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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

U of O law professor Joanne St. Lewis sues Rancourt for $1 million, will give half to a law student scholarship fund

This is an update to the St. Lewis matter reported on this U of O Watch blog. As background, all related posts on the matter are HERE.

A Statement of Claim (SOC) was filed today with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The Court File No. for the SOC is 11-51657 and the SOC has been posted HERE (1.4 MB PDF file).

Law professor Joanne St. Lewis is suing former physics professor Denis Rancourt for $1 million dollars for the posts about St. Lewis on this blog.

It appears from the SOC that the claimed damages to St. Lewis have arisen from Google's placement of one of the U of O Watch blog articles?

Paragraph-60 of the SOC states:

"The Defendant's conduct and actions are reprehensible insulting, high-handed, spiteful, and outrageous. Such conduct warrants condemnation by this Court by means of an award of punitive damages. Professor St. Lewis will rely upon the entire conduct of the Defendant before and after the May 16, 2011 Notice to the date of judgment in this action. In the event that punitive damages are awarded against the Defendant, Professor St. Lewis will donate half of the award of punitive damages to the Danny Glover Routes To Freedom Graduate Law Student Scholarship Fund."

Another statement in the SOC (Par.51) is:

"The Defendant defamed Professor St. Lewis in furtherance of his personal animosity towards President Allan Rock and the University of Ottawa which terminated him as a Professor."


Anonymous said...

A Diversion From the Real Problem of systemic racism at U of Zero!

Anonymous said...

Systemic racism issues aside, As a recent Black Female law graduate, I am EXTREMELY excited that legal action is being taken AGAINST YOU. I AM extremely disgusted by your "house negro" post. Funny thing is I saw a little bit of substance in your arguments prior to that post. That you a WHITE man would degrade a BLACK woman all in the name of "freedom of speech" is unacceptable. Yes, everybody has the right to say what or how they feel and in the same vein should be able to face the repercussions of making said statements.

In your bid to humiliate Prof St Lewis, you ended up insulting a whole race of people. No, it is NEVER okay for a WHITE PRIVILEGED MAN to EVER use such words regarding another black person, especially for someone who claims to be so "intelligent" and "versed". What is worse, is how unapologetic u seem to be about the use of said word. There are honestly no words to describe that blog post and getting sued over it is not even enough.

Adele Mercier said...

Anonymous Black Woman takes offense at White Privileged Man who got fired from his tenured position for criticizing the University of Ottawa for its Racism, for defending Racialized Students against University Reprisals and White Privilege, and for denouncing a Black Privileged Faculty member for defending White Privilege against Students denouncing Black Oppression.

Why such horrid logic, from a "Law Graduate" to boot? (Did she graduate from Ottawa U?)

A "House Negro" by any other name is still just that, no matter the skin colour or the sex of the person who calls one that.

"Words are our servants, not our masters." To be offended more by a word than by the objectionable facts the word is used to denounce is irrational and plainly confused.

Black Female law graduate, for your own sake, please rethink your priorities.

Anonymous said...

@ Adele, you can resort to childish tactics of condescendingly attacking my position or qualification as a black female "Law graduate". But let's be clear, YOU made up that logic not me, Those were the conclusions you came up with not mine.

I could care less if Mr. Rancourt is the Ghandhi of defending racialized students, that is besides the point. The mere fact that you do NOT see the problem in the usage of the word by a white man, likening another black academic to a house negro shows that you are as clueless as Mr Rancourt is/was regarding the demoralizing effect of the word usage. The POINTS ARE; WHAT DOES the colour of her skin have to do with anything? How can a non racialized person ever be in a position to dictate the acceptable lines or boundaries or actions a racialized person is suppose to take? What does Professor St Lewis' report have to do with what race she belongs to? Please if you can show me ANY post Mr Rancourt wrote about a white person where the actions of that said person somehow warranted being called racist term, I would appreciate it. This has nothing to do with being too sensitive, but everything to do with hoping for a discourse forum, where everyone is "called out" equally and any reference to their skin colour is a NON factor in criticizing their politics or actions, I mean, someone as smart (and I am not being sarcastic here) as Mr. Rancourt should know better.

What if it was a white person who wrote the same report supporting institutionalized practices, would they have been called a "cracker traitor"?...The point is the COLOUR of Professor St. Lewis's SKIN, has absolutely no bearing in relation to whatever issue Mr Rancourt had with the way she handled the whole SAC report academic fraud process and to bring the colour of her skin into whatever argument he was trying to purport, and to also infer that based SOLELY on the circumstances surrounding the report she is now a traitor to her race is beyond ignorant and yes, racist.

Do you know Professor St Lewis? Do you know the PLETHORA of resources, labour and time, she has put towards the fight for th edvancement and equality of different racialized minorities across Canada and internationally? Most of which she does not getting any form of enumeration? Do you know about her work with the women in the Democratic Republic of Congo regarding the silent culture surrounding rape as a form of weapon? or how she has devoted so much time in advising the Black Law Student's of Canada, or CABL?

Do you know how utterly insulting it is for someone like her to then google her name and have the second result be a reference to her being a "House Negro"? It is not the fact that a white man said it, it is the fact that it is horribly misguided to bring the blackness of her skin into the issue without knowing her professionally or personally.

Denis Rancourt said...

Someone white or black or other said this recently about expressed views:

"Another contributor to the perception of dangerousness is the intellectual blinkers that humans tend to don when they split into factions. People have a nasty habit of clustering in coalitions, professing certain beliefs as badges of their commitment to the coalition and treating rival coalitions as intellectually unfit and morally depraved. Debates between members of the coalitions can make things even worse, because when the other side fails to capitulate to one's devastating arguments, it only proves they are immune to reason."

I think one solution is to meet in person and talk in an authentic effort to communicate. Irrespective of this lawsuit, I am always prepared to participate in such attempts at understanding each other. I hope that such discussions will occur more and more. I would be pleased to have the chance to discuss about the racial dimension of this matter openly with all who are also willing. And I have already had such meetings with individuals who felt I was wrong, to the benefit of both sides.

The door is wide open on my side.

Anonymous said...

Mr Rancourt, First and foremost, let me just apologize for the tone of my first post. I was unaware of who you were until I read about the law suit and as a trained legal critical race theorist I was appalled for lack of a better word and more angered by your non apologetic tone (in the original post). At any rate, I do hope you have some forum to discuss or express your intentions before the suit gets any messier. After reading more of your posts, I am convinced you are NOT racist, but, I would continue to argue and will always hold the position that the "house negro" post was like some other commenter said "straight up racist".
I do wish you luck in whatever course this whole issue takes.

Denis Rancourt said...


Thank you for your reconsideration of the matter and for expressing it.

It is exactly because you are trained in legal critical race theory that I believe our meeting would be highly profitable.

In a recent posted article (Activist Teacher blog) I commented on Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s incisive work this way:

"Gates ably deconstructs critical race theory but without directly affirming the obvious; that "'Words that wound' are an artifice of new-wave law theorists looking to lead a legal analysis sect premised on slave-hood and the law as protective master and paternalistic guardian of society's values" [5]; and without ever addressing the question of academic freedom beyond the usual infantile preoccupations with political correctness constraints on speech.[6]"

Never say you will never change your considered position... I believe that critical race theory has done tremendous harm to civil justice advancement in North America in the last decades and I would like to explain how and why I have this belief.

Have you read Gates? He is a renowned Black scholar and a brilliant critic.

Contact me if you want to hear the other side.

Azadeh Almaari said...

It is a sad fact of life that people of colour/of minority status/those excluded from the halls of power, always have the option to be included at the master's table, on his terms.

Here in the UK, this is called 'being a token'.

If resisting and exposing the abuse of power leads to being attacked on the shocking and wholly reprehensible scale that Professor Rancourt has been experiencing, then those who collaborate with such abuse of power, regardless of their other activities for the common good/for the unprivileged/the exploited can be said to be allowing themselves to be used as tokens who, by their silent presence, are legitimizing the abuse of power.

In that instance, they are collaborating with the abuse of power, and they should be ashamed to allow themselves to be so used.

In my own experience as a woman of S Asian origin I have found institutional racism to be regularly covered up by the token black/person of colour in the position of Equal Opportunities Officer. Colour is then used by the power elite to silence any attempt at exposing their wrongdoing - eg we are not racist , look one of your own is telling you so'.
Such a person, in the role of token, is accepting a high salary, a secure position, and they mouth whatever the misbehaving elite of the institution want them to say. They often do engage is some kind of -do-gooding activity at the community level which provides a degree of legitimacy to their tokenistic offerings in arenas where it really counts. By doing so, they provide a shattering blow against any attempts by students or staff to bring accountability to oppressive institutional work practices, racist or otherwise.

I could give many examples of the demoralising effect of such tokens in specific situation of conflict where they aided and abetted the cover-up: attempts at institutional accountability and transparency were yet again, defeated.
I do not know enough about the role Ms St Lewis has been playing to make any direct comment on her, but to attack Prof Rancourt when he has been upholding the highest standards of pedagogical and professional integrity, makes her misguided to say the least and leads me to suspect that she probably has been, a bit of a patsy. Ok ok, she does admirable work with the poor and the dispossessed women in the Congo, and she is supportive of students of colour obtaining their law degrees, but how does she work with the elite holding the reins of power at the University?

Doing good in one sphere (where she holds the power) does not make the case that she has the outstanding level of bravery required to jeopardize her own position by coming out in support of Prof Rancourt. Where was she when he was being arrested and put in handcuffs? Hiding under the master's table? Where has she positioned herself since?

Anonymous said...

My compliments to several of the comments herein (especially Azadeh Almaari and anonymous lawyer).

We could all learn from the example of anonymous-lawyer who appears to consider the possibility that she's mistaken (I'm not saying she was, but am expressing admiration for those who acknowledge the possibility). What if Prof St. Lewis genuinely believed that she could bring something useful to bring to bear when she agreed to do her analysis. Yet surely someone with the legal training she has would recognize the conflict of interest that comes with offering what is expected to be an "impartial" judgment between two parties, one of whom is your employer.

Regarding Azadeh's metaphor of hiding under the table (for failing to stand-up for Rancourt and the attendant academic freedom at risk), it should be acknowledged that Prof St Lewis is one of roughly a thousand faculty who have failed to show overt solidarity in support of Rancourt. So it is awfully crowded under that table! I suspect that some in that number do not support Rancourt (they have different views), some are disengaged, some have seen enough of how the university works to fear speaking up, some are picking their battles, and ... . This is not to excuse the complacency in the face of a huge erosion to academic freedom, but rather to consider the a wider range of explanations.

Is it fair to single out one in that number and prejudge what his/her reason is for not acting the way you think they should?


EnglishWorks said...

Well well, dear Anonymous-too. Thank you - I appreciate your appreciation and so I will reply to your obvious faith in the sincerity of the good prof St Lewis.
You feel that as she is only 1 in that big cowardly custard number of 999 faculty members (all yellow in my opinion - oops (look over shoulder, am I being racist) cowering under the master's table, we should be gentle with her when she crawls out from under, not to ahem... SUPPORT prof Rancourt who has been suffering years of intense persecution that would have broken the mind. body and spirit of most people... (a testament both to his extraordinary courage and to the strength that loyalty from his students and researchers) provided.
No. Prof St Lewis crawls out to distinguish herself in front of the master who pays her salary.

She chooses to take on the role of adjudicator between the Oppressor backed by the entire resources of an institution, and an individual fighting for his livilihood and his reputation - one who has made outstanding contributions in research and teaching and is non elitist through and through.

If I, observing her role in this scenario were to comment to her, 'He who pays the piper, calls the tune', I am sure she would undestand VERY bloody well that I am not calling her a musician - she would understand I am using a metaphor to convey my lack of faith in her objectivity. I could equally use other terms to convey the same thing like patsy/token/house nigger.

So bloody what if Prof Rancourt used the expression, 'house nigger'?

Her action in joining hands with the master and and adding her kick to her master's blows on someone with much less power and resources to defend himself with, only proves Prof Rancourt right in his succint delineation of her character and motives.

Not only that but I have to ask, is she really a professor of law? What, the law of the jungle, that Might makes Right? Oops, I mustnt say that either in case she gets the wrong end of the stick! Stick? oops, I probably shouldnt say that EITHER!
I also probaly should not say to anyone, Where is her sense of justice? It seems she left it behind as she struggled to please the many masters grading her efforts on the long but not so lonely - remember the 999 others track to being accepted to be the big wig servant of the big wig master. Thus she exemplifies the system of subservience that Prof Rancourt has tried so valiantly to oppose, expose, and introduce alternatives to.

On seeing prof St. Lewis' travesty of justice and embodiment of bad faith, Sojourner Truth must be turning in her grave!

Anonymous said...

As noted comedian Bill Crosby one stated it not a race or a colour issue its about the behaviour

lets note confuse the issues with semantics about words

EnglishWorks said...

Thank you Anonymous - Perhaps we should all email prof St Lewis. It is bad enough that prof Rancourt has been persecuted for years and then dismissed. She's now applying a slash and burn action to decimate more of his energy and life time.

Well, People, I was strolling by a Field near her window, early this morning and this is what I overheard:

Baa Baa Black Sheep
You are a bad girl
To get some ribbons and
A better position
You've deserted your own fold.

Baa Baa Black Sheep
Oh don't you collaborate
With the master who
Measures us who weighs us who checks our teeth and grades us
Those of us who need his high bloodied grade,
Too often he fails.

Baa Baa Black Sheep
It's true we may have made
A mistake or two
But so do the white sheep
Yet the master lets them through.

Baa Baa Black Sheep
While the master's getting rich
We're having to sell our blood
Or oil
To pay his high course fees
For innocent mistakes
He quickly fails us
And we face going back to our fold
In Africa, in China and in the Middle East,
Broke, disgraced, and failures to boot.

Baa Baa Black Sheep
Be true to our best
Think of Malcom X
And dare to Speak Truth to Power
(Rancourt's a good example)
Pursuing the Endless Possibilities
Your daddy talked about
Was not meant to turn you
Into a chicken or turncoat.

Written by Azadeh Almaari.

PS I would love to sing this under Ms Lewis’ window, but I am far away!
As a child growing up in England, I was taught this nursery rhyme , I havent sung it for a long time…

Anonymous said...

Wow! I just read most of these posts, they were very interesting!! I wanted to add my two cents as a black woman. While I read about it, I never attended U of O so I can't comment on the experience of racism there. I can definitely express that as a Grade "A" student, during my studies I have often met the disbelief of teachers who taught it was impossible for me to achieve these grades. I have also been met with suspicions and unfounded accusations of cheating, despite perfect attendance and active participation during lectures. I feel I always had to fight to prove that it was me! That being said I understand why the term "house negro" was used in this particular situation. I do not know Prof St. lewis or any of her work nor her opinions. But if one believes that a black person is being used by white "masters" against other blacks it's difficult to think of any other term then "house negro" or maybe "uncle tom" to describe it. That being said, when you hear a white person referring to a black person as a "negro anything", even if it is in the defence of other black students, it makes me extremely unconfortable. Negro is and will always be a derogatory term and it holds difficult and painful memories to most of the Black Communities. As such, it is probably preferable to leave it out when expressing opposing views agains a black woman. As a "white" man advocacing Human Rights, I believe you should have taught about that.


EnglishWorks said...

Thank you latest Anonymous posting, for touching upon your experiences of racism in education... As a woman of Indian heritage, who was also highly motivated and exceptionally talented, I remember being enraged by a teacher who casually told me in front of the whole class, 'you're not supposed to copy'. It was simply that I had exceeded his expectations of what a non-white person could do... at University too, whilst the head of department said my undergraduate dissertation was of Phd quality, the external examiners simply took umbrage at what I wrote, and wanted to fail me completely.
There clearly is institutional racism in education, as elsewhere. In a national UK newspaper there was a report yesterday, about how in the USa, whites earn on average, 20 times the salary of blacks.
Niether personal experience nor societal-wide statistics, should block us from discerning the truth of a matter.
The reality of slavery is long past. So too, the reality of people living by farming. If I say, 'I'm not waiting for you till the cows come home', everyone understands I don't really have a farm. If I say so and so is acting like a house nigger/negro, that too does not mean I am a slave holder or approve of slavery/or am into white supremacy. Metaphorical language is a function of the human brain.
We should ask the question, whom does it serve, to attempt to legislate against language? For Ms St Lewis to take this course of action, exposes her for the opportunistic fraud that she is. I sincerely hope she gets laughed out of her job as a teacher of law and social justice.