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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Allan Rock senate circus exposed by Hickey, again

On some days, when the university is credibly exposed to a judicial review, University of Ottawa president Allan Rock explains that his role as Chair of university Senate is one of neutrality and procedural fairness.

On most others days, Rock and his sidekick VP-Governance Diane Davidson are the boss of Senate; making up the rules as they go along - irrespective of established practice, the University of Ottawa Act, 1965, and in blissful ignorance of institutional memory.

It's quite remarkable really. As remarkable as the murder of obedient crows that is senate itself.

Elected student senator Joseph Hickey is one of a few notable exceptions.

Hickey, in a fit of civil obedience, actually acts as a senator and reports his resulting run-ins with the Rock machine on a dedicated blog: A Student's-Eye View.

Hickey's most recent post ("Guest Speakers at Senate") is a documented and striking example of president Allan Rock's selective amnesia and disregard for the law; illustrated using Rock's own pronouncements at Senate.

One has to wonder how Rock manages to keep all these contradictory "truths" inside one brain. Such compartmentalization must be a gift? (Although it has routinely gotten Rock into hot water in his illustrious political career: HERE.) (For a relevant radio interview with a brain surgeon see HERE.)

This is the first time in the university's history that the venerable institution is run by two outside lawyers (Rock and Davidson) having no professional academic experience. Not exactly a successful experiment...?

Will the university community rise to the challenge of assuming its own governance? Only time will tell. The recent historic record suggests not, unless the students get involved (e.g., vintage video).

1 comment:

Steve E. Noble said...

The problem with Rock as president of the University of Ottawa are several. First, he's being paid way too much. He's being paid more than the Prime Minister of Canada and about the same as the President of the United States. Second, the University of Ottawa is, at best, a second ranked university (more comfortably sitting in the third tier of universities in this country); his salary should reflect that. Third, he comes from outside academia. Most universities around the world select their presidents from within academia given that professors have a solid understanding of how universities work and the norms and culture that stems from the learning/teaching relationship. Rock simply does not. There is a move afoot among universities to turn academia into corporations with a heavy managerialist approach whereby the teaching/learning relationship becomes thrown out for some research money measuring success approach. Watching the Senate videos and it becomes clear that Rock has no understanding of how board meetings operate either. He makes the rules up as he goes along and whichever variation puts him in complete control is the one he goes with in that moment. Rock is a lawyer and he will work from what he knows best -lawyers are about adversarial relationships and winning at all costs. A natural extension being their ego. And Rock is all about his ego. Oh, I know when he was first hired we all held out great promise that because the story went that he was a student radical of the SFUO and apparently driving John Lennon around Ottawa makes him some sort of hip, anarchist, militant, student sensitive administrator. Rock is such a devotee of the establishment system that he demands everyone else fall in line. Watch the Senate videos and you'll see the Senate behave like lemmings. Most inspiring, though, is the exception of Senator Hickey, the lone, elected graduate student challenging the senate and Rock repeatedly. He reminds me that not only do people like Rock, with their positional power and authority, feel it's their right to take away the individual agency and power of others (but individuals giving up their own power is also a key source of bullies' power). Fourth, he's just not doing what he says he is going to do. Since arriving at the University of Ottawa the low student satisfaction ratings have slowly fallen to something approaching absolute lowest rating with regard to student satisfaction - IN THE COUNTRY! Fifth, there is his approach to faculty and students that is simply appalling. I've listened to him at a General Assembly speak about part time and contract faculty (by far the majority of teaching staff in the university) as a necessary evil. The Dean of the Faculty of Education also views contract and part time faculty as second classed employees. This group of faculty has as few protections as students. That works well for Rock - divide and conquer, while making up the rules as he goes along. And Rock expects (and encourages) Deans to behave as bullies. I've heard an associate dean describe how Deans rule their faculties like fiefdoms and the students and faculty within them are like their serfs. The overarching feeling is that if students - and faculty - behave in subservient, group-thinking, conformist ways that they will "survive" university in order to get their credential. Their career of creative, innovative and radical thinking (if it hasn't been "educated" out of them) can only begin upon graduation. When I saw a "student code of conduct" emerge at one point my fear was immense because that's the first step toward an explicit narrow-minded shutting down of expression sweeping over the campus. Students need to take back their power to take back their education, while fostering open dialogue, free thought and freedom of expression. If students are waiting for someone like Rock or the Senate to instill this, it won't happen. Perhaps Rock just needs to be reminded what student activism in his day was all about.