Dear Mr. Rock…Ann’s Coming Back

March 25, 2010

Office of the President
University of Ottawa, Tabaret Hall
Allan Rock
550 Cumberland, Room 212
Ottawa, ON
K1N 6N5

Dear Mr. Rock,

As one of the sponsors of Ms. Ann Coulter’s visit, I would like to express to you my profound disappointment in the treatment she received during her brief stay in Ottawa.  Apart from the ridiculous pre-crime letter she received from your colleague in Administration, François Houle, I would like to offer you my observations on the conduct of your students during the event, the University’s role in educating them thusfar, and Ms. Coulter’s potential return to the University of Ottawa.

During the course of the event and judging by the militant and aggressive tone of the student protesters, it has become more than apparent that the University of Ottawa’s student body has a serious deficiency in the basic appreciation of the democratic ideals of freedom of expression and assembly.  One would suppose that, before any University in this country teaches its students anything at all, it first inculcates into them these foundational principles on which our whole education system and civil society itself are based.  Is this supposition no longer valid at the University of Ottawa?  Judging by the reaction of the students and their disturbing chants, it appears that free speech is in serious jeopardy on your campus.

Moreover, despite the perpetual encouragement to “diversity and tolerance” among the academia in this country, the student body which you represent cannot seem to apply these admirable traits when they are required to do so – an uncomfortable truth which belittles such a conditional claim in the first place.  It seems that your students cannot restrain themselves at the thought of an individual being given a venue to express an opposing point of view, to such an extent that, when told of the event’s cancellation, began to celebrate censorship and closed-mindedness, the exact opposite of the dubious values of “diversity and tolerance” which your University is supposed to espouse and promote.  It is this toxic environment which the University of Ottawa and its current Administration sustains and perpetuates to such an obscene degree that it is becoming known as a left wing ghetto of myopic delinquents who will be ill-equipped after their graduation to defend any of their positions – political or otherwise – because the University of Ottawa has created an environment of entitlement to ensure that its precious students do not have their precious sensibilities offended.  Apart from the obvious political bent of this scandal, Mr. Rock, is the very valid question as to what educational quality the University of Ottawa is producing.  Consider, for instance, this reporter’s question to one of your students:

One of the loudest protestors outside was Sameena Topan, the young woman holding the “safe place” sign. Sameena told me she brought that sign because, “This is a space for all students from all backgrounds to come and feel welcome.” Sameena went on to say that no student should feel threatened or marginalized. Asked if she had protested, complained or tried to shut down Israeli Apartheid week, Sameena first seemed shocked at the question, then answered no.  (Source)

Are you not concerned that the ghettoization of education at your university produces such “shock” at such a basic and necessary question?  Are you not even slightly disturbed that such a question has to be asked by a reporter, but cannot be asked by a conservative political pundit?  Is the University of Ottawa’s political and social gulag so brittle, so insulated and so inward-looking, that it cannot rise to meet even the most basic objection posed as a question? 

I’m sure that you realize that no legitimate university can exist without a healthy and robust exchange of ideas from all political spectrums – even those we personally find very offensive.  As it stands now, I can tell you most certanly that none of my four daughters will ever attend the University of Ottawa because of its infantile, foolish, and fascistic paranoia towards conservatives. We’re not welcome, and that’s a profound understatement.  And I can assure you that, based on the international media that have contacted me to report on this scandal, many young families in Ottawa, throughout the country, and around the world feel the same way that my family does as well.    So, unless you are willing to deepen your student ghetto further, you’ll pay attention to what I am saying to you. 

Unlike the decent reception that Ms. Coulter received at Western University and is receiving at the University of Calgary, the University of Ottawa’s conduct has become an international embarassment and Ms. Coulter’s subsequent branding of your university as a “bush league school” – an ironic title if there ever was one – is beginning to stick.

We are going to attempt to bring Ann Coulter back to the University of Ottawa in the future, Mr. Rock. We are doing so, in part, because we believe that all is not lost since, in response to this fiasco yesterday, you were cited in a newsreport as stating, “free expression is a core value of the school that bills itself as Canada’s university”  (Source).  If you believe this, sir, we expect you to properly welcome Ms. Coulter to the University when she comes again – not because you agree with her views, but because you don’t.

And if you want to go beyond the minimum that is required of you in your position as University President to maintain free expression as a core value of your institution, you’ll be honourable enough to welcome her at the venue as well.  Unlike the student thugs that greeted Ms. Coulter, I can guarantee you that your presence will be appreciated and applauded.  May I remind you, Mr. Rock, that while your claims of free speech being a core value of the University of Ottawa are welcome, cheap talk without concrete action is most certainly not. We intend to hold you to it. 

John Pacheco
Ottawa

3 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Rock…Ann’s Coming Back

  1. Excellent letter. To add my one cent worth, my wife and I have three children, none of whom we intend on counselling to attend the Universtiy of Ottawa. I can hardly believe what happened. I’m starting to get this eerie feeling like we’re starting to live in Stalinist Soviet Union or something.

  2. Here’s another 2 cents worth of opinion, published today in the National Post:

    Waterloo Prof: University of Ottawa should be censured
    National Post Published: Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Re: I’m The Victim Of A Hate Crime, Coulter Says, March 23.
    The students and the faculty of the University of Ottawa should respectively petition for the resignations of the provost and the president of the student federation. The actions of these two individuals with respect to Ann Coulter’s visit to campus have been inimical to the environment of free expression that must characterize any campus. If the members of the university fail to act, then the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) should censure the University for violating the basic mandate of free inquiry that is proper to an institution of higher learning.
    Joseph A. Novak, acting chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo.

    I have a feeling that I’ll be contacting CAUT soon.

  3. There is nothing much I could add to your excellent letter John and all the comments made thus far. Thank you in advance for drafting it and your action in sending it off. You certainly speak on many peoples’ behalf, mine included.

    It is ironic that the very thing that they were accusing Ms. Coulter of, they so blatantly are guilty of committing. i.e. hate speech both in words and action.

    The degree of such feverish hatred and unwarranted ill behavior towards a guest in their university and Canada’s ,as well is shameful to the highest degree, and a huge blight on their institution, and those holding authoritative positions, as well as the student body, who I also must add…if their actions represent the manner of education they are receiving, speak volumes about something we should all be very concerned about, and that I believe is taking place in many of our Universities right now… totalitarian fascism.

    Lord Have Mercy,
    Frances W.

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