• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Following the conclusion of PHY 1703 at the end of 2005, Rancourt and a large number of student supporters began a campaign to have the university approve a new Science faculty course that would be officially advertised as a pass/fail, student-directed course. The approval process – which spanned nine months and involved 16 committees - was significant both for its relative difficulty (i.e., length and number of committees involved) and the fact that it was heavily driven by undergraduate students. The course was officially approved in a special senate meeting in the summer of 2006 as SCI 1101, Science in Society. Although it would be offered by the Faculty of Science, the course would not count as a science credit for students.(*)

The first and only session of SCI 1101, popularly known as the Activism Course, was held during the fall term of 2006. The first three-hour long class – attended by more than 400 people – generated significant media coverage, both because of the course’s controversial history, as well as because it included a guest lecture by Malalai Joya, an outspoken Afghan politician who was then a member her country’s Wolesi Jirga.(*) Over the term, a number of other notable guest speakers gave talks for the course, including Jeff Schmidt, Michel Chossudovsky and Sophie Harkat. As with PHY 1703, there was considerable support for the course from students and community members.(*)

First class of Activism Course (SCI 1101) opens with talk by female Afghan MP Malalai Joya

Deregistration of Foster twins

SCI 1101 was also attended by two ten year old twins – Sebastian and Douglas Foster – and their mother, Wendy Foster. All three were registered students and both twins had been issued official student cards containing photos. However, in October, the University wrote to the mother stating that the twins would be removed from the course because “staff failed to realize that your two sons are 10 years old...” In response, the twins' mother filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, citing age discrimination, and Rancourt publicly supported the mother's initiative, arguing that: “The philosophy of the course is one based on education, which means that every person gets as much as they can out of it, starting from where they're at. So using that philosophy, I'm of the opinion that they were fully capable of benefiting from the course.” The university claimed that the expulsion was not in fact related to age, subsequently stating that: “They [the students] didn't have a high school diploma and weren't in the process of obtaining a high school diploma, which is required for admittance."(*)

Lawsuit over TAs

Five students in SCI 1101 sued the University of Ottawa, alleging that the high-intensity workshop-based class needed more teaching assistants (TA) which the university would not provide. Tammy Kovich, a student who lobbied for SCI 1101's approval, noted that "[i]t was clear in the design of this course ... that the pedagogical method was based on workgroups and required TAs. (Link to the original claim website.) Rancourt publicly supported the students.(*)

Suspension of course

In May 2007, the university effectively suspended the course indefinitely when Rancourt's course load for the fall of 2007 did not include SCI 1101. Rancourt responded on 18 May by filing a $10 million grievance against the university for not allowing him to teach the course, an act which, he argued, constituted a violation of his academic freedom.