Monday, March 16, 2009

Dr. Denis Rancourt

For those that have followed the Denis Rancourt saga, here is an email that is currently circulating the University of Ottawa.
In my brief dealings with Dr. Rancourt I think the tone of this email is actually a good reflection of my impression of his attitude towards students and the university establishment. Really:


*GRADES HURT, END THE PAIN, TOMORROW, TUESDAY MARCH 17, 8:30AM-12PM, TABARET HALL*
This email is an urgent mass call-out delivered to 10 153 students, sent by a coalition of 552 students.
Not all students could be reached due the University of Ottawa recently implementing increased email control.
Many Professors have stepped up to defend education and will be announcing the March 17 event in their classes today.
Spread the word quickly.
*GRADES HURT, END THE PAIN, TOMORROW, TUESDAY MARCH 17, 8:30AM-12PM, TABARET HALL*
. . .

This email is a compilation of six call-outs from student and community organizations deeply affected by the University of Ottawa's attack on alternative teaching and grading. Students have mobilized to stop the university, and will gather between 8:30AM and 12PM this Tuesday in Tabaret Hall for a participatory town hall style discussion. The event will open with a statement by President Allan Rock, and free food and beverages will be provided.
Please come out to speak out. Please join in to watch and listen. The discussion will focus on the pains of the grading system.
The Grades Hurt event will be held in the name of Full Tenured Professor Doctor of Physics Denis Rancourt, who will be permanently fired by the Dean on Tuesday, in the basement of Tabaret, because he gave his students all A+'s on the first day of the semester. Students can help save his job, because the Dean is clearly disciplining him too strong.
* Watch Full Colour TV Interviews of Denis Rancourt Here: www.denisrancourt.tv *
. . .

1. THE ANTI-GRADING LIBERATION FRONT SAYS DOWN WITH EXAMINATIONS!
Grades hurt the soul. Bad grades cause karmic pain, and good grades tempt sacrilegious sacrifice. We believe education must be built upon nothing else but the virtues of kindness and love. Abolishing grades is the rightful path towards liberation and it will transform education to release the full potential of human creativity.
Paulo Freire is our Saviour. His Pedagogy for Liberation will bring forth the New Revolution and take us towards the Enlightenment. We say: No more evaluations! No more examinations! Come out on Tuesday. Help save Denis Rancourt from religious persecution. It'll be a groovy party.
====== WATCH THE VIDEO OF TRUTH ======
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14xBXunsJA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14xBXunsJA
www.youtube.com/watch?v=t14xBXunsJA
====== WATCH THE VIDEO OF TRUTH ======

2. AN UPDATE FROM THE COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENSE OF EDUCATION: DISSIDENT PROFESSOR WILL GRADE FOR FOOD
*All up-to-date media links and documents are archived at: www.academicfreedom.ca*
Recent media coverage: Macleans Magazine, "In this class, everyone gets A+".
http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2009/03/13/in-this-class-everyone-gets-a/
Press Release: Dissident Professor Will Grade for Food. The last step in the University of Ottawa’s planned political firing of dissident physics professor Denis Rancourt will be a required closed-door settlement-attempt meeting to be held on March 17, 2009, at 9am. Following this meeting, the university can send the dismissal to the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors for final approval.
Rally: Student actions are planned. A rally will gather in the Tabaret Hall lobby on March 17th at 8:30am, and will last all day, as part of the Ottawa Free Speech Movement.
Proposal: Professor Rancourt has made his proposal for reconciliation for the March 17th meeting public. The 3-page document is entitled “Will grade for food” and is posted at:

http://www.academicfreedom.ca/Documents/OfferOfSettlement-17March2009.pdf
Press Conference: The confidential March 17th 9am meeting is scheduled for one hour and Professor Rancourt and supporters will hold a press conference after the meeting, in the Tabaret Hall lobby.

3. THE STUDENT APPEAL CENTRE NEWS: STUDENTS VERSUS THE GRADING SYSTEM
The following are excerpts from the full article blogged here:
http://www.uofoappeals.blogspot.com/
You are a number, and that number is your GPA.
"Every time you reveal that number, judgment is passed upon you. With a simple calculation, you are categorized as good or bad, studious or stupid, valuable or disposable."
Grades hurt you, and the Student Appeal Centre is here to help you.
"Grades are harmful, destroy creativity and take power away from students. Grades are a mechanism of control, not a mechanism for learning. Many students agree, but do not know what to do."
Freedom is necessary for education. Action is necessary for liberation.
"How do we get an enjoyable education when we don't function within the system of grading? Do we forget about university and go somewhere else, or do we fight back and take control of the classroom? Can a grade-free system coexist within our university, or is this just hopeless dreaming?"
"Our anti-grade position is radical. A debate about grading is necessary. "
"Students are organizing a town hall meeting this Tuesday. Come share your thoughts and stories. If you've been failed, or if you hate your GPA, we especially want to hear what you have to say."

4. THE OTTAWA FREE SPEECH MOVEMENT CONTINUES!
-On Nov 21, the Dean of the Faculty of Science Dr. Andre Lalonde and the Department Chair Dr. Bela Joos infiltrated the laboratory of Prof. Rancourt with several Protection Officers and a number of unidentified University employees. They ejected all the students, replaced the door lock with a high-security lock, installed an alarm/surveillance system, and began dismantling his equipment.
-On Dec 10, Prof. Rancourt was called to a meeting by Vice President Major where he met a team of Protection Officers who then escorted him off campus and barred him from attending his weekly campus radio show and his weekly documentary film and discussion series.
-On Jan 23, Prof. Rancourt was arrested, cuffed, and charged under the Trespass to Property Act of Ontario, by Ottawa Police under instructions of the upper administration while giving a public presentation about corruption in the upper administration to a classroom of students, professors, and community members.
-On February 24, two of Prof. Rancourt's graduate students and his research associate filed a legal claim against the university, and personally hand delivered the claim to Allan Rock.
===== Video of Allan Rock Evading Justice =====
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0CDgtVMMSo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0CDgtVMMSo
========================================
Now, on March 17, Prof. Rancourt will be fired for practicing an alternative pedagogy.
The Allan Rock administration is suppressing free speech and academic freedom on campus. Students and Professors need to mobilize and stop the administration from taking over our university. Come out on Tuesday March 17 to defend the future of education!
5. A LETTER OF SUPPORT FROM THE GRADUATE STUDENTS' ASSOCIATION
Dear Mr. Rock:
The Graduate Students' Association Étudiant(e)s Diplômé(e)s (GSAÉD), the collective voice for the University of Ottawa graduate students, is writing to protest the University's actions against physics professor Denis Rancourt.
It is our view that the suspension and planned dismissal of Professor Rancourt are political in nature and threaten academic freedom in this institution. As such, the University's actions harm the campus intellectual environment for all graduate students, negatively affect the image of the University, and diminish the value of the school's graduate and professional degrees.
CONTINUED HERE: http://www.academicfreedom.ca/Documents/GSAEDLetter.pdf
6. A MESSAGE FROM THE RADICAL CAMPUS ANARCHISTS
Grades are the drug that facilitate the molding of your minds. The syllabus is the doctrine that you have been brainwashed to believe in. Examinations are the filters that select for the most faithful servants.
The institution is ours, and we will fight to regain power.
==== LISTEN TO THE UNINDOCTRINATOR ===
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iKLGNVyPM0
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iKLGNVyPM0
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iKLGNVyPM0
==== LISTEN TO THE UNINDOCTRINATOR ===

7. ANTI-GRADING ARTICLES WRITTEN BY UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA STUDENTS

Heckles: Your pedagogy sucks
http://www.thefulcrum.ca/?q=oped/heckles%3A-your-pedagogy-sucks

Free your mind from grades, and start questioning the learning processes imposed on you
http://www.thefulcrum.ca/node/1255

Who holds power at the U of O?
http://www.thefulcrum.ca/node/2415

Scrap letter grades
http://www.thefulcrum.ca/node/2357

Give me more A+s
http://www.thefulcrum.ca/?q=oped/heckles%3A-give-me-more-+s



12 comments:

Kamel said...

The email is getting cut off around the edges.

A test for the people shouting "No more evaluations! No more examinations!": Would they see a doctor who failed their licensing exam? A lawyer who didn't pass the bar?

Would they be just as happy to trade their grades for all Fs as they are for all A+'s? That would 'stick it to the man' just as well. Why even give the grades at all if you feel so strongly? Rancourt should just refuse to submit grades to administration.

Anonymous Coward said...

Yeah it's only fair that Joe Sixpack becomes your neurosurgeon. You guys are such a bunch of elitist. I can't wait to get tenure so that I can complain about how oppressed I am...

Kamel said...

Actually, a telling fact is that - as far as I know - most universities *do* let you get an education without worrying about grades. It's called auditing a course.

It seems to me that these people aren't looking for the education, they want the benefits of high grades without the annoyance of evaluation.

The Doc said...

It's telling that the whole email was filled with grammar issues.

The Doc said...

One, particularly vacant paragraph:
"Grades hurt the soul. Bad grades cause karmic pain, and good grades tempt sacrilegious sacrifice. We believe education must be built upon nothing else but the virtues of kindness and love. Abolishing grades is the rightful path towards liberation and it will transform education to release the full potential of human creativity. "

Tell you what. You prove to me that your soul exists, and I'll let you injure it in an exam. But you'll then have to struggle to identify "karmic pain".
I also desparately want to know what I'm being liberated from.

Anonymous Coward said...

Denis was on the latest Current podcast talking about eliminating grades and anarchism. He only sounded slightly loony, which is an improvement to the climate change denial, conspiracy theorist, anti-health science chemotherapy denier he is in real life. But he's got what he wanted in the end, a reason to be persecuted and some attention. I swear his attitude is really irritating, I'm thinking of releasing some older bayblab tapes so readers can get an idea of his personality, because coverage has been really one-sided...

Kamel said...

Yeah, you should put those up with the rest of the podcasts. Maybe we should invite him back!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Denis Rancourt may be pushing the limits to such a degree that his students may suffer as a result of his actions, but here's the thing: It sounds like they are taking the wrong approach in the reason for his dismissal. They are trying to fire him because he gave all students A+ marks. All grades must be approved at a higher level (Dean's office, I think) before being entered in the system. The system controls the grades and can reject them. Unless there's something I don't know, you can't fire a tenured professor for suggesting all students get A+.
If they want to fire him for his views, or his methods, make sure they attempt to do it for that reason. They know the rules of the tenure contract; if he is breaking the rules in the contract, then fire him. From what I've heard, their current stance is not legal grounds for dismissal.
What do you guys think?

Kamel said...

I have no idea what constitutes legal grounds for dismissal from a tenured position (I'll see if I can find them).

Out of curiosity, do you know what happens if grades get rejected by the Dean/Resistrar/whoever? Do they just get sent back to the prof to redo? And if said prof still insists on all A+ marks?

Kamel said...

For anybody interested, the full letter from the Dean explaining the reasons for dismissal (which revolve around the assignment of A+ grades to all students in the class in question, but are more complex than simply "because you gave all students an A+") can be read here: http://www.academicfreedom.ca/Documents/10Dec08DismissalLetter.pdf.

Related documents, including documents supporting dismissal and Rancourt's reply can be found here (towards the bottom of the page)

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the grounds for dismissal are, Kamel, but I imagine they could be interpreted as an action or inaction that breaches a collective agreement between the faculty union and the institution.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I will be very interested to hear how this all plays out.

Brooke said...

This is another great example of how a potentially great point can be totally lost in mindless, distorted ideological fanaticism. I guess next they'll be calling for the dean's swift lynching on the lawns. Education reform is all well and good, but "karmic pain"? Oh dear christ... it's like saying "WAR IS BAD, LIKE THE DEVIL, REALLY REALLY BAD!"

I guess critical thinking, objective evaluation and adequate communications skills weren't part of receiving an A+... Crap, I'm at the wrong uni!