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, May 21, 2010

Did Allan Rock lie to the Board of Governors on April 27th?

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock has publicly used the recent global financial crisis as an excuse for the administration's initially projected coming yearly deficit of 25M$, while refusing to provide details about its projection.

This was critically challenged in the media on April 15, 2010 (Citizen article HERE).

Only following the latter media report did president Rock respond on April 17th - to the media rather than to the university employee unions and student associations - with a revised deficit projection of 19M$, without any explanation of the 6M$ loss (Citizen response HERE).

Then on April 27, 2010, at a university Board of Governors meeting scheduled to approve a tuition fee increase, Chairman of the Board Marc Jolicoeur introduced Rock as "our Rector" and asked him to provide the context for the tuition fee increases.

In answer, Rock stated the projected deficit of 25M$ as a key element.

That's right. The media gets a revised 19M$ while the Board that rules on approving budgets gets a 25M$ figure as part of the foundational context it receives in order to make an "informed" decision...?

See video of the full April 27, 2010, Board meeting HERE.

This was too much for former Teacher Assistant union (CUPE, Local 2626) president now graduate student association executive Sean Kelly to take. At the break in the April 27th Board meeting, Kelly confronted Rock and explained that the president ("our Rector") had lied. Kelly has since made this public on CHUO 89.1 FM.

Only on return from the break in the April 27th Board meeting and minutes before the final vote did Rock acknowledge Kelly's criticism and correct the projected deficit number, while explaining that "this was not just something that Allan Rock and [VP-Resources] Victor Simon made up".

To lie is to knowingly make a false or deliberately misleading statement.

The U of O president was asked to respond to Mr. Kelly's allegation for the present blog report and did not acknowledge the request.

This Board episode and the entire "financial crisis" fabrication appear to add to the thesis first advanced in the mainstream media that Mr. Rock is "ethically challenged." Something the Board should seriously consider investigating... Some of the background research has already been done (HERE).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Author calls on Canadian Civil Liberties Association board members to repudiate their organization's attack on dissident professor

READ MORE: Read the full article...
  • on Canadian Dimension HERE or
  • on AcademicFreedom.ca HERE (with all the links).

UofOWatch asks:
When civil liberties associations and political icons behave this way what's Left?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Champagne replies to UofOWatch - re Hickey grievance arbitration report

In posting our May 6, 2010, report about the Joseph Hickey grievance labour law arbitration hearing of May 5th, UofOWatch asked both sides (CUPE Local 2626 and University of Ottawa) to provide any corrections or comments for posting to the blog.

U of O corporate lawyer Andre Champagne replied today as follows. His complete email and the original UofOWatch email request are posted HERE.

Since his reply is in French, we translate it to the best of our ability as follows. (Our response is below.)
From: André Champagne
Date: 2010/5/7
Subject: RE: request for your corrections and comments about this report
To: Denis Rancourt <>

Dear Mr. Rancourt,

I have sent your text to arbitrator Mary Ellen Cummings for her comments and directives.

I ask that you immediately remove my photo from your site, the latter you have obtained without my consent. I am convinced that as a renowned and ardent defender of individual liberties, you will respect my liberty and my right to preserve at the very least my identity.

Regarding the text you have written and proposed, your characterization of the sequence of events, of the positions expressed, and of the outcome is the result, in my opinion, of a fertile imagination for which I grant you an A+.

André Champagne
Emond Harnden LLP
707, rue Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3V1
(613) 940-2735 direct line/ligne directe
(613) 563-7660 office/bureau
(613) 698-6030 cell
télécop/fax 563-8001

Chantal Martel
563-7660 Ext./Poste 284

The information in this e-mail is intended solely for the addressee(s) named, and is confidential. Any other distribution, disclosure or copying is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please reply by e-mail to the sender and delete or destroy all copies of this message. [and same in French]

UofOWatch response:

We are pleased that arbitrator Cummings will provide her comments and directives about our blog post of May 6, 2010.

We suggest to Mr. Champagne that if he wishes to "preserve" his identity that he remove his web page from the Emond Harnden LLP web site and that he refrain from participating in all legal proceedings on the public record.

As a professional who represents a renowned Canadian university, we are certain that Mr. Champagne has a broad sense of fair use regarding non-commercial independent media and public commentary.

Finally, we note that Mr. Champagne has not contradicted or questioned any specific statements or specific positions expressed in our May 6, 2010, posting.

We continue to welcome any and all specific corrections for posting to our blog.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Student union arbitration victory - Embarrassing defeat for U of O - Inappropriate letter retracted

An all-day labour law arbitration hearing was held and concluded with decision on Wednesday May 5, 2010, in Ottawa. Ministry labour arbitrator Mary-Ellen Cummings presided.

The University of Ottawa side was represented by human resources boss Jean-Yves Leduc, his chief administrative assistant Beatrice Magyar, and hired corporate lawyer Andre Champagne.

The teacher assistant union (CUPE Local 2626), in what was its very first arbitration, was represented by undergraduate law student Dennis Stark. Members of the union executive and other union officers were present as advisers. The griever was union member and scholarship physics graduate student Joseph Hickey.

The main matter at hand was a letter of discipline which the University had placed in Hickey's employee file. The union grieved that the letter contained inappropriate and damaging allegations and that the letter had no business being in the employee's file. Among other things, the letter contained an assertion of Hickey's guilt regarding a graffiti charge and a paternalistic threat of additional and prolonged trespass from the university; where the first trespass charge is scheduled for trial on June 2, 2010 (at which president Allan Rock has been subpoenaed to appear).

The union won the day when the university, following multiple refusals to do so again repeated at arbitration, volunteered - with the arbitrator as witness - to immediately remove the letter from Hickey's file rather than be subjected to the arbitrator's formal ruling on the matter.

But the story is all in the ride. The university played hard ball to the limit of ethical behaviour until it became clear at arbitration during the union's counter arguments and the arbitrator's questions of clarification that the university would lose, despite Champagne's elaborate two-hour legal construction. The arbitrator offered a public face saving "mediation" attempt during which Champagne first said the letter in question would not be removed and later affirmed that it would be removed "no matter what." It was then finally established that the university was committing to immediate removal of the letter from Hickey's file.

Let us now review salient features of this battle in an attempt to further understand the institutional psychology of the U of O's Rock administration. And to understand how a high profile corporate team could lose in this way to disorganized amateurs in their first arbitration.


It appears that the main liability of the university was its position, boldly put forth by Champagne as something attempting to mimic logic.

The university first affirmed that grievance deadlines had not been respected by the union, that Hickey was not a bona fide union member in the matter in question, and that therefore the grievance could not be received and then the university filed for accelerated arbitration. Not exactly a textbook example of logical rigour.

Then Champagne's first move at arbitration was to start with a motion that the Arbitrator had no jurisdiction in this matter because it was not an employment matter. This adventure lasted two hours and was truly entertaining.

Champagne explained citing many documents that the letter had nothing to do with Mr. Hickey's employment duties and responsibilities, that the letter related to spurious charges and events disconnected in time and essence from the union member's work, yet Champagne reaffirmed that the letter had its place in the member's employee file. Yup, we kid you not.

Now how does a clever lawyer make such an obvious contradiction appear to be logical? Well, for a start, the employee file is called a "personal file" in the Collective Agreement (i.e., in the contract) so one never says "employee file" but rather one uses the correct term "personal file".

Now arbitrator Cummings got a whiff of this and directly asked Champagne to clarify what this "personal file" was and was it different from a student file or the employee file and was the letter in question in the employee file...? A clear, relevant and central question, as any lawyer would or should recognize. Champagne replied that there was nothing that had work-related relevance in the union member's "discipline file". "Discipline file" is not a defined term in the Collective Agreement and had not been previously used in the arbitration hearing to this point, nor was it used again by either side.

For some reason that this observer does not understand, arbitrator Cummings then dropped her question and moved it along rather than insisting on an actual answer from Champagne. In our view, Champagne's answer could reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to mislead the arbitrator, one that the arbitrator was not willing to fully expose or challenge. In our view, this was the ethical low point and turning point of the arbitration.

Champagne went on, using precedent cases, to compare the spurious graffiti allegations against Hickey to a police officer who looses his driver's license with cause and expects his employer to provide a license, to a Coka Cola truck driver who's car insurance goes up because of accidents at work who expects his employer to pay the extra insurance costs, and to a hospital worker who is charged with sexually assaulting patients who expects to be allowed to do his work without constraints, etc. We leave it to the reader to apply some amateur legal discrimination and to consider the relevance of Mr. Champagne's foray. Here Champagne uses labour arbitration rulings as examples to argue that the arbitrator does not have jurisdiction to arbitrate. It was like that from start to finish. Quite remarkable. (Someone should make an access to information request to find out how much this guy was paid.)

The union therefore needed only to establish that the so-called "personal file" is the employee file and that the letter constitutes significant and damaging discipline. As it became clear, thanks in part to pointed questions of clarification from the arbitrator, that these central points were straightforward to establish in law, the other side simply folded.

It's almost like the university had counted on lack of experience on the union side rather than attempt a valid legal approach.

TOP EMPLOYER? - merci beaucoup

The arbitration hearing allows one to contrast a Mediacorp Canada Inc. fiction that the U of O is "among National Capital Region's top 25 employers for 2010" with reality, as follows.

Whereas the griever Mr. Hickey is anglophone, whereas the union lead counsel Mr. Stark is aboriginal and does not speak French, whereas no professional legal translation was available, and whereas all the university representatives are fluently bilingual (French and English), Mr. Champagne (whose corporate promotional biography starts "Fluently bilingual, André manages a substantial litigation and arbitration practice with proceedings in both French and English"), insisted on making all of his legal presentations in French only.

That's the true spirit of bilingualism that the University of Ottawa ("Canada's university") actually promotes. Bravo.


Finally, another aspect of the arbitration hearing is also worthy of mention.

Before the start of the arbitration hearing, UofOWatch, as the sole representative of the media, asked arbitrator Cummings for permission to take photographs. Mr. Champagne overheard this request and immediately interjected with a vehement "No!" The arbitrator therefore opened this question for representations.

Mr. Champagne stated that this was a highly unusual and anomalous request that should be rejected. As argument Mr. Champagne stated that UofOWatch producer Denis Rancourt had been to arbitration at which the university sought to discipline him and that during the whole time of those hearings Rancourt had not taken any pictures. (That now familiar creative legal logic coming into play again, huh?)

Rancourt responded that it was inappropriate for Champagne to make such personal comment, that Rancourt had won the arbitration (G5), that several media pictures had been taken and had appeared in print, and that it was in the interest of transparency and the public good in a democratic society to allow media reporting of labour arbitrations.

The union stated it would defer to the arbitrator's decision.

The arbitrator formally ruled that pictures could be taken of her and of the room and of all those who wished to stay for the pictures and that those who did not want to be in the pictures could leave the room for the time of the pictures. The three university representatives immediately ran out of the room.

Here (below) are the pictures that resulted. One shows the union side with arbitrator Cummings at the head while the other picture shows the three empty chairs vacated in emergency on the university side.

Recall that the Rock administration has a history of having students arrested and criminally charged for proposing to video record the university Senate, for example.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blast from the past - Five headed dragon vs the truth

Five fingers on a hand, five senses, five great lakes... five science department chairs in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa. That could make the school a five star establishment but well not quite. UofOWatch still has work to do because there is room for improvement.

Back on February 22, 2006, the five chairs
  • Steve Perry (Biology)
  • Alain St-Amant (Chemistry)
  • Keiko Hattori (Geology)
  • Michel Racine (Mathematics)
  • Richard JW Hodgson (Physics)
boldly co-signed THIS statement that was also published in the student newspaper at the time. The goal of the statement appears to have been to discredit physics professor Denis Rancourt and to cover up the errors of the dean of the Faculty of Science Chistian Detellier.

Professor Alain St-Amant went on to dedicate himself to a serious campaign, a la Dershowitz-Finkelstein, to have Rancourt fired; complete with repeated public accusation of anti-semitism for having invited Palestinian speakers into a classroom, etc. He had to wait for the advent of staunch Israeli policy supporter president Allan Rock before his project could be fully realized. UofOWatch readers will remember the extensive comments from Dr. St-Amant about everything from his low h-index to the true nature of "academic integrity." Eventually, the university was forced to instruct St-Amant to stop his behaviour (and HERE and HERE-G8).

Professor Richard Hodgson went on to fabricate elements of a graduate student complaint against Rancourt as part of an administrative mobbing to have Rancourt removed from the graduate school and is now being sued by Rancourt for his creative contributions.

Professor Steve Perry had already expressed his concern about democratizing education earlier in February 2006 to a biology graduate student (and to the great concern of the graduate student union president of the time) who wanted to ask a German expert who was in town to give some lectures about time-series data analysis applied to biology. Perry blew up and gave her the proverbial "fuck you" ending with "Denis Rancourt casts a long shadow!" Who knows what animates the inner workings of a biology chairman? Dr. Perry went on to be a 2008 recipient of a Royal Society of Canada Award.

But we diverge. Let us get back to THIS 2006 letter from the five chairs and, with the the benefit of unfolding events, let us analyze if the chairs were right, let us use time-series analysis.

Let's see. The five chairs said
We, the Chairs of all five departments of the Faculty of Science, firmly believe that the actions taken by Dean Christian Detellier have been done in the best interests of the Faculty and the University.
Well. Turns out the university was forced to apologize for Detellier's action of barging into Rancourt's class unannounced to the students on September 21, 2005. See apology HERE. The university does not like to make such apologies. No no it never likes to do that.

What else did Detellier do that the five chairs believe was "in the best interests of the Faculty and the University"? Well he disciplined Rancourt for his pedagogical methods and for his grading method in the 2005 "activism course". That did not go over very well with the labour law arbitrator who ruled on the case.

Let's see. The five chairs put it this way
we are in complete agreement that Professor Rancourt's self-proclaimed "academic squatting" is an entirely inappropriate approach to curriculum change.
Well. The arbitrator ruled this way
… the major change being with respect to the pedagogical innovation of independent group studies, the involvement of the students themselves in identifying areas of interest and the introduction of the satisfactory/not-satisfactory grading system. The Arbitrator is satisfied that those pedagogical initiatives were legitimately within the purview of the academic freedom enjoyed by Professor Rancourt …
And an independent legal analysis published in a law journal summed it up in its title:
So. The five chairs who ran the science departments at the U of O were all wrong. Their only penalty for being wrong will be to be promoted or complimented or retired with honour.

It is therefore only just that we end this post with the following child's song.
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell out and bumped his head;
Momma called the doctor, the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!".

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed, etc.
One little monkey jumping on the bed,
He fell out and bumped his head;
Momma called the doctor, the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!".

No little monkeys jumping on the bed,
None fell out and bumped their heads;
Momma called the doctor, the doctor said,
"Put those monkeys straight to bed."

Academic Freedom site