Student Appeal Centre Protests uOttawa’s Demand for Lawyer’s Fees from Student
From: Mireille Gervais (Director, Student Appeal Centre, SFUO)
To: Allan Rock
Date: April 18, 2012
Subject: Withdrawal of lawyer’s fees imposed against graduate student Joseph Hickey
University of Ottawa
The Student Appeal Centre (SAC) is dedicated to ensuring justice and equity for students at the University of Ottawa with regard to their interactions with the university administration. As you are well aware, student senator Joseph Hickey presented a motion as an intervener in the context of the university-funded lawsuit launched by Joanne St. Lewis against Denis Rancourt requesting that out-of-court examinations of witnesses, including yourself, be open to the public.
The fact that the University did not consent to a motion so intimately tied to the basic principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press is worrying. What is even more worrying is the University’s shameless attempt to extract thousands of dollars from Joseph Hickey to cover the legal costs spent by the University to oppose a motion that should not have caused concern for any transparent and well-intentioned institution.
Mr. Rock, since you became president of our university you have repeatedly raised tuition fees while the student unions have tirelessly campaigned to make administrators understand what it means to be a student living in poverty. The amount requested of Joseph Hickey represents one third of his annual income as a graduate student. How is this justifiable?
Mr. Rock, this situation is of great concern to the SAC and is intimately tied to our work. Must I remind you that this dispute would have been avoided had you taken action when I warned you in August and October 2008 that the SAC had noticed a trend suggesting that racialized students were more often accused of academic fraud than white students? I would think that the University has learnt that it is best to tackle problems faced within our community head on and in a transparent manner. Clearly, however, the University continues to opt for tactics aimed at shielding the members of its administration from public scrutiny.
Mr. Rock, you have acknowledged that you approved the University’s funding of Professor St. Lewis’s legal fees in her defamation action. It is simply unacceptable that you should spend $5,326.98 in University money in order to oppose public observation of your sworn testimony about this decision, and then demand that a student foot the bill.
Please take action immediately to have these monetary charges entirely withdrawn.
Student Appeal Centre
Student Federation of the University of Ottawa
c.c.: Joseph Hickey
Student Federation Executive