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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What was Mr. Rock thinking?

Frank Appleyard and Allan Rock

In the months leading to the University’s political dismissal of former physics professor Denis Rancourt on March 31, 2009, Frank Appleyard was editor of The Fulcrum and he produced an exceedingly negative and contrived editorial report (using student commentary) about Rancourt. This “editorial” was used inappropriately by the University as one of only two negative media pieces linked to one of its press releases about Rancourt (only several weeks later did the University add four more links to media items to its press release originally posted on February 6, 2009).

Following this unethical action by the University, Frank Appleyard had the following email exchange on the matter with a third party in February 2009:
  • THIRD PARTY: I just wanted to make sure that you saw the U of O Statement on Rancourt linking to the Fulcrum: [link]. The admin is giving you a big high five!

  • APPLEYARD: Yeah, I saw that yesterday. I love the fact that my column's presence is incredibly out of context in that piece. I have my own opinions about Rancourt and his struggles, but Im a little disappointed the admin would try to pass off my column as something akin to news coverage of him. Anyway. Unfortunate...
  • THIRD PARTY: Yeah, unfortunate for sure. And it's also quite a scandal (and irresponsible, and libelous) that the U of O would include your piece in the way they did. Have you considered writing about this? I think its essential and respect that we all have different views on Rancourt. I predict most will agree; the U of O pulling a stunt like this in reaction to a Globe and Mail article is shameful.
  • APPLEYARD: I contemplated writing about it, but at the end of the day newspapers aren't supposed to write about themselves or the people involved with them. It's kind of a convention among papers, as it comes off looking self-serving and biased. So, I don't think we'll write about it. I would encourage you to tell La Rotonde about it though. I think students should know what they did. But, I am displeased and I'm planning to send a letter to media relations about it. Also, have you seen the New York Times article about Rancourt?
  • THIRD PARTY: [link to Globe and Mail article] I continue to think that you need to write about how the administration has used your piece. This would not be self serving - it is simply campus news. The Fulcrum is a part of campus - you are obviously an important player. Use that power efficiently.
[End of exchange – Appleyard never responded beyond this point]

The Fulcrum editorial also gave Frank Appleyard special status as representing “the other side” as a rare campus member who agreed to speak negatively on the matter: He was interviewed on national radio (CBC’s The Current) to present a critical view of Rancourt (during his term as Fulcrum Editor). All these events occurred in the winter 2009 semester.

The recent FPS-Ombudsman’s interim report (LINK) and subsequent email revelations from Frank Appleyard (LINK, end of file) established that following the winter 2009 semester Frank Appleyard was hired to work in the office of University President Allan Rock for the summer of 2009 while he retained the position of Business Manager of The Fulcrum. The latter is a violation of the FPS Constitution.

Mr. Appleyard does not see a problem with this and feels that he was hired on the basis of “merit”, not as a reward for his “editorial support.”

Surely Allan Rock on the other hand, as a former member of the same Liberal Party of Canada that succumbed to the sponsorship scandal, must recognize that to have hired a student editor under these circumstances can only hurt the public image and reputation of the academic institution that he is charged to protect and guide following the highest principles of ethics and professional conduct?

What was Mr. Rock thinking?

[Note: This is an extract from a recently posted First Supplementary Report about UofOgate.]

Canadians for Accountability publish report on UofOgate
All the background and recent reports on UofOgate
UofOWatch posts about the cover up


Anonymous said...

Frank Appleyard did not want to speak out against the U's admittedly improper use of his editorial because "it comes off looking self-serving and biased"? But he was pleased, as editor of his paper, to bash Rancourt on national radio and then to take a job from Rock...

Wow, talk about different compartments in that journalistic brain... The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

This guy will go far. True talent.

Anonymous said...

A careful reading of the Fulcrum's constitution and by-laws clearly shows that Frank Appleyard's employment with uOttawa is fine. There is a distinction between the editorial side and the business side. And the letter attached to the ombudsman's report clearly shows that Mr. Rancourt is supporting his contentions with unproven allegations of biased hiring practices. The lack of evidence in the ombudsman's report calls the reliability of his findings into question. Speculation proving speculation?

Appleyard was the editor in chief of the English-language student newspaper. He was subsequently moved up to business manager. Something about those points indicates that he might have been the most (over?)qualified person for the job.

Anonymous said...

"A careful reading of the Fulcrum's constitution and by-laws clearly shows that Frank Appleyard's employment with uOttawa is fine."

No, it is not fine. There is a concept in labour law known as CONFLICT OF INTEREST that supercedes localized and internal constitutions or by-laws of organizations.

Anonymous said...

In what capacity was it a conflict of interest? Please demonstrate with sufficient clarity to supercede the localized constitution and by-law and invoke Ontario's labour laws.

Anonymous said...

For there to be a conflict of interest, one need only demonstrate that there exists the possibility of corrupted motivations in the person's employment capacity, regardless of whether corrupt behaviour is actuated.

Let me give you an example: the University of Ottawa's former legal counsel, Michelle Flaherty, now works at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. She would always, before even being assigned a case, be in conflict of interest to hear human rights cases involving the University of Ottawa, despite that she no longer holds employment with the University. Her conflict of interest predisposes her to produce either favourable treatment to the University (out of loyalty) or unfavourable treatment to the University (she was fired).

Human interactions are too complex to be written down in constitutions so by-laws, so the general concept of conflict of interest was enacted. Constitutions and by-laws are only attempts to ensure efficient running of an organization by saying how things should be run, not how people think.

Appleyard does not have to be an active editor-in-chief in order to be in conflict of interest. That he still holds employment with the Fulcrum while at the same time seeking employment directly with Rock is conflict of interest - by gaining employment from Rock, Appleyard is predisposed to be favourable to Rock and holds employment elsewhere (in a high capacity) where there is an interest for Rock to be publicly portrayed in a favourable light.

What if the editor-in-chief was Appleyard's girlfriend or relative or best friend or ...? In such cases there would definitely be no integrity in the media coverage because then it would be blatantly obvious that conflict of interest exists. To demonstrate conflict of interest, all that is necessary is to demonstrate just one plausible and reasonable "what if" scenario.

You might be someone who needs rules in order to function correctly due to your own insecurities, but constitution's and by-laws are not written to govern the motives of human interactions. If you like to live in a police state, then we don't need to understand motives, do we? All you need is obedience and fear to ensure that everyone's interests are the same as Rock's, and then there wont be any conflict.

Steve said...

I completely agree with anonymous!

But seriously, I have to ask anonymous for some sort of justification for this line

"What if the editor-in-chief was Appleyard's girlfriend or relative or best friend or ...? In such cases there would definitely be no integrity in the media coverage because then it would be blatantly obvious that conflict of interest exists."

Related to, maybe you would have a case, but please tell me how you came to reason, that there is a conflict of interest if he was dating or friends with the EIC? Does that person lose their agency as an individual just because they're friends with or in a relationship with Mr. Appleyard? Don't bother replying, your contrived sense of the meaning doesn't really interest me. I just thought I should should say something on behalf of reasonable people who are agents of their own will and accountable for their (non-anonymous) actions and statements.

Anonymous said...

Steve, thank you for proving my point!!!

When EXACTLY do you draw the line with regards to the possible relationships between individuals? You can't possibly map out the network of everyone's friends, relatives, etc., seeking employment.

That's why conflict of interest is PREVENTATIVE before any conflicting interests are even remotely allowed to be actuated. And it's for this reason that policy's exist to prevent an employee from seeking employment with certain organizations while holding employment with the present one, or in some cases even given the employment history of the individual.

Have a look at the conflict of interest policy for the Fulcrum. Please do so and explain how Appleyard was not in conflict of interest.

As for my reasoning in argumentation, it did bring out the simplicity in your understanding, didn't it? Quite superficial. Hell, why don't we just replace all the vice-presidents, board of governor members, senators, staff of the fulcrum, staff of la rotonde, gsaed execs., cupe execs., etc. with Rock's family members, associates, high school buddies, etc.???