University of Ottawa bans controversial professor

BETH JOHNSTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

OTTAWA -- A University of Ottawa physics professor, heralded when he was hired 22 years ago as a "rising star," has been suspended and banned from campus.

Activist teacher Denis Rancourt was suspended and barred from campus Dec. 10. The university is also taking steps to have him relieved of his duties to supervise graduate level research.

Problems between university brass and Rancourt began eight months ago when he gave every student in his physics class an A+ after he was denied permission to make the course pass or fail.

The leading researcher was removed from teaching in May, including his popular activism course, which uses only pass-fail grading and was open to the general public.

In July, his "Cinema Politica" film series and discussion group was cancelled by the administration on grounds that sign language interpretation for the deaf was not provided.

Rancourt blogs on issues of pedagogical reform and university governance. He is facing a copyright infringement complaint for using images lifted from the school website on his controversial blogs, including activistteacher.blogspot.com.

Mavaia Ohlsen, 75, attended one of Rancourt's open current events courses.

"It was very interesting, he was an outstanding teacher, excellent," she said.

Rancourt has a powerful ally in psychology professor Claude Lamontagne, who has 30 years experience, and was named teacher of the year in 2001 and 2002, then won the "Nobel of education," the 3M teaching fellowship, in 2003.

Lamontagne said he chose to speak up because he could no longer stand idly by while a colleague "was being muzzled."

"Universities in Canada are going to hell in terms of collegiality and academic freedom. Professors are scared to stand up for their rights because they want tenure, and they don't want to go against the stream."

No one from the university could be reached for comment yesterday.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is investigating the dismissal.


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