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U of O professor claims he was spied on

Denis Rancourt, the tenured University of Ottawa physics professor who made headlines in March 2009 when he was dismissed by the university, has announced on his blog that the university hired an undergraduate student journalist to spy on him. 

U of O dismissed Rancourt on March 31 because they said he was grading his students arbitrarily. Rancourt was well-known for his pedagogic teaching method whereby he awarded an A+ to all of his students.

Following his dismissal, Rancourt told the Charlatan that “the whole grading thing is a pretext. They’re firing me for my dissidence. It’s a political firing.” 

On a blog post earlier this month, Rancourt said “extensive covert surveillance” by the U of O was revealed through access to information law requests and appeals to the information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Rancout said the surveillance campaign was “unprecedented on a Canadian campus.”

In his blog, Rancourt said undergraduate journalist Maureen Robinson was hired as an “agent of University Legal Counsel.” He said she took on a fake Facebook identity in order to infiltrate student groups associated with Rancourt.

Robinson has said this is not true.

“There is absolutely no truth to the disgraced professor's allegations that I was a ‘spy,’” Robinson said in an e-mail. “This pathetic fabrication is an attention-seeking affront to my integrity and that of the university. These allegations are false, irresponsible and needlessly intimidating. Due to pending legal proceedings, I shall refrain from making any further statements.”

Rancourt said his talks about anarchism in pedagogical development were secretly recorded and given to university officials. Rancourt also argues the university has attempted to cover up the issue and that U of O president Allan Rock continues to claim the university followed proper procedure in the professor’s dismissal.

Vincent Lamontagne, media relations officer for U of O, has declined to comment on the issue.

“The University of Ottawa cannot comment at this time and must respect confidentiality and its legal obligations in the case involving Denis Rancourt,” he said.

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