A+ Univeristy of Ottawa Physics prof suspended

In today’s Globe and Mail (G&M) there is an article “Professor makes his mark, but it costs him his job” about Dr. Denis Rancourt, an anarchist professor, who doesn’t believe in grades (more accurately he gives everyone an A+) .   On the University of Ottawa website his bio reads “Denis G. Rancourt is a physics professor and environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa, and an activist, anarchist, and critical pedagogue.”

The G&M article explains Rancourt’s rational for giving everyone an A+:

It was not his job, as he explained later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace the test, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned.

But by abandoning traditional marks, Prof. Rancourt apparently sealed his own failing grade: In December, the senior physicist was suspended from teaching, locked out of his laboratory and told that the university administration was recommending his dismissal and banning him from campus.

Firing a tenured professor is rare in itself, but two weeks ago the university took an even more extreme step: When Prof. Rancourt went on campus to host a regular meeting of his documentary film society, he was led away in handcuffs by police and charged with trespassing.

Canadian Association of University Teachers has an independent inquiry about this situation.

There’s a great interview on rabble.ca with Rancourt on critical pedagogy.

Posted in academia, policies Tagged: academic freedom, anarchist, ottawa, pedagogy, teaching, university

Academic freedom and assisted suicide

I just heard a story on CBC radio about Russell Odgen, a sociology instructor at Kwantlen University College who researches assisted suicide.

An article in the Vancouver Sun states “Despite receiving earlier ethics board approval, Ogden has since been told by Kwantlen’s administration he cannot “engage in any illegal activity, including attending at an assisted death,” says a CAUT letter written by (James) Turk (Executive Director of the CAUT), which was addressed to eight academics and administrators.”

Someone (likely Turk, but the morning caffeine hadn’t taken effect yet) on the the CBC radio interview stated that there was no case law in this area, so Kwantlen administration couldn’t argue that the research was illegal.A   He also argued that much like before abortion became legal it was important and valuable to study what was happening with illegal abortions to better understand what was happening so that laws and public policy could be crafted.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has formed a committee to look into why Ogden’s research is being blocked by university administration.

The CAUT`s statement on academic freedom is:

Academic freedom is the life blood of the modern university. It is the right to teach, learn, study and publish free of orthodoxy or threat of reprisal and discrimination. It includes the right to criticize the university and the right to participate in its governance. Tenure provides a foundation for academic freedom by ensuring that academic staff cannot be dismissed without just cause and rigorous due process.

The full CAUT policy statement is here.