Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAC Annual Report Based on 388 Students’ Lived Experience Claimed to be ‘Unsubstantiated, Inconclusive and Inflammatory’ by the University of Ottawa

“I know from my days in politics that the easiest way to respond to an unfavourable poll is to brush it off as a misleading snap-shot or to attack the pollster’s methodology” (Allan Rock, “Rock Talk” University of Ottawa. November 19th, 2008).

On November 25th 2008, the University of Ottawa responded to the SAC’s 2008 report titled Unfair Practices, Mistreatment of Students and Systemic Racism at the University of Ottawa. The response was a 19 page evaluation penned by Professor Joanne St. Lewis, Director of the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights and Research and Education Centre.

Professor’s St. Lewis’ response states that the Vice-President Academic, Robert Major, (her superior) asked her to complete an “independent” evaluation of the SAC 2008 report. Professor St. Lewis arrives at the conclusion that, “in many places the content [of the SAC report] can only be described as unsubstantiated, inconclusive and inflammatory.”

Furthermore, the University’s response and Professor St. Lewis’ evaluation examines the SAC report’s methodology, and concludes that the SAC’s data is too limited to enable any analysis supporting the Centre’s claims.

Nonetheless, Professor St. Lewis concludes her report with ten (10) recommendations that echo the SAC report’s recommendation and demands, including strict adherence by the Senate Appeals Committee to reasonable deadlines and the establishment of a university policy protecting undergraduate students from discrimination and non-sexual harassment.

The University of Ottawa issued a press release and emailed members of the university community (all students and staff) informing them of Professor Joanne St. Lewis’ evaluation. The University provided a link to her evaluation, but chose not to link to the SAC’s report. President Allan Rock also wrote about the evaluation and Professor St. Lewis’ analysis on his blog, while again choosing not to link to the Student Appeal Centre report.

The Student Appeal Centre denounces the University of Ottawa’s tactics as an attempt to discredited 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.

The Student Appeal Centre continues to be a witness to racism and contempt for students. The SAC report is a testimonial, based on 388 official cases over the past academic year and over 400 informal consultations.

The University of Ottawa has not yet taken any action to implement Professor Joanne St. Lewis’ and the Student Appeal Centre recommendations.