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Freedom of Expression Committee

Letter of Support for the Activism Class: Gerald Ohlsen

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Letter: ES Exec to Dean - March 2007
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Gerald Ohlsen
Retired Senior Diplomat
Gerald Ohlsen Associates

15 November 2006

Dear Mr Patry,

Since September of this year, my wife and I have attended the above course as community participants. I would like to congratulate you and your colleagues in the Faculty of Science for offering such a superb course, one that fully embodies the essence of the Academy as a community of scholars learning together. As a retired senior diplomat whose career has focussed on the promotion of human rights and democratic development internationality, I would say as well that the course fully reflects the best of Canadian values.

I understand that some in the University community have had difficulty in accepting this course and its pedagogical methods. Our experience, and that of every student and participant to whom I have spoken, is that those concerns are ill-founded. The course offers a rich, balanced learning environment and merits the full and enthusiastic support of the entire community. Indeed I would suggest that the interests of the University would be well-served by promoting and advertising the course as an example of the richness and imagination to be experienced at the University of Ottawa.

Two specific issues have arisen that I believe merit your personal attention and reconsideration. The first is the case of two very young men, Sebastien and Douglas Foster, who were admitted as full participants in the course but who subsequently saw their registration cancelled. All of the participants in this course have welcomed the presence and engagement of these young men in the course; their perspective enriches the experience for all of us. In the interests of both the course and these two exceptional people, I would urge you to ensure that their registration is reconfirmed immediately.

The second concern is the provision of Teaching Assistance to the course. While Professor Rancourt benefits from the support of two outstanding TA's, I believe that the learning experience of this workshop based course would be deepened and enriched by the provision of a number of TA's sufficient to provide leadership to each of the many on-going workshops established at the express request of the students. This is, in considerable degree, a student-lead course; it would serve the University well to be seen to support their initiative in this regard.

I cannot conclude without paying tribute to the extraordinary performance of Prof. Denis Rancourt in designing and teaching this course. His enthusiasm and outstanding hard work are infectious and his subtle pedagogic skills exemplary. Prof. Rancourt is able to engage and motivate students ranging from the afore-mentioned eleven year olds, through first year students from a variety disciplines, to jaded and cynical senior professionals like myself. What more could be asked of a teacher?

Your attention to these matters, and your enthusiastic support for a course that greatly enriches both your institution and our community, will be greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

Gerald Ohlsen


see also: Letter to UofO Pres. Gilles Patry, from Gerry Ohlsen, 1 April 2007

Letters of Support in 2006 for the Activism Class:

Alroy Fonseca, Policy Analyst, 30 Nov 2006

Anna Sundin, LL. B., 18 December 2006

Atiya Hussain, Parent of U. of O. student, 14 November 2006

Claude Haridge, P.Eng., 1 December 2006

Conchita Fonseca, M.D. and Jean-Pierre Thibault, M.Sc.(Eng.) candidate, 15 December 2006

David Mandelzys, Research Analyst, 22 December 2006

Douglas Budden, Kyirong Choling Farmstead, 6 November 2006

Sabrina Bowman, Intern, Office of Pat Martin, M.P., 5 December 2006