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André E. Lalonde Explains Lab Lockout, Physics Dept.

May 15, 2012

Former University of Ottawa Dean of Science, Andre E. Lalonde, finally spoke publicly today about his decision to execute a lockdown of the Mossbauer Spectroscopy lab in MacDonald Hall in November, 2008 (reported at U of O Voice HERE).  At that time, the Dean suddenly and without warning ordered the locks changed so that the lab’s Principal Investigator (P.I.) and student and postdoctoral researchers were barred from access.

Under cross-examination by the professors’ union (APUO) in the wrongful dismissal arbitration of former Professor of Physics, Denis Rancourt, Dean Lalonde explained that he and the University’s upper administration decided the radioactive cobalt sources at the heart of the Mossbauer equipment had to be seized immediately and evacuated from the premises following a performance protest by science student Marc Kelly that took place in a Faculty of Education class.  Mr. Kelly had entered the classroom as “the Unindoctrinator” character, dressed in a white hazmat suit, wearing on his head a cardboard box spray-painted with the uOttawa logo (pictured below), and carrying a boom-box on which he played a music track deemed to be “ominous” and “very threatening” by the Dean (LINK to music – apparently the Dean has never listened to Pink Floyd?).

Marc Kelly as the Unindoctrinator, 2008.

Following a student complaint to the university’s security service about the in-class protest, the Dean discovered that Kelly had access to the Mossbauer lab, where he held a contract as a research assistant.  Noting that Kelly’s class intervention occurred “one year after the Virginia Tech massacre,” and that Kelly was granted access to a lab that contained radioactive research material, the Dean testified he held concerns that “the potential to spread fear in our community was very high,” and that “(his) duty was to ensure that these radioactive sources did not fall into the hands of anarchist activists.”

Mr. Lalonde stated that he did not consider informing the lab’s P.I. (Rancourt) about his concerns, or consider moving the radioactive materials to a University-controlled lab and blocking Mr. Kelly’s access  before changing the locks.  Rather, dealing with Dr. Rancourt’s concerns that his research was being impeded was not necessary because “the administration had decided by (early December, 2008) that Dr. Rancourt would be dismissed.” The Dean further added that Robert Major (former VP Academics) and Allan Rock (U of O President) were involved in making the decision to fire Rancourt leading up to the Dean’s December 2008 recommendation for dismissal.  Allan Rock then sat on the Board of Governors committee that (supposedly independently) finalized the end of Rancourt’s tenure as professor.

Cross-examination of André E. Lalonde continues May 16 and 17 at the Indigo Hotel in Ottawa.

[See also: Decision – provincial tresspass case victory Marc Kelly]

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