Forum for Discussion and Debate on the Lawsuit, University of Ottawa

Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Student Senator Hazel Gashoka Joins Forum

In All on 2011/12/14 at 19:01

I join this Forum about the Joanne St. Lewis vs. Denis Rancourt lawsuit as a full co-manager of the blog because:

1)  There is a need for open and honest discourse irrespective of the litigation context.

2)  Both Joanne St. Lewis and Denis Rancourt need to be held accountable for their political actions.

3)  The core issue of systemic racism needs to be brought to the fore.

This started with a report about systemic racism at the University of Ottawa.  The central point has been lost in semantics.

Hazel Gashoka
Student Senator, Faculty of Social Sciences

Author Jeff Schmidt Campaigns for just treatment of Professor Joanne St. Lewis

In All on 2011/12/10 at 14:34

Post of November 21, 2011 (source) letter by Jeff Schmidt from the Student’s-Eye View University of Ottawa Senate blog.

A follow-up letter was posted with the title “Author Jeff Schmidt Apologizes to Professor Joanne St. Lewis” HERE.  The author’s opinions are his own:

* * *

From: Jeff Schmidt
To: Allan Rock (President, University of Ottawa)
Cc:  Joanne St. Lewis, Joseph Hickey
Subject: Law professor Joanne St. Lewis is a victim of your institutional racism
Date: November 21, 2011

Dear Allan,

As an education researcher and author of “Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives,” I have a keen interest in the politics of employment in North American universities.

Recently, thanks to several media reports, I was made aware of a lawsuit that draws attention to your disturbing treatment of University of Ottawa law professor Joanne St. Lewis.

Everything about the lawsuit has been made public on the web.[1,2]

Professor St. Lewis’s hiring was a victory of the civil rights movement, but this victory should not be a token statistic.  It must translate into fair and equitable treatment of Ms. St. Lewis.

Instead, your institution has given Ms. St. Lewis the worst possible treatment.

Her law school colleagues behave in a way begrudging her hiring.  Despite her many years on the faculty and her lengthy list of professional service, they keep her at the assistant professor level, like a new hire fresh out of graduate school.  Thus, the university treats professor St. Lewis like a second-class citizen, giving her a salary incommensurate with her service, and institutional recognition lower than that accorded her peers who are white.

You are fully aware of this, as evidenced by the fact that you have used Ms. St. Lewis’s vulnerable position to extract obedient service from her, such as in 2008 when you wanted a black person to rebut the Student Appeal Centre’s public report accusing the University of Ottawa of systemic racism.

The intellectual dirty work that you drafted Ms. St. Lewis to do for you in that case has caused her great embarrassment.  You put Ms. St. Lewis in the impossible position of having to play up the student report’s limitations rather than its strengths, and yet not appear to be trying to please you.  She tried her best to finesse that, but got called out for it.  First, the Student Appeal Centre (SAC), which is part of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, publicly criticized Ms. St. Lewis for belittling their evidence of systemic racism.  They said, “The Student Appeal Centre denounces the University of Ottawa’s tactics as an attempt to discredit student voices.  Professor St. Lewis’ accusation of the SAC report as ‘methodologically flawed’ not only detracts from the issues of racism and injustice on campus, but also silences the valuable student perspective on matters of appeals and the broader student/university relationship.”  These criticisms were echoed in the media and on blogs.

Then, when the SAC released freedom of information documents showing the extent to which you and your administration guided professor St. Lewis to write a report aimed primarily at serving you in a damage-control public-image campaign, former physics professor Denis Rancourt, who writes a blog critical of the university, provided his considered opinion that professor St. Lewis may have acted in servitude to you, her employer, rather than in such a way as to most effectively fight systemic racism.

It is sad to see Ms. St. Lewis try to make the embarrassment go away by asking a court to silence Mr. Rancourt.  Ms. St. Lewis knows that racism is an institutional process.  Yet, rather than suing the institution that treats her unfairly and forces her to compromise her principles, she is suing an individual for publicizing her compromise.  Ironically, Mr. Rancourt, has a long history of fighting racist and class-based oppression.  But he is a safe target for Ms. St. Lewis, because he is a well-known critic of her employer.  I hope that Ms. St. Lewis will withdraw her futile lawsuit against Mr. Rancourt and join with him in fighting institutional racism.

I was shocked when it was exposed that Ms. St. Lewis’s lawsuit against Mr. Rancourt is being sponsored by a powerful organization.  As you know, that organization is yours, the University of Ottawa.  It is wrong for a public university or any government-funded organization to try to silence its critics.  You obviously know that, as evidenced by the lengths to which you went to try to keep your sponsorship hidden.[3]  We have no reason to believe that this is the only time that you have used public funds to go after your critics.

In any case, now that Ms. St. Lewis’s professional dedication and service have been made part of the public record, the University of Ottawa must without further delay promote her to the associate professor level.

Indeed, it is almost unheard of in North American academe to be given tenure without promotion to the associate professor level.  Your discriminatory treatment of Ms. St. Lewis harms the status of equity and fairness at all universities, not just Canada’s universities.

Allan, please repair this wrong.  I would like your answer before I consider how best to further campaign for fairness for Joanne St. Lewis.

Sincerely,

Jeff Schmidt

Washington, D.C.
jeffschmidt@alumni.uci.edu

1. http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201108298631/Headline-News/U-of-O-law-prof-suing-colleague-over-house-negro-remark

2. http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/background/stlewislawsuit.html

3. http://uofowatch.blogspot.com/2011/10/u-of-o-admits-funding-private-lawsuit.html

2 Comments:
  1. November 23, 2011 12:21 am

    Update:

    From: Richard Dearden (Partner, Gowlings LLP)
    To: Joseph Hickey
    Date: November 22, 2011
    Subject: Professor St. Lewis

    Mr. Hickey – as you are aware , i am counsel for Professor St. Lewis. Yesterday you published on “A Student’s-Eye-View” a false and defamatory letter written by Jeffrey Schmidt dated November 21st . You also emailed Mr. Schmidt’s false and defamatory letter to numerous individuals. The letter from Mr. Schmidt repeats many of the defamatory statements Mr. Denis Rancourt published about Professor St. Lewis. I am demanding that you immediately take down your November 21st publication “Author Jeff Schmidt campaings for just treatment of Professor Joanne St. Lewis” and apologize to Professor St. Lewis.

    Richard Dearden
    Partner
    613-786-0135
    gowlings.com

  2. December 2, 2011 1:32 am

    Update:

    Jeff Schmidt’s letter re-posted at the South Asia Mail:

    http://www.southasiamail.com/news.php?id=102025

Black Law Students’ Association Public Statement

In All on 2011/12/01 at 22:32

Post of November 10, 2011 (source) by the Black Law Students Association at the Blogging for Equality site of the University of Ottawa.  The authors’ opinions are their own:

* * *

Black Law Students’ Association Public Statement

We, the Black Law Students’ Association of the University of Ottawa (BLSA Ottawa), are a network of students devoted to excellence and substantive equality. We belong to a national student federation, the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada (BLSAC), committed to advancing the academic and professional interests of black law students across the country. We are charged with the responsibility of actively creating an environment in which black law students, our colleagues, friends and mentors are supported when subject to oppressive and racially discriminatory conduct.

Consequently, we take this opportunity to address publicly the statements made by Denis Rancourt, a former physics professor at the University of Ottawa, who, on his blog U of O Watch, wrote that Faculty of Law Professor Joanne St. Lewis acted like a “house negro” in response to her assessment of a report done by the Student Appeal Centre (SAC) in 2008 at the University of Ottawa.

Historically, “house negro” was a term used to denote a black slave in the United States and Canada who worked within the home of a slave master and who severed ties with his or her cultural-racial heritage. It was a term used to describe a black person who supported the continued marginalization and enslavement of black people. In the opening lines of his blog post Rancourt writes, “February is Black History Month in Canada and the US. U of O Watch believes that it is the right time not only to honour Black Americans who fought for social justice against masters but also to out Black Americans who were and continue to be house negroes to masters.” Not only does U of O Watch not acknowledge African Canadian identities, it claims to “out” black Americans who are still “house negro” to masters. Black Canadians have a distinctive and complex history that is different to that of the United States. We are not “house negroes” because we actively fight for and continue to rigorously advocate for equality and the advancement of black people.

The SAC Report entitled, “Mistreatment of Students, Unfair Practices and Systemic Racism at the University of Ottawa” documented a finding of systemic racism using undefined data and an unrepresentative sampling of the population. In her assessment Professor St. Lewis stated, “the fact that the report did not succeed in its methodological attempts does not mean that there is not a problem that should be addressed.” She further stated, “when the pool of subjects to be examined is so small it is critically important that the data is evaluated cautiously and evaluated carefully…this does not appear to have been the case here.”

Professor St. Lewis has never stated that there is no racism at the University of Ottawa. The very first recommendation in her evaluation report calls for an independent assessment to determine whether systemic racism plays any part in the Academic Fraud process. As we understand it, her point is that the SAC Report is methodologically flawed and misses the opportunity to meaningfully address structural racial discrimination at the university. As Professor St. Lewis asked in her first recommendation, we support the call for an independent assessment of the academic fraud process to “determine whether systematic racism plays any part in the Academic Fraud process” and an account of what actions SAC has taken since its report was released.

We, BLSA Ottawa, know racism to be a multi-dimensional and nuanced subject area. We firmly plant our roots in anti-racist politics. However, this does not mean that a report that is wanting of substance is to be endorsed because we are people of colour. Students would benefit from an in-depth investigative process to lend credibility to any claim of systemic racism. To declare that the only black female English Common Law professor acted like a “house negro” for merely pointing this out is reprehensible; and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Professor St. Lewis has been the strongest and longest-standing mentor available to black law students from Vancouver to Halifax, including here in the National Capital (Region) for over 20 years.

The United Nations declared 2011 to be the International Year for People of African Descent. We, BLSA Ottawa, stand in full solidarity with Professor Joanne St. Lewis, and call on all law students, lawyers and community members to stand united with the black community in our collective effort to oppose all instances of racial discrimination.

Did Professor Joanne St. Lewis act as Allan Rock’s house negro?

In All on 2011/12/01 at 22:08

The original February 11, 2011 post (source) at U of O Watch by Denis Rancourt.  The author’s opinions are his own:

* * *


February is Black History Month in Canada and the US. UofOWatch believes that it is the right time not only to honour Black Americans who fought for social justice against masters but also to out Black Americans who were and continue to be house negroes to masters.

The term “house negro” was defined by Malcolm X in his famous “The House Negro and the Field Negro” speech (see video below).

The same spirit prevailed when civil rights icon Ralph Nader suggested that US President Obama needed to decide if he was going to be an Uncle Tom: HERE.

The Student Appeal Centre (SAC) of the student union at the University of Ottawa today released documents obtained by an access to information (ATI) request that suggest that law professor Joanne St. Lewis acted like president Allan Rock’s house negro when she enthusiastically toiled to discredit a 2008 SAC report about systemic racial discrimination at the university.

See today’s SAC article HERE. See ATI documents released today by the SAC HERE.

At the time, the St. Lewis report was critiqued by UofOWatch: HERE.

The newly released ATI records are disturbing far beyond the nontenured professor St. Lewis’ uncommon zeal to serve the university administration:

The ATI records expose a high level cover up orchestrated by Allan Rock himself to hide the fact that the St. Lewis efforts were anything but “independent”, as she characterizes her report on the first page.
_

The SAC article posted today quotes Rock from the ATI documents explaining to his staff how to preserve the appearance of an independent report and the importance of preserving this appearance, in true experienced federal politician style.

This is a most damning revelation against the former Minister of Justice and former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, one that should disturb any university student learning about professional ethics.

Ironically, the original SAC report was about racial discrimination regarding academic fraud appeals; such as when an academic misrepresents his/her work as “independent” when it is verifiably and factually not “independent” (by any stretch!).

Former VP-Academic Robert Major is also found stating to a concerned student that the “independent” St. Lewis report will definitively resolve the matter (of the troublesome SAC report). In his November 2008 email Major actually says:

“The University has received and will make public this week an evaluation, by an independent assessor, of the report of the Student Appeals Centre. I believe this analysis will answer your questions on the mandate of the Senate Appeals Committee and on the whole appeals process. I invite you to read it carefully.”

When the bosses have such high professional ethics why would professors be any different?

More on the professional ethics of the bosses HERE.

Statement of Purpose, St. Lewis vs. Rancourt Discussion Forum

In All on 2011/12/01 at 21:57

As a student member of the University of Ottawa Senate, I have followed and worked on matters related to the defamation case of Assistant Professor of Law, Joanne St. Lewis vs. former Professor of Physics, Denis Rancourt.

Reports about my work as a Senate member can be found at the blog A Student’s-Eye View.  Posts specifically related to the St. Lewis vs. Rancourt case are collected here.

Following my post of author Jeff Schmidt’s letter to U of O President, Allan Rock (link-1, 2), I received a legal threat over defamation from Ms. St. Lewis’ lawyer, Richard Dearden, who is paid by the university (see the comment on the post at link-1).

This attempt by the university, via lawyer Mr. Dearden, to suppress access to infomation, discussion, and debate about a controversial case that raises serious societal and campus-relevant questions about racism, institutional criticism, and freedom of speech, is unacceptable and does not reflect a university that I can be proud of.

Therefore, as an elected student participant in the University of Ottawa’s collegial governance system, I have decided to offer this uncensored discussion page about the St. Lewis vs. Rancourt defamation suit as a service to the community.

Please comment freely.  To submit a new post to this site, please send an e-mail to jhick059@gmail.com or hazel.gashoka@gmail.com with the subject “Post for St. Lewis vs. Rancourt Forum” and the title clearly indicated in the first line of the e-mail.  All “comments” to posts will be permitted.  If the volume of submitted posts is large, “posts” may be chosen to balance opposing views.

All authors’ opinions are their own.  Links and references to cited works do not imply agreement with or endorsement of the views expressed or information published in the linked postings or cited works.

Joseph Hickey
December 1, 2011

* * *

I join this Forum about the Joanne St. Lewis vs. Denis Rancourt lawsuit as a full co-manager of the blog because:

1)  There is a need for open and honest discourse irrespective of the litigation context.

2)  Both Joanne St. Lewis and Denis Rancourt need to be held accountable for their political actions.

3)  The core issue of systemic racism needs to be brought to the fore.

This started with a report about systemic racism at the University of Ottawa.  The central point has been lost in semantics.

Hazel Gashoka
Student Senator, Faculty of Social Sciences
December 14, 2011