Former University of Ottawa physics student Jesse Hall was recently moved to write this (below) opinion entitled “Dismissal of Denis Rancourt”.
He sent it to Professor Claude Lamontagne, Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Education (CDE) - the defence committee for former physics professor Denis Rancourt.
A possible catalyst is THIS JAN-3RD POST at Activist Teacher about self-image: “‘Thou shall not kill’ but you can pay taxes to a government whose main expenditure is geopolitical war of aggression. This contradiction is nothing that a glib self-justification cannot fix…”
Jesse Hall is depicted in this photo from the internet, having photo caption:
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN; 6 January 2009
— Door-gunner CORPORAL Jesse Hall of the Governor General’s Foot Guards in Ottawa, Ontario, with CH-146 Griffon number 414.
— credit/source: Capt Dean Menard, JTF-Afg Air Wing
The arguments and assumptions presented by Mr. Hall are virtually identical to those presented by the Allan Rock administration of the University of Ottawa in the dismissal of Rancourt (see documents and links HERE). Both Hall and the Rock administration also benefited from the same degree of background knowledge: Neither has ever attended a class given by Rancourt, although the University did have the benefit of extensive covert surveillance (see HERE) – a kind of “military intelligence” if you like.
From: Jesse Hall <>
Date: Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 8:09 PM
Subject: Dismissal of Denis Rancourt
To: claude.cde [at] gmail.com
Good day Sir,
I am writing to you concerning the case of Dr. Denis Rancourt, dismissed from the University of Ottawa department of physics. I was an undergraduate physics student at the University of Ottawa during many of the events that are at issue, and I would like to express my views on this subject.
Dr Rancourt has not only betrayed the trust of a respected academic institution, but directly attacked the students that were put in his charge. The straight A+ grades that he awarded to his students were not his to give out; they belonged to the university, which sets the criteria for the awarding of grades and delegates experts the authority to evaluate whether those criteria have been met. Dr Rancourt conducted no evaluation, and the university is well within its rights to tell him that he failed to conduct the work it expects of him. It is not telling him that his teaching method is wrong, merely that it cannot be used towards a degree that the university will put its official seal on. If the University of Ottawa is going to put its name and reputation behind its graduates, it has a responsibility to ensure that those graduates are in fact qualified.
The failure to assign grades according to effort and achievement harms students in a number of ways. First, and probably most importantly, it fails to prepare them for life outside the world of academia, in which performance does in deed matter. The lessons learned at university often extend beyond the material taught in classes, and the inculcation of hard work, discipline, and taking personal responsibility for ones performance (good or bad) are a vital preparation for the working world. Second, it does a disservice to those students that actually do the required work, as the students that do not also get the same grade (that is, the same reward). Third, it erodes the value of the degrees that these students will eventually obtain (that presumably have been obtained by now).
Dr Rancourt is not an expert in teaching methods, psychology, or any of the myriad topics that he attempted to teach in his ridiculous 'activism' course. He has conducted no research into the best method of teaching. He is certainly not qualified to tell every professor at a prestigious university that he knows better than they do how to teach. Nobody is impinging his freedom to express his views, but he has no authority to implement untried teaching techniques without any reference to higher authority. He should be free to pursue his theories on education if he so chooses, but if he refuses to do what he is employed to do then he ought to have his employment terminated. He was rightly fired for failing to do his job, as anybody else would be in any other profession.
The "Science and Society" course that he attempted to teach became, unfortunately, a platform for himself and like-minded people to express their views with the authority of a professorship behind them, without actually knowing what he was talking about. The conversations that I had with Dr. Rancourt included the ridiculous statement that the use of depleted uranium munitions during the first Gulf war was a war crime. Dr. Rancourt is in no position to determine whether this is true, as he is not an expert on international or military law (it is not true, incidentally). Yet when he says this in front of a class, it becomes the word of a professor, and one that controls one's grades and can penalize a student for disagreeing. He also expressed the opinion to me that soldiers ought to be ashamed of themselves, though in fairness he was unaware that I was a serving member of the Canadian Forces reserves at the time. His policy of teaching dogma and what I would characterize as propaganda as fact and mainstream academic opinion (I believe he honestly thinks he is merely encouraging students to think, but I seriously doubt that this was the outcome of any of his lectures) may be defensible for a person with a professional academic background in the subject that they are teaching, but his opinion matters no more than that of any student in his class and using the authority of the university delegated to him to give it more weight is indefensible, and certainly does not fall under academic freedom.
As a disclaimer, as I have gained the impression from reading his blog that he is shockingly paranoid and determined to paint the University administration as a bogeyman by any means necessary, I graduated in 2007 and I am no longer affiliated with the University of Ottawa in any way. I have no vested interest in this aside from the value of my degree, which he seems so determined to attack. I did not take any course with him, my conversations with him occured when he approached me in the hallway when he saw me reading the preposterous propaganda that he had posted on the noticeboards or walls in the physics department. I am writing because I am personally affronted by the disgusting arrogance that Dr Rancourt displayed and continues to display, and I find the concept of defending one's right to foist one's own fringe views on impressionable students using the delegated authority of a respected institution as 'academic freedom' odious.
If you are interested in the opinions of former students that support Dr Rancourt, I hope you will take the time to consider a sincere statement of support for the university. Thank you, sir, for your time and kind attention to this message. I wish you all the best,
B.Sc. Hon (Physics), University of Ottawa, 2007
Are Physicists Smart?
Rock Administration and Project Hero
Denis Rancourt statement on his dismissal