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Freedom of Expression Committee

Letter of Support for the Activism Class: Sabrina Bowman

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Sabrina Bowman
Intern, Office of Pat Martin, M.P. (Winnipeg Centre)

5 December 2006

Dear Messrs. Patry, Major and Lalonde,

Thank you in advance for reading this letter.
I am currently an intern on Parliament Hill in the office of Pat Martin, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, and I recently took part as a community member in the Science in Society course (SCI 1101), more commonly known as the "activism" course.

I have been following the controversy surrounding this course with interest. It seems to have been an uphill battle by Professor Denis Rancourt and the interested students against the university administration to have this course even allowed to run. And now there is talk of disallowing the course to run again next fall.

This is unfortunate news. The University should be a place that fosters discussion, dissent, exploration and innovation, and I believe this course not only offered students the opportunity to engage in all of these things, but it encouraged it (which is unfortunately lacking in the large majority of most university courses and professors).

I was wary when I began attending Professor Rancourt's class, as I was afraid it might be just a series of ranting, poorly-informed speakers. However, I found instead a wealth of intelligent, well thought-out, knowledgeable experts who presented their views clearly and encouraged discussion and questions. What's more, I found that the students were having their eyes opened and adapting an overall positive attitute towards making change in the world and truly living as global, ethically-responsible citizens.

I'd like to present two Values listed in the University of Ottawa's Vision 2010. I think it is important that if the university would like to reach what it has outlined in the Vision, it should carefully consider it's own words before dismissing Professor Rancourt's course:

A university that places its students at the core of its educational mission
We do our utmost to help our students expand their knowledge, enrich their culture, boost their creativity, enhance their ability to question and analyze, and take full advantage of university life to become well-rounded, responsible citizens and leaders of our society.

and:
A university that values its community
We encourage freedom of expression in an atmosphere of open dialogue, enabling critical thought, supported by intellectual integrity and ethical judgment. Collegiality, transparency and accountability are the principles that guide our university governance.

The activism course clearly embodies both of these values. It has, without a doubt, helped students enrolled expand their knowledge (by presenting alternate views of the world in which we live), enrich their culture (by exposing us to conflicts and issues around the world), boost their creativity (by examining different strategies through which one can achieve a goal), enhance their ability to question and analyze (a central tenent of the course), and take full advantage of university life to become well-rounded, responsible citizens and leaders of our society (what better than an activism course to push students towards this?).

The second value I've listed should have the university administration embracing this course with open arms. If it is true that "collegiality, transparency and accountability are the principles that guide our university governance," then why has the administration been fighting a course the strongly promotes open dialogue, critical and individual thought, intellectual examination and highly ethical judgement?

If you, as university administrators, are interested in helping shape students into critical and independent thinkers, leaders in their local and global communities that push creative and innovative solutions to global problems, you will not only allow this course to continue, you will give it the resources it requires and work with Professor Rancourt rather than against him. However, if you would like to mould students into a single prototype that does not ask too many questions or "cause too much trouble," by all means, continue fighting against the course.

However, I, for one, would much rather see the University of Ottawa creating knowledgeable, passionate leaders, known for their dedication to being informed and ethical global citizens, the kind of people whom I work with every day.

Thank you once again for your time,


Sabrina Bowman

Office of Pat Martin, M.P. (Winnipeg Centre)

Letters of Support 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

Gerald Ohlsen, Retired Senior Diplomat, 15 November 2006