Last week I and fellow student senator, Hazel Gashoka, wrote to you requesting that you agree to allow students and the public to observe your upcoming cross-examination in the defamation lawsuit of St. Lewis v. Rancourt, which is currently before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. You will be cross-examined by the defence about why and how you decided to use university resources, including money provided by student tuition fees, to entirely fund professor Joanne St. Lewis’ legal fees in this lawsuit.

You have refused to answer us, and instead you have collaborated with the vice-president of governance, Diane Davidson, to cancel the March 26 meeting of the senate and to strike our urgent motion on university transparency regarding public access to your cross-examination, which we have duly submitted for that meeting. The March 26 senate meeting was to be the last meeting of our elected terms for both Ms. Gashoka and myself, as well as for all other student senators currently on senate.

In doing this, Ms. Davidson cited a judge’s ruling, which is currently under appeal, with an appeal motion to be heard on March 28.  The ruling blocks public access to your cross-examination only in the event that the parties to the case do not agree.

It is simply stunning that you and the vice-president of governance have decided to use this ruling to justify cancelling a meeting of the senate and denying a senate motion that had the objective of forming a public position of the senate in favour of transparency of your sworn testimony as university president in a case entirely centred on the University of Ottawa and involving issues such as freedom of expression, academic freedom, racism, institutional criticism, and strategic lawsuit against public participation.

In your and the vice-president’s actions of last week, you have entirely ignored the March 12 public statement emitted by the Civil Liberties Association of the National Capital Region related to this case (see “Letters” at Civil-liberties.ncf.ca/), which Ms. Gashoka and I brought to your attention multiple times.

The Senate is the university’s highest governance committee in relation to academic matters, as mandated under the University of Ottawa Act, 1965. The senate draws its members from diverse sectors of our campus, including students, professors, and administrators from all faculties. The most fundamental right of senate members is to have their voices heard at the full and open forum of the senate meeting.

Your and Ms. Davidson’s blatant disregard for due process and blunt decision to cancel the March 26 meeting of the senate flies in the face of fairness and is a direct insult to student representation in university governance. As a proud alumnus and student of the University of Ottawa, I will do everything in my power to ensure that this never happens again.

Joseph Hickey

MSc candidate, physics
Graduate Student Representative to Senate, Sciences section