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Universities Should Not be Funding Defamation Suits

In All on 2014/05/07 at 14:06

by Professor Mark Mercer

Former University of Ottawa physics professor Denis Rancourt is about to go to court. Three years ago, on 11 February 2011, Rancourt wrote on his blog “U of O Watch” that documents he had seen “suggest that [U of O] law professor Joanne St. Lewis acted like [U of O] president Allan Rock’s house negro when she enthusiastically toiled to discredit a 2008 [U of O Student Appeal Centre] report about systemic racial discrimination at the university.”

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Particularly puzzling, and disturbing, is that the University of Ottawa itself, by the order of its president, Allan Rock, is funding St. Lewis’s suit. By involving itself in this way, the U of O is seeking both to silence a critic and to serve notice to others that criticizing the university might be costly. A university should be a place of freedom of expression, of candid discussion and vigorous criticism. It is contrary to the mission of a university to help in the suppression of criticism, even harsh criticism, even false or unfair criticism. Its commitment must be to answer criticism, not to try to stifle it. Only answering criticism is consistent with its mission to be a place of intellectual community, and with its role as an example for the larger society.

Read the full article at the website of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs.