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

Monday, October 31, 2011

U of O witch-hunt against Rancourt in full swing -- DAY-3 of arbitration trial

Today was DAY-3 of the binding labour arbitration hearing into the wrongful dismissal case of physics professor Denis Rancourt. Following a rough start (link to all posts about hearings), it was up to the University, in the person of union-busting lawyer Lynn Harnden, to make the opening statements.

The opening statement did not disappoint. It was over-the-top with partial and undated extracts from blog posts, media articles, emails from unidentified sources; including lyrics from Immortal Technique, a reference to the Ottawa bank firebombing, suggestions of inciting violence (evidenced by not inciting violence), and more.

Harnden distributed paper copies of his 19-page statement to the media and public: HERE.

The public and the union were stunned, as was the grievor.

The union, in the person of labour lawyer Sean McGee, patiently responded orally in an almost two-hour presentation. Here are highlights:

"His ideas are so dangerous that he is not allowed on campus without a police escort."

"Can a professor challenge the established order and entrenched patterns of thought? Can a professor adopt a methodology in his teaching and defend and protect that methodology ... without fear of the capital punishment of termination?"

"The University is offended, inconvenienced, and students criticize ... his methods are unpopular and unconventional ... but what is this case about?"

"The University's portrait of a Mansonesque figure is such a distortion of the facts."

"The allegation of 'frivolous grading' is just not true. Nothing of the sort. This was a studied, carefully considered attempt to improve the way physics is taught and learned."

"Calling this 'academic fraud' is shocking hyperbole from an institution of higher learning. The University alleges 'frivolous', 'fraudulent', 'selfish' ... there is nothing to suggest selfish. In fact, quite the contrary ..."

"Case in point, the use of Immortal Technique to show how demonic professor Rancourt is and to allege his desperation in his desire to lure students ... is reminiscent of Catholic nuns in Ottawa urging young girls to stay away from Elvis Presley's concert and his lewd and gyrating hips... and this now in the 21st century."

"Professor Rancourt was made to be increasingly limited to a smaller and smaller sphere of activity: from no teaching in 1st year, to no teaching, to being locked out of his laboratory, to blocking his cinema series, to blocking access to his campus radio show, to no campus access without police escort, to termination."

"This is significant evidence that the University wanted to cut off his efforts to communicate his ideas."

"We are going to ask you to conclude that professor Rancourt does not incite people to violence -- does not, has not, and will not incite anyone to violence. For the University to cite the law about risks of violent acts -- raising that in this context - is - difficult - to - understand - ..."

"The University is funding the defamation lawsuit [St. Lewis v. Rancourt] it now uses as evidence for professor Rancourt's dismissal..."

"In the end, this is a bad faith attempt to get rid of him at all costs."

"Regardless of what you think of professor Rancourt, we will ask you to find that there were no grounds for dismissal."

Tomorrow is DAY-4. The University wants a discovery order to dig into the Immortal Technique connection... Meanwhile, it has supplied none of the emails of the upper administration's known-to-UofOWatch "war room" meetings* in firing Rancourt. (*Most of these will be non-disclosed pursuant to solicitor-client privilege.)

Following public submissions (LINK), the Arbitrator had released his decision to ban all video and audio recordings of the hearings, which are done without an official court transcript -- see ruling HERE. The University's on-record repeated attempts (E.G.) to potentially block the grievor's UofOWatch blog during the hearings fell flat and was not mentioned or retained in the Arbitrator's decision.

See hearings schedule and reports: HERE.

Chronology of wrongful-dismissal background events: HERE.


Steve E. Noble said...

Sitting through the opening statements yesterday, I was struck with the vast difference in style and content. It was like both sides were sitting in different rooms, exploring different documents. The university side was full of contradiction, for example: "this hearing is not about academic freedom" - and then spends a lot of time addressing various situations that fall within academic freedom; "this hearing is not about pedagogy" - and then spends much of their time (attempting to) critique critical pedagogy (clearly showing that none on the employer's side are indeed neither educationalists or academics). Language was interesting - the use of "followers" to indicate those who support Rancourt - the Mansonesque comment from the union targeted that language beautifully. And lastly, the university described Rancourt as using "emotional critique" - and then spent two hours doing that very thing of Rancourt - if all the emotional editorial comments, emotional asides, etc. were removed from the university's presentation.... well there would be little else than smoke and a few mirrors. The union side, just stuck with the facts and laid out quite nicely the scope of the issues in a very plain way - and for me that was the power of the union's position. It was simple and yet substantive. Over the coming days, I'll be posting unofficial records of what was said on my academia.edu site.

Peter Biesterfeld said...

I can pretty much ditto Steve Noble's observations about Day-3 of the Rancourt hearing. Stunning opening statements by the university's lawyer spoke volumes about how this institution values education and pedagogy. Conformity and obedience rather than investigation and exploration of innovative ways to improve learning appear to be central to U of O's case. Not surprising considering past conduct, but it was nevertheless quite shocking and disturbing to sit there and listen to the disrespectful, dismissive (of experimental pedagogy) and deceitful manner (personal attack on Rancourt) in which the university lawyer Harnden rolled out the institution's case. It all had very little to do with arriving at "truths" about the cause for Rancourt's dismissal. There needs to be more public attention on this landmark case as the arbitrator's ruling will serve as precedent for future cases. The arbitrator's ruling to forbid recording of proceedings is very disconcerting especially since there is no stenographic record of what it being said. Impeding the accuracy of the information flow blocks transparency, denies public access and undermines democracy. With this ruling an ominous shiver went through me because it feels now that Rancourt and his union's lawyer now have two adversaries in the university and arbitrator Foisy who appears to be aligned with the institution's concerns about openness.