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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Allan Rock is a moose - National Post

"Worse yet is that Mr. Rock fudged when initially questioned about the letter. He stated that “it was sent with my knowledge” – when the truth is it was sent at his instigation. When it blew up into a controversy, he let Mr. Houle take the brunt of the heat. Talk about the boss hiding behind his staff."
National Post

Part of a pattern when one is "ethically challenged" (LINK).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

True face of the Rock administration - Ann Coulter ATI fallout hits the news

UofOWatch readers will recall that we followed the March 2010 U of O Rock-Houle-Coulter fiasco in some detail: See THIS series of posts.

Well the Canadian media made an access to information (ATI) request under the Ontario FIPPA legislation and the results hit the news today: HERE and HERE.

Here is an example of Mr. Allan Rock in action, leading "Canada's university". Rock to VP-Academic Francois Houle on March 18th:
"Ann Coulter is a mean-spirited, small-minded, foul-mouthed poltroon... She is 'the loud mouth that bespeaks the vacant mind'."

"She is an ill-informed and deeply offensive shill for a profoundly shallow and ignorant view of the world. She is a malignancy on the body politic. She is a disgrace to the broadcasting industry and a leading example of the dramatic decline in the quality of public discourse in recent times."
Oh la la, nice example of respectful and measured administrative conduct for our students. According to his own account, Rock affirms all of this to be based only on a quick web search, having had no previous knowledge of Coulter (see Senate video).

It appears Mr. Rock is a quick and self-assured judge of character (and intelligence) and that he has extraordinary faith in the web as an unsubstantiated source of information. No verification was needed. (We note that dean of science Andre E. Lalonde has similar abilities for psychological evaluations on the fly, LINK, LINK.)

Rock casts Coulter in this light (presumably because Houle can't use Google or make up his own mind?) in instructing Houle to write their idiotic letter.
"You, Francois, as Provost, should write immediately to Coulter informing her of our domestic laws. ... You should urge her to respect that Canadian tradition as she enjoys the privilege of her visit."
A sure way to protect freedom of speech... In this light, the now famous resulting letter is no longer surprising.

What is most surprising on the face of it, however, is that Rock, an experienced statesman and lawyer, approved the letter and found it "excellent":
"Quel excellent message! Merci et felicitations. I am sure she has never been dressed down so elegantly in her life!"
It's like Rock wanted to jab Coulter. He seems to know a lot about Coulter's life for having only briefly visited her on the web. Also, this account is contrary to Rock's claim at Senate that he "recognized when he approved the letter that such a letter sent only to certain speakers could represent discrimination and could have a chilling effect on a potential speaker" (see HERE).

The letter ended up being the University of Ottawa's worst image and reputation catastrophe in its history, with print, radio and TV echos on several continents (LINK).

All too reminiscent of the string of blunders that ended Rock's political career - see short history HERE.

It is also revealed that Rock hid out from the media and from his public responsibilities using the communication director's advice as an excuse:
"I think that you should stay under the radar for the next weeks especially attending events where there is media."

"I am going to follow Andree's advice," explained Rock.
Yet another blunder. The media rightfully blasted Rock for "crawl[ing] under one" (LINK).

In conclusion, the U of O Rock-Houle-Coulter fiasco now appears to primarily have been of Rock's making.

What emerges is an unflattering picture of a failed and ethically challenged politician (LINK) who appears to have used Houle as a cover to send a bomb of a letter to a speaker he decided he despised and then to have used his communication director's advice as a pretext to hide from the mess.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Who is Allan Rock and why was Denis Rancourt fired?

Analysis of a temper tantrum gone viral

“When Liberal Party heavyweight Allan Rock took over as president at the University of Ottawa this September [2008], many wondered what would be in store for Denis Rancourt.”
--Jesse Freeston, journalist [1]

“We conclude that the charges advanced against Denis Rancourt are a contrived pretext, that they are preposterous as reasons to summarily remove a tenured professor, and that, therefore, the real reasons must lie elsewhere.”
-- Members of College and University Workers United [2]

“I have been following, with interest, the case of Marc Kelly - an under-graduate at the University of Ottawa who appears to be the victim of an outrageous vendetta brought against him by the President of that University, Allan Rock.”
--blogger (sophos) [3]

It is difficult to know how decisions are made because hierarchical institutions do everything they can to hide their true inner workings.

Nonetheless the chronology of events and the leakages of some documents allow one to advance plausible versions.


Until Allan Rock became president of the University of Ottawa in 2008, the previous administration, starting in 2005, was involved only in relatively moderate schemes to contain radical physics professor Denis Rancourt in his incessant applications of pedagogical advances and social justice and community outreach practices.

Pre-Rock containment attempts included [4]: removing the professor from all large first-year courses which he had developed, barring him from reserving an auditorium for his popular weekly documentary film and discussion series, arbitrarily imposing new academic rules in violation of Senate procedures (until overturned via a union grievance), an in-class dean’s intervention for which the university was later forced to apologize, allowing unethical attacks by a departmental chairman until the university was forced to intervene, fabrication of a student complaint (which the university withdrew), multiple contrived disciplinary campaigns that were dropped without explanation, and unjustified discipline for course content that was overturned by a labour law arbitrator.

In all of this tug of war over academic freedom the previous administration did not appear to contemplate outright dismissal and did not ever threaten dismissal. The first threats of dismissal came with Rock.

Only after Rock’s arrival did the administration’s methods become much more severe and physical, to include everything up to denial of due process, complete banning from all teaching, an unannounced laboratory lockout, unjustified firing of a research associate of 12-years (later settled out of court), threatening graduate students with loss of scholarships, banning of the professor from his weekly campus radio show using threat of police arrest, and forceful police arrest with handcuffs and removal while attending a campus event [5][6].


Although the professor had received several disciplinary attempts and internal criticisms for hosting invited speakers who were critical of Israel in his classes in 2005 and 2006 and had widely expressed and published his own criticisms of Israel, and although Allan Rock is a known staunch supporter of Israeli policies and has directly intervened on campus on multiple occasions to impose his views on Israel [7][8][9], the sudden and fast-tracked decision to fire Rancourt may not have been primarily driven by Israel-Palestine politics, as is often the case in high-profile firings in North America [10].

In hind-sight, the chronology of events suggests otherwise, suggests that something suddenly irked Rock at an even more visceral level than his allegiance to the Israel lobby.

For example, renowned critic of Israeli policy and colleague professor Michel Chossudovsky (editor of GlobalResearch.ca) was not executed by Rock but only pressured into early retirement and retained part-time status.

It was more than the Israel lobby that drove Rock to his extremes of both urgency and intensity.


Let’s examine the chronology, including key campus events that involved Allan Rock. Here is how it went down.

Physics-mathematics student Marc Kelly (now of youTube fame [11]) took a fourth-year quantum mechanics course that Rancourt gave in the winter semester of 2008. The pedagogical method was unusual for a physics course and involved a non-competitive student-centered approach with an emphasis on in-class discussions. This caused some students in the class to question the pedagogical methods being used in their other courses.

Marc Kelly questioned the nature of the tests and assignments in a statistical physics course that he was taking concurrently with professor James Harden. Harden, was not receptive to the student’s questions and belittled Marc in front of the class and verbally intimidated him out of his office while nonetheless allowing the student to do a project instead of the final examination, only to refuse the project after the course was over and to attribute a failing grade without considering the project.

Student Kelly appealed this first to Harden, then to the physics department chairman Bela Joos, then to the vice-dean of science Leonard Kleine, then to the dean of science André E. Lalonde, then to the vice-president academic Robert Major, and finally to the president Allan Rock. In these appeals Kelly documented every step and put all those concerned and their superiors in cc. The saga is reported in a series of posts on UofOWatch and elsewhere [12].

Rock chose to not acknowledge or respond to Kelly’s emails. So, on Monday November 3, 2008, Kelly went to Rock’s office to chat with him about his ordeal.

That is when things took a nasty turn. Rock went ballistic on Kelly and repeatedly yelled at him to verbally intimidate him away in a disrespectful episode that could be enough to get a professor fired.

Fortunately, Kelly voice recorded the encounter and was therefore able to defend himself. Kelly posted the voice recording on the web and sent the link [13] by mass email to all the students and staff at the University of Ottawa (over 40,000 emails). (Even this exposed culmination of mistreatment did not result in justice for Kelly and his final project in the statistical physics course was never considered.)

Rock in turn sent a message to the university community in which he expressed “regret” by blaming Kelly. What followed was uninterrupted persecution of Mark Kelly. He was arbitrarily barred from his student-nominated position on a key university committee, unilaterally deregistered from a physics project course, pursued on multiple (a dozen or so) bogus criminal charges that were dropped, arrested in a class where he was invited to speak, arrested at an event where he was the main presenter (then let go without charges), barred from registering for all courses required to complete his degree, trespassed from campus, and ultimately pursued criminally again for allegedly violating his trespass. Concerted formal protests from both the student union and the union of teacher assistant have been to no avail. [12]


Following the November 3, 2008, verbal intimidation event in Rock’s office, Rancourt was coincidently invited on a pre-scheduled TV talk show (Talk Ottawa) to discuss his academic freedom struggles at the University of Ottawa. The TV interview was held live on the evening of November 12, 2008 [14]. During the call-in segment of the show, Mark Kelly called the studio and was put on air. The host had heard of the incident with Rock and the recording of Rock’s verbal intimidation was played on air from the web.

Rancourt then commented on air that he was appalled at the president’s behaviour and stated that a professor would be fired for treating a student that way.

Within days of this TV show Rancourt and his eight graduate students and research employee were locked out of their laboratory without any notice or forewarning on November 21, 2008. Following this, Rancourt was banned from campus and removed of all his functions on December 10, 2008, when he was escorted off the grounds by campus police. In an accelerated process like has never been seen at the University of Ottawa, Rancourt was then stripped of his tenure and fired on March 31, 2009, by an executive committee that included the membership of a prominent Ottawa Zionist organizer and Allan Rock himself.

It therefore appears that Rancourt was fired under public Israel lobby pressures because Allan Rock was irked beyond rational response by scholarship and award-nominated student and published scientific author Marc Kelly who remains banned from campus like a dangerous criminal.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) chief, Nathalie Des Rosiers, who continues to receive a salary from the University of Ottawa after serving under Rock as a vice president, has a different opinion about why Rancourt was fired [15].


[1] Opening line in “Dismissing critical pedagogy – Denis Rancourt vs. University of Ottawa”, best of rabble.ca 3 - book, Jenn Watt (Ed.) (First posted on web January 12, 2009.)

[2] Open letter from members of College and University Workers United (CUWU) (http://cdecde.blogspot.com/2010/03/members-of-college-and-university.html).

[3] http://stopthenightmare-wakeup.blogspot.com/2010/05/curious-case-of-marc-kelly.html (Posted May 18, 2010.)

[4] List of outstanding and resolved labour law grievances and outcomes: http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/background/formalgrievances.html

[5] Background information at AcademicFreedom.ca: http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/

[6] Report by workplace mobbing expert Dr. Kenneth Westhues:

[7] Statement by Denis Rancourt regarding his dismissal:

[8] Allan Rock background and actions at the University of Ottawa: http://uofowatch.blogspot.com/2010/04/allan-rock-u-of-o-mistake-was-avoidable.html

[9] Allan Rock and the Israel lobby – on and off campus:

[10] Nocella et al. (Eds.), Academic Repression, 2010, AK Press, 590 pages.

[11] youTube videos of Mark Kelly being arrested:

[12] Articles about Marc Kelly on the UofOWatch blog:

[13] The true face of Allan Rock – post on UofOVoice blog:

[14] Talk Ottawa with James Hendricks, Rogers TV (Ottawa), Wednesday November 12, 2008, 9pm to 10pm.

[15] CCLA’s Nathalie Des Rosiers on why Rancourt was fired:

U of O anonymous research chair for ethical management

In response to student and community protests against selling out the curriculum to business interests, the University of Ottawa's Allan Rock promised (HERE!) a comprehensive "donor recognition policy", following a series of Rock-sponsored show panels last year.

The policy that last year was to be presented "within weeks" (see LINK) mysteriously never materialized and was never mentioned again by Rock or his administration (see update HERE).

Surely the policy would have had to grapple with the obvious problem of large anonymous donations for specific research and teaching development chairs (see update HERE).

Conveniently, before any policy was tabled and during mid-summer when all the students are away, the university has announced a 3.5 million dollar "anonymous gift" for the creation of a chaired professorship in the Telfer School of Management. (University press release HERE.)

Now that's transparency.
"By 2010, this governance model will have included new communication tools for ensuring greater transparency, a change that should cultivate the team spirit we need to carry out our mission."
-- Vision 2010 Strategic Plan, adoprted by University Senate January 2005
SHAME ON YOU MR. ROCK: There was a tacit understanding that no donations would be received until the new policy was in place. This donation is a betrayal of the community's trust. It is another illustration of the ethically challenged nature of the institution's president (LINK, LINK).

It needs to be fixed.
  • Will the university make public the negotiated conditions that secured this "anonymous gift"?
  • Will the university explain beyond the usual donor privacy superficialities why this multi-million dollar gift to a publicly funded university needs to be made anonymously?
  • Will the administration explain why it would compromise the university's institutional integrity and reputation by accepting a multi-million dollar anonymous gift for a pre-determined targetted program development chair, without collegial and community input and before presenting its donor policy?
  • Will the administration make public the names of the selection committee for the new chaired professorship and will this selection committee include undergraduate and graduate student representatives named by the student associations?
  • Will the competition for the new research chair be transparent and public, with short-list candidates making public presentations, as has been the tradition for regular professorships?
  • Will the candidates reject the anonymous funding of the chaired position and ask for transparency as a condition for acceptance?
  • Will there be Telfer School student research projects on the ethics of such an anonymous donation to a publicly funded university?
  • Will the donor come forward and apply transparency?
The anonymous gift, as it stands, is a disgrace.

It needs to be fixed by transparency.

It shows that the Rock administration cannot be trusted to unilaterally develop a "donor recognition policy" and that this policy will need collegial and community input, as soon as possible. (See confirmation of this and update HERE.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ottawa RBC firebombing – Terrorism seeded by the University of Ottawa?

by Denis G. Rancourt

Former physics professor, University of Ottawa

By quoting me out of context and inappropriately (using my off-the-record critique of a leading question) the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has insinuated in at least two of its reports that the Ottawa RBC firebombing was seeded in a “political activism” course that I gave and opened to free community participation in 2006 at the University of Ottawa. LINK.

This theme was then picked up by hundreds of web bloggers who draw a link between terrorism and my Science in Society (aka “the activism course”) class of 2006.

To question the University of Ottawa as a possible origin of terrorism is a legitimate enterprise but I would not look to social justice and responsible use of science courses as the most likely culprits.

For example, by far the most significant recent high-profile act of terrorism in Ottawa was the organized and systemic stealing of Nortel pensions and benefits from tens of thousands of faithful employees. LINK.

Property damage at a neighbourhood multinational bank office pales in comparison, by any standard, not to mention the scams of user fees and of government (taxpayer) corporate bail outs of all kinds.

How many of the lawyers, judges, law makers, professional negotiators, and government officials involved in the Nortel hijacking - in the service of financiers and at the expense of employees - were educated at the University of Ottawa, in business, law, accounting, management, and professional ethics courses? Good question. Good research topic.

In many or most developed nations the Nortel violation of workers’ natural rights would have been immediately overturned by general or widespread strikes. Imagine this sort of organized finance robbery being attempted in France or any European country or even in Quebec.

What role did the University of Ottawa play in pacifying Nortel employees, in its engineering, communications, software development, and management courses?

At a time when the role of the educational system in promoting societal fascism - in which political apathy is the norm and criticism is vilified - is being reported, it is essential to ask what role the University of Ottawa is playing in society. LINK.

Instead, at exactly the time when in the national media Canadian conscience icon Ursula Franklin has called on Canadians to heed the clear signs of widespread emergent fascism, the media are echoing the police-state mantra that activists are terrorists.

Activists have a constitutional right to protest and should be celebrated for keeping anti-establishment and pro-democracy critique alive, not vilified as agents of chaos. Discourse, critique, protest, and protest actions including strikes and impediments to business-as-usual are essential elements of a free modern state.

Such activism has given us workers’ rights (e.g., 40-hour week, vacations), civil rights, students’ rights, and a (far from functional) structure of representative democracy. It is a historic truism that these rights were won by popular activism, not granted by benevolent governments. It is the threat and practice of popular activism that keeps governments in check, not majority voter opinions or corporate-financed elections. Any other view is a dream and if you share it wake up. LINK.

I am just back from Germany where the police are simply not allowed on university campuses and where there are NO campus police, as is the case in much of the non-USA world, and I compare this with the University of Ottawa with its over 900 surveillance cameras, where students are routinely prosecuted with criminal charges that would be laughable elsewhere, and where students are regularly accosted for ID in broad daylight by campus thugs with a mission to “protect.”

We do need to look at the role of universities, including the “professional” training of corporate media workers and lobbyists and communicators, in stifling and criminalizing democratic expression in its truest forms – protest, critique, resistance, non-compliance, civil disobedience, and workplace self-defence – but also in helping to create the conditions for finance-corporate fascism.

In the words of Ursula Franklin, we “must” compare Canadian society today with the conditions that led to Nazi fascism and other recent totalitarian state expressions.

* * *

Friday, June 18, 2010

Another one bites the dust at U of O -- Jolicoeur out Giroux in -- (with VIDEO analysis)

Meet the new Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa, Mr. Robert Giroux.

No mention of the last guy...?

It has become commonplace under the Allan Rock reign at the U of O for top executives to be removed or demoted or to leave without any explanations or public thank yous.

Former president Gilles Patry fell off the edge of the earth and has been nowhere to be seen in public life. His acclaimed talents for running a top Canadian university or any similar corporation seem to be going entirely to waste.

VP-Governance (then Secretary) Pamela Harrod was suddenly demoted to "special" assistant to the president doing routine access to information legal work, to then suddenly leave under early retirement.

VP-Governance interim Nathalie Des Rosiers was never formalized and took administrative leave to head the Canadian Civil Liberties Association but is now leaving that post under questionable circumstances.

VP-Academic Robert Major could barely be convinced to stay one year into Rock's mandate and left without a public thank you after being a pillar of the institution for decades.

Major was replaced by Coulter-fiasco Francois Houle at the same time that the position of VP-Academic was downgraded from second-in-charge to "just another VP cause we need at least one from academic ranks" while the newly renamed position of VP-Governance was given to outside hack Diane Davidson and upgraded to second-boss-man.

The underlings feel it also. The turn-around in staff at media relations (Marketing Service and Communications Office) is legendary, to say the least. Must be a nice work environment in that department?

And now the latest...

The University simply put out THIS June 16, 2010, press release announcing:
"The University of Ottawa has appointed Mr. Robert Giroux as chair of its Board of Governors."
The press release makes NO mention of Marc Jolicoeur or his many years of service and gives no indication as to why a new Chair of the BOG was appointed. No search had been announced, no search committee formed, nothing. Quite remarkable really.

The celebrated Chair of the Board of Governors, Marc Jolicoeur, is being replaced without any explanation or public thank yous?

Jolicoeur remains the Regional Managing Partner of the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG Law), the same law firm that threatened to sue UofOWatch some time ago and that appears to have used illegally-obtained personal information to threaten lawsuits against students for client VP-Resources Victor Simon, well known for his respect of academic freedom.

This is all the more surprising given the intellectual and legal stature of Jolicoeur, as can be ascertained in this video in which he explains the democratic nature of the BOG to an interested student:

Did Jolicoeur quit?
Why would he quit?
Did he not want to be thanked publicly?
Will there be a thank you reception later this summer?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hickey publicly confronts Rock on abuse of legal funds and student activists

Photo: June 2, 2010 (Fulcrum Shift) - Joseph Hickey addressing Allan Rock's recoup propaganda "town hall" communication session about the university's recent unilateral budget exercise fiasco.

See report at Fulcrum Shift HERE.

Another Fulcrum Shift report about Rock's post-decision "Town Hall" communication is HERE.

Related note:

Student pressure directly gave rise to last minute and again unilateral pre-"Town Hall" changes to the budget. These extracted victories for students were spun as the administration's dedication to quality of student experience (LINK to U of O May 31st press release):
"...The budget includes the bulk of the initiatives proposed by faculties and services in the context of the resource optimization exercise, but a few were rejected including: increasing administrative and accessory fees; eliminating most small classes; reducing teaching and research assistant positions; and reducing scholarships and financial aid..."
It appears that the Rock administration was made to understand that inflated administrative costs (by 30% last year alone) coupled with cuts to direct benefits to student aid and services while trumpeting priority to quality of student experience would not look so good on the fiscal balance sheet...

It also appears that the students are the only effective pressure group on campus. The meek rumblings of the professor's union had no visible impact. Collegial governance took a major hit under Rock.

U of O student found not guilty of Trespass on University property

OTTAWA, June 2, 2010 – U of O Master’s student and Senate member-elect Joseph Hickey was found not guilty today of a politically motivated charge under the Trespass to Property Act. Mr. Hickey is the second student politician in the past year to be trespassed by the Rock administration from all U of O lands and buildings.

Mr. Hickey, represented pro bono by Caroline Cyr of Crystal Criminal Law Office, was arrested and removed from campus on December 11, 2009 while booking an appointment with President Allan Rock to have the no trespassing notice revoked.

Ex-minister of Justice Mr. Rock, Vice President Diane Davidson, and their legal counsel Alain Roussy were subpoenaed to appear as witnesses but were not needed once the prosecutor Terry Callaghan, after contacting the university, reported to Mr. Hickey’s lawyer that she would present no evidence at trial.
The university has developed a habit of arresting and charging students only to contact the Crown Attorney’s office and have all charges dropped as soon as its executives have been subpoenaed to take the stand in open court. This is another incidence of irresponsible institutional behaviour by an administration that shoots first and then avoids the questions six months later,
said the scholarship graduate student, who is also a Teaching Assistant and member-elect of the university Senate.
What is going on between the police and the university when the administration can repeatedly have students handcuffed and arrested and then never answer to it in court? I will work hard at Senate to get to the bottom of the university’s continuing abuse of the legal system to attack its students. Our fundamental freedoms must be protected, especially on campus
he continued.

The U of O Senate has a vibrant history, such as the December 1, 2008 arrest of two-time Student Union presidential candidate Marc Kelly who was banned from all of campus after he video recorded a Senate meeting. Following student protests, all Senate meetings are now video recorded and broadcast online, making it possible for everyone to tune-in and watch.

Ms. Cyr will continue to defend Joseph Hickey against a criminal charge that he participated in the painting of the message “These Walls Belong to Students” on a blank campus billboard wall on December 7, 2009. A full-day trial has been set for February 2, 2011.


For more information, please contact:

Joseph Hickey
student Senator-elect, physics graduate student

Mireille Gervais LL.L
Director, Student Appeal Centre (Student Federation of the University of Ottawa)
email: case.cresac [at] sfuo.ca