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

Friday, January 8, 2010

Good day Sir

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,

Jesse Hall
B.Sc. Hon (Physics), University of Ottawa, 2007

RELATED LINKS:
Are Physicists Smart?
Rock Administration and Project Hero
Denis Rancourt statement on his dismissal

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"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."

Well, unless all students get the same grade, but I guess you forgot about that...

Marc Kelly said...

Hey Jesse,

Not only did Denis give out A+'s to all of his students, but some students didn't take their free A+, so Denis gave out doubles and triples, and I got away with 6 extra A+'s.

That's right: I've got a stash of 7 fresh A+'s stored in my desk drawer at home. And of course, these aren't just any regular A+ -- they're University of Ottawa A+'s -- the dankest A+'s you'll ever taste.

University of Ottawa A+'s are so dank that I had a job interview with an employer, and when they saw all the A+'s on my transcript they were like "dude, you got any more of that shit?" and I was like "fuck yeah, I've got a whole stash at home!".

So anyways, I got the job. Do you shoot Nazi's with your helicopter, or do you just fire when ordered, door-gunner Corporal?


A+,
Marc

yayacanada said...

Hall clearly has a poor understanding of the phrase he used: "taking personal responsibility", which really means to perform at one's highest personal level regardless of outside influences - not to get good marks, not for reward, not because it's expected of one.

By joining the military, so soon after graduating from Ottawa U., where lockstep responses to authority are expected of him, Hall demonstrates that his "education" fitted him well for a robotic existence.

Peter Biesterfeld said...

Thanks for posting this. At least we know where the "Good day Sir" people hang out. Keep shining the light.

PB

Anonymous said...

Why don't you hippies do something other than attack someone just for being in the military.... like .... I don't know..... how about responding to his arguments.

No wait, that would actually require you to think about the points he makes and to accept that "The Man", as represented by the uniform, actually deserves to be listened to.

good job to Jesse for standing up for his beliefs... especially since he probably knew or expected this type of ignorant response from you to his well argued and factual letter.

Your personal attacks on him belittle the defensibility of your opinions as well as the integrity of your characters


By the way, I'll be keeping tabs of all the posts of mine that are unreasonably blocked by DGR (due to difference of opinion, something he complains about Re: ombudsman) and will be posting them up around campus for all to see.

Anonymous said...

well I've tried over and over to express my opinion on this post, but since it does not fit in nicely with Denis Rancourts perception of the truth, he has not allowed any of my numerous posts. Likely, he will not allow this either. So I will just say hello to you all, and I hope you enjoy your one sided argument. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

yayacanada, Your comment on the Canadian servicemen and women living a "robotic existence" disgusts me. Clearly you have never bothered to discover anything about your Canadian forces men and women, because if you had, you would know that they are thoroughly trained to be Ethical, moral, and critical decision makers.

No person in our military can use "just following orders" as an excuse for their actions, especially if those actions are immoral, unethical or illegal.

Yes they obey orders from LEGAL authority, meaning someone imbued with the power of command over them by Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors, and her dominions. Not just any old figure of authority that you place before a service member will do.

In addition, our Canadian Forces is brimming with true LEADERS. Educated through experience, leadership courses, professional leadership development, testing, more complex experience and so forth ALL throughout their entire careers. To entirely dismiss this potential (albeit, you likely had no idea anyways) is insulting.... to yourself.

I am not saying that he is right or not, but what I am saying is that I cannot fathom how you people actually generate such ignorant thoughts in your heads. Consider what you say before you say it. Think about the people you are bashing down before doing so. Because service men and women are there for us.... sacrificing for Canada... showing courage... being leaders.... making decisions that affect more people in more serious ways than any decisions the rest of you will likely ever make.

To think, even for a second, that these people are not capable of thinking for themselves, with "lockstep responses to authority", is shamefully pathetic.

YayaCanada, I am not attacking you, nor am I attacking the rest of you. But your "arguments" need refinement and thoughtfulness. These may be your true beliefs... but if that is the case then all I can tell you is that you are wrong.... so very, very wrong, and it is unfortunate that your minds are too closed to ever discover the truth. If, however, these are just musings, then I implore you to talk to anyone in the military to find out the facts before you post again.

yayacanada said...

Anonymous reacts strongly against the words "lockstep" and "robotic". Perhaps "marching in unison" and "hierarchical conformity" would sit better, the latter term being
a direct quote
from: "The Regimental System" by Captain Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR:

Opportunities do exist for career advancement and ongoing challenge for those that want it, but there is also a comfortable structured lifestyle for those psychologically wired for hierarchical conformity

It's true that university students and soldiers are capable of thinking for themselves, but authoritarian institutions strongly discourage it.

Anon says the military is "brimming with true LEADERS". I dare say it is, since follow-the-leader can't be played without them.

Capt. O'Leary also authored "How to Suck an Egg" - a humourous treatise on the expected obedience to "precise unnecessary directions issued by a higher HQ"

Anonymous said...

Me again,

Just wanted to point out that you still are avoiding addressing Jesse's arguments. Ever heard of Ad Hominem?

Perhaps if you just ignore that picture of him next to a helo, and omit the following 20 words from his 946 word argument:

"though in fairness he was unaware that I was a serving member of the Canadian Forces reserves at the time."

There, that might help, now there is no indication that he is in the military and you are free to consider and respond to his statements as if he was an equal and reasonable human being with valid viewpoints.

This is what one might call civilized debate. I do look forward to your response.