Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Three Graduate Students File a Lawsuit against the University of Ottawa and Deliver Their Claim to President Allan Rock

On Tuesday February 24, 2009 physics graduate students Sean Kelly, Joseph Hickey and postdoctoral fellow Meizhen Dang filed a lawsuit against the University of Ottawa.

A press conference was held in Tabaret Hall to announce the lawsuit. Following the press conference students attempted to deliver the claim to President Allan Rock but the glass doors to the central administration offices had been locked. A few minutes later Allan Rock stepped out of his office, smiled and waved to the crowd of students as he made his way out of Tabaret Hall using another exit.

Students quickly caught up to Allan Rock and informed him that they had an important document to deliver. President Rock did not respond to the students and made his way down Laurier Street. Refusing to give up, students followed Allan Rock, explaining the nature of the lawsuit and the grounds of their complaint against the University of Ottawa. President Rock did not respond.

After approximately ten minutes, President Rock finally accepted to take the claim and walked away with yet another wave and a smile.

Press Release Announcing the Conference:

On December 10, 2008, the University of Ottawa summarily, without notice consultation or due process, closed the laboratory of Professor Denis Rancourt, locking out its researchers, seizing equipment and derailing years of award winning scholarship in nanoparticle physics. As a result of this ill-conceived plan, post Doctoral researcher Meizhen Dang's employment was terminated after twelve years of dedicated research assistance. Master's student Sean Kelly lost nearly six years of specialized research in the area of ferromagnetism and Master's student Joseph Hickey has been bullied by the administration to abandon his fully funded NSERC research project under Professor Rancourt.

"Academic excellence and freedom at the University of Ottawa are under a profound attack when the administration takes a personal dislike to a certain professor" according to Joseph Hickey. "I came to attend the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at this University on a fully funded scholarship to work with a leading world expert in physics, not to be coerced and treated with such disdain."

"Every day that we are locked out of our research jobs, the value of our scholarships diminish and the likelihood of regaining our research momentum decreases rendering the prospects for our scientific careers more doubtful," explained Sean Kelly.

For Meizhen Dang, she is concerned about the lack of consideration and disrespect shown to longstanding researchers at the University of Ottawa. "Had I known that after a decade of work I would end up by being unceremoniously locked out of my lab and having my research seized despite producing internationally recognized and award winning scientific results, I would have left this environment years ago. What have I done to deserve this?"

After their requests to return to their academic supervisor and laboratory research group fell on deaf ears, the postdoctoral researcher and graduate students have filed a joint claim against the University and the Dean of Graduate Studies, Gary Slater for monetary damages relating to breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.

(Press Release by Yavar Hameed)