Dear President Allan Rock,
You made a commitment at the April 12, 2010 meeting of the Senate to initiate a broad community discussion on freedom of expression, following the controversy arising from your letter of March 2010 to American political commentator Ann Coulter.
In your words:
“As we look forward, one such alternative is for us to engage our university community in an open discussion of these matters to work toward a consensus of our shared expectations when it comes to Freedom of Expression, and how to communicate those expectations to people visiting our university … If we can agree that there is a collective view at the University of Ottawa about the principles and responsibilities that underlie free speech, we can, for example, explore the creation of a statement of principles that we can all adopt by consensus, and that might reflect what we believe.”
After eight months of inaction on this commitment, I motioned this week to bring the matter before the University of Ottawa Senate at the upcoming meeting on February 7. On February 3, you responded (below) that it is your position now that the matter was closed and completed as of the May 2010 meeting.
Mr. Rock, the antithesis between your statements and your actions since then is remarkable:
- When did you and the Senate “engage our university community in an open discussion of these matters”?
- When and how did “we” “work toward a consensus of our shared expectations when it comes to Freedom of Expression”?
- What did “we” decide about “how to communicate those expectations to people visiting our university”?
- What are the “expectations”?
- What progress has been made on our “statement of principles that we can all adopt by consensus”?
Your detailed proposal at Senate was accepted by consensus on April 12, 2010 (you have explained the meaning of “consensus” in Senate procedure). Either the Senate follows through to instruct the administration on actuation of this item, or tables and adopts a motion to remove the item, or the Senate has been degraded to a meaningless shadow of its statutory self.
A cynic might complain that one can expect to see these sorts of empty promises in federal politics, but even a cynic would agree that university Senate is not intended to be a political instrument – it is by law the highest authority on academic matters at the university.
I fear that if we do not act, there is a significant risk that the University of Ottawa Senate will become no more than a shill for a profoundly shallow and ignorant view of the academic world.
B.Sc. (Hon., Summa Cum Laude), University of Ottawa
M.Sc. candidate, University of Ottawa
Elected representative for graduate students in the Sciences and Engineering, University of Ottawa Senate
[Source: A Student's-Eye View.]
See all posts about the U of O Ann Coulter - Allan Rock saga: HERE.