In the wake of the University of Ottawa’s suspension and decision to dismiss Professor Denis Rancourt, some of the researchers working under Rancourt have decided to file a lawsuit against the university for breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.

See details in the press release below.

PRESS RELEASE: RANCOURT STUDENTS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS
Tuesday, February 24, 11:00 a.m., lobby of Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa

On December 10, 2008, the University of Ottawa summarily, without notice consultation or due process, closed the laboratory of Professor Denis Rancourt, locking out its researchers, seizing equipment and derailing years of award winning scholarship in nanoparticle physics.  As a result of this ill-conceived plan, post Doctoral researcher Meizhen Dang’s employment was terminated after twelve years of dedicated research assistance. Master’s student Sean Kelly lost nearly six years of specialized research in the area of ferromagnetism and Master’s student Joseph Hickey has been bullied by the administration to abandon his fully funded NSERC research project under Professor Rancourt.
“Academic excellence and freedom at the University of Ottawa are under a profound attack when the administration takes a personal dislike to a certain professor” according to Joseph Hickey. “I came to attend the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at this University on a fully funded scholarship to work with a leading world expert in physics, not to be coerced and treated with such disdain.”
“Every day that we are locked out of our research jobs, the value of our scholarships diminish and the likelihood of regaining our research momentum decreases rendering the prospects for our scientific careers more doubtful,” explained Sean Kelly.
For Meizhen Dang, she is concerned about the lack of consideration and disrespect shown to longstanding researchers at the University of Ottawa.  “Had I known that after a decade of work I would end up by being unceremoniously locked out of my lab and having my research seized despite producing internationally recognized and award winning scientific results, I would have left this environment years ago.  What have I done to deserve this?”
After their requests to return to their academic supervisor and laboratory research group fell on deaf ears, the postdoctoral researcher and graduate students will file a joint claim against the University  and the Dean of Graduate Studies, Gary Slater for monetary damages relating to breach of contract and misfeasance in public office.  On February 24, 2009 at 11 a.m., in the lobby of Tabaret Hall, these students and researchers will announce their plan to take legal action against the University.  In so doing they also hope to encourage a broad ranging discussion on the fall out of the University’s crack down on scientific research and scholarship, which may encourage greater transparency in administrative procedures and basic respect for the students and researchers who are the lifeblood of academic excellence within the institution.
Initial press coverage:
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