Targeting Activist University of Ottawa Students – by Stephen Lendman
Until his early March Board of Directors removal, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya was Fulcrum Publishing Society (FPS) Ombudsman, the English-language student newspaper at Canada’s University of Ottawa (U of O).
It resulted from his critical reports, including a preliminary February 23 one for FPS’s editorial mistreatment of Professor Denis Rancourt, fired in March 2009 for his political activism – specifically his courageous stance on Occupied Palestine.
In 2007, after criticizing university opposition to academically boycotting Israel, repression against him intensified under new president Allen Rock, a former Canadian politician, UN ambassador, and staunch Israeli supporter.
Nazemroaya accused the Fulcrum of “publishing opinion pieces against Dr. Rancourt. (They’ve) strongly criticized him, his university classes, his position, and his brand of activism.”
In his January 9 report, Nazemroaya cited illegal U of O “covert surveillance,” adding that “The Fulcrum has a duty to cover all news concerning campus life in an unbiased way and to the best of its abilities,” especially over denying a distinguished tenured professor academic freedom and firing him for his views – the way a police state silences dissent.
Nazemroaya also accused the FPS Board of endorsing:
“a conflict of interest” (and) tr(ying) to force (him) to be quiet about it and to accept it without initially offering a remedy….Contrary to FPS rules, the Board also (attempted) to force (its) Ombudsman to play a passive role;” in other words, forced compliance to quash an independent investigation into Rancourt’s firing, one that surely would vindicate him.
After his dismissal, Nazemroaya wrote an open letter to the FPS, the university Students Federation (SFUO), Graduate Students Association (GSAED), and U of O, saying he was FPS Ombudsman until early March, then removed over “a sequence of events launched by the investigation of a formal complaint by Denis Rancourt.”
He accused FPS Business Manager Frank Appleyard of “breach(ing) the FPS constitution by simultaneously working for Allan Rock and the FPS. This was a conflict of interest. Appleyard claimed that this was okay because the BOD had authorized this violation. The BOD has no such power,” any more than a head of state may violate constitutional and international laws. Doing so is a criminal act. In academic environs, violations are ethical conflicts of interest, clearly explained in the FPS Constitution’s Section 1(1), stating:
“Employees (include) section editors, editor-in-chief, unelected editorial positions, business positions, and any other individual on the Corporate payroll.”
They may not simultaneously work for the Fulcrum, SFUO, GSAED or U of O Administration. Doing so is a constitutional violation and conflict of interest.
“There is no debate or divergence of interpretation on this fact. No one can authorize breaches of the FPS Constitution or FPS By-laws, including the Board of Directors. According to Section 2.03 of the FPS Constitution, amendments can only be made at a duly constituted meeting of the staff approved by the Board or vice-versa.”
Appleyard breached his constitutional duty, then falsely accused Nazemroaya in his Ombudsman capacity.
He also “mismanage(d)….FPS funds, which are obtained through student fees. The constitution clearly says ‘no employees’ can work for the FPS and either the university administration, SFUO, and/or GSAED at the same time. This is to prevent political influences from biasing Fulcrum reporting.”
“The BOD now claims there was a ‘typographical mistake in the constitution,” an entirely bogus assertion to justify an unjustifiable act. Appleyard then “accuse(d) me of personal attacks and false statements, which BOD member Scott Bedard informed me was reason for my suspension,” bogus again to remove him and attack academic freedom.
As troublesome, the Fulcrum “imposed a media blackout on this scandal. My position is that a cover-up has been underway. A public inquiry is in order,” one not forthcoming to let Allan Rock run the U of O like a feudal lord, ruling by edict with no opposition.
BOD members gave Nazemroaya two choices – obey or go. He chose honor, stepped down, and accused university president, Allan Rock, of unfitness and damaged credibility in asking him to resign, then added:
“Appearances are pertinent for judging conflicts of interest. Did Allan Rock forget about the Conflict of Interest Code in Parliament?”
He should have known that hiring Appleyard was unethical, after he backed Rancourt criticism – what Nazemroaya called “notoriously negative and ill-informed.” Hiring him looks “like a reward and was an infringement of ethical norms expected for the governance of a publicly funded institution.”
Because of arrogant Allan Rock leadership, the U of O is despotically run, tolerating no views divergent from his own. Effectively, he declared free expression and academic freedom dead, so long as he’s lord and master of U of O’s administration.
A Program Note
Professor Denis Rancourt will be this writer’s guest on The Progressive Radio News Hour on The Progressive Radio Network – Saturday, May 8 at 1PM Eastern time.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya will be on the same program – Sunday, April 11 at 1PM.
In-depth discussion will focus on the gross injustice to both guests – to freely air what FPS suppresses.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.