unless they wake up.

The university is doing the right thing in preparing to dismiss Rancourt. It is a shame that the process needs to take so long.

Anonymous said...

This makes me SICK. If the authorities at the University genuinely disagree with his teaching methods, they ought to abide by the rules instead of messing with bureaucratic nonsense to try and avoid justice in this case.

All the closet paedophiles of the academic world need to move out of the way and let the rest of us take care of our future and our young people!!! >:{

Anonymous said...

Time to take your meds

Anonymous said...

Ladies first.