Saturday, April 25, 2015

Can we be neutral on the question of affirmative action in the hiring of university professors? -- A radical perspective

By Denis G. Rancourt

"Affirmative action" means imposing positive discrimination or quotas for members of disadvantaged groups. In the case of a university department, it means imposing a hiring practice designed to select more candidates from disadvantaged groups.

One view is that the tenured professors of the academic department should have total professional independence to select the most qualified candidates in their area of knowledge, without government or administrative interference. The idea here is that they have the knowledge and experience to best select candidates, and that it is most desirable for society that the most talented teachers and researchers be selected.

In the 1960s this was a dominant view. But those were different times. There was a huge growth of the university system and relatively few qualified candidates. Universities had to be efficient so departments were largely autonomous and administrative overhead was small.

A related argument is that "merit" in teaching and research should be the only criterion in hiring academic staff. This leads to the question: Who is able to evaluate "merit" and can "merit" be evaluated? The tenured professors have an argument that yes merit can be evaluated, and that they are best suited to gauge merit.

There are many problems with these arguments in favour of "merit", as follows.

In an employer's market, the old boys will tend to select clones of themselves. There is no denying that. I lived it personally when I was hired in the 1980s. There were some 100 qualified candidates for one position. The old boys fought to secure a candidate most likely to become a collaborator. This meant someone who would have an interest in securing the same types of research resources, in organizing the same types of symposia, and in being a co-author to boost an old boy's publication output.

Thus, there is a selection for a predictable and dependent individual -- under the guise of "merit", which of course is measured in terms of indicators for predictability and conformity in the area of specialization, which was determined by an internal war prior to anouncing the position.

If merit means potential genius in research and teaching, then good luck making that determination. The only way to predictably ensure the hiring of "stars" is for the hiring department to have the clout to define what is prized research in the field and then to hire over-achieving specialists in that area of focus. The candidate becomes a star operator in a political network of trend setting "leaders" in some fabricated hot topic of their making. The tenure process weeds out the "bad" choices that did not "get it" or that opposed a big shot, and the machine ploughs "forward".

However, the genius of making true discoveries that cannot easily be ignored, and the genius of genuinely inspiring students beyond a warm glow of belonging, cannot be predicted at the time of hiring, especially not by non-geniuses, and not even by authentic geniuses. The reason is simple. A genius makes himself or herself by a unique and unpredictable process, the process of personal emancipation in a changing community. There are no traits that allow reliable early detection by outside observers, not grades, not numbers of bland published articles, not recommendation letters, not hobbies or volunteer work, not lifestyle choices, not skin colour, nothing.

Until there has been an act of genius, which is recognized as such, there is no genius. And a particular achievement of genius can be the only such act in a person's entire life. It can be an "accident", or it can colour the actor's entire life with the insight from that single discovery. A string of brilliance is as likely as a suicide, a priori. The perceived genius can be a creep, a bad friend, a delight, an aggressor, ... , that is also unpredictable [example].

Therefore, let us not expect or even wish that universities will hire geniuses. I think, instead, we should look for independent minded individuals who are dedicated to truth, agency, and sharing. And I think those in the best position to decide if the individual is worthy in these regards are the students themselves. Students should have the teachers that they deserve, and they would deserve the teachers that they chose.

In any case, tenured professors no longer do most of the teaching. Exploited contract academic staff do that now. Some of these staff are brilliant, some are geniuses, and many deeply inspire their students despite their own precarious situations. All are overworked, undervalued, and exploited, except if independently secure.

Socrates was a genius. Socrates changed the world. Socrates inspired students. Socrates was independent minded. Socrates said "an education obtained with money is worse than no education at all". [1]

Yet here we are, some 2,500 years later, arguing if in selecting a permanent class of professionals, which are tasked with supporting institutions that sell education, the government should impose quotas based on skin colour and type of genitals. True progress.

The first thing we must admit is that the discussion about affirmative action is a political discussion about accessing class advantage, and about optimizing integration (social engineering). It is not a discussion about education and learning. It is not a discussion about emancipation and liberation. For example, the establishment women-studies professors are tasked with bringing activist-minded women into the fold; if not, they are turfed. The system does not work against itself.

This cannot be a simple isolated discussion about merit versus fairness. The context is that of a hierarchical and undemocratic corporation having an unavoidable institutional function to completely support a larger dominance hierarchy that wages wars and exploits continents [book]. Learning would be an intolerable threat.

One cannot honestly discuss affirmative action in university hiring without admitting that the de facto mission of the university is incompatible with education, and incompatible with research. The institution makes obedient employees and self-indoctrinated professional workers [book]. Of course, there is some incidental learning, despite the institutional chill, from the mere fact of sharing classrooms and a campus, but that is irrelevant to policy questions.

The only questions, therefore, are: Will there be resistance and what will it look like? Will independence of mind and of agency force itself on the scene? Will the hierarchical dominance be challenged? Will adult students take more control over their own lives? Will professors take more control over their own lives? Will students and professors be opponents or co-resisters? Who will be a collaborator and who will participate in liberation, irrespective of colour and sex?

To accept the debate about affirmative action as central is to participate in not asking the real questions.

My answer would be for the students and community members, who are the diverse population in question, to impose themselves as much as possible onto the hiring process. To stop allowing themselves to be infantilized, and to impose themselves on the process of selecting the individuals who will inspire and challenge them. That includes imposing themselves in removing unwanted professors and in creating a fair salary scale and fair working conditions consistent with their needs as students.

And, these impositions necessarily include students' own working conditions and student salaries for academic work [LINK]. Students must not allow themselves to be forced to buy their educations. Academic freedom must be equally for everyone, students included.

Universities, which today are deserts, need to become battlegrounds if conditions for learning are going to be created.


[1] This quote is widely attributed to Socrates. For example, as cited (p. 12) by: Sasser, Renee M., "The Perceptions of Teachers in a Rural South Georgia County Regarding Merit Pay Based on Student Achievement" (2011). Electronic Theses & Dissertations. Paper 387. <>

Highly related post: "Adult students please get real"

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Adult students please get real

By Denis G. Rancourt

You have been had.

You can't see the obvious.

When the obvious is stated, you viscerally reject it, or fain being deaf.

Stated as plainly as I can manage:

You are workers in a controlled economy. The educational and service-professional sectors are integrated parts of the same system of extraction of your intellectual labour. If you withdraw your labour, the system grinds to a halt. This means you have real leverage to extract fair working conditions.

You should be salaried for your school work. The points of negotiation need to be the amount of salary, the working conditions, and your participation in governance of the institution.

Instead, you agree to sell yourselves into indebted servitude for the privilege of working. This is no different than a slave who works all his/her life in the hope of buying his/her freedom.

If you could please just see the obvious, then you could stop "demanding that the system not further increase tuition fees" and start organizing to take negotiated control of the workplace.

You also falsely believe:
  1. That you are stupid to the point that you need to be trained in "how to learn" and even "how to think"
  2. That the professor-handlers have real knowledge and that this knowledge will somehow rub-off on you if you download all the PowerPoint presentations and satisfy all the course requirements
P-l-e-a-s-e wake up and take your rightful place. You need only take it. It will not be a lost battle if you insist. You will learn more than is otherwise possible.

Do not let the masters divide and conquer you. You are all working adults, irrespective of your ages, because you decide to take your place as working adults who also partake in running the school. Do not let them infantilize you. Be a child only when you, as an adult, want to be a child.

In the 1960s, tuition was peanuts and outside labour was plentiful and well paid. Today, however, you must stop the exploiters in their tracks. They have gone much too far. It's time to roll it back. You are the most exploited professional workers, and your very humanity is denied every day of the academic year.

You are denied your agency in your own development. You are denied your identity and your influence. Identity, influence, struggle, and learning go together. Allow them to divide these parts of you and you are less than what you truly want to be, and you experience less than the full human experience.

Free humans are meant to make their lives, not have lives of enforced servitude.

Please stand and fight. Now is the time. You will have allies. Exclude your enemies and make them irrelevant. Join all those who dare. Respond to intimidation with increased dedication to the struggle. Always ramp it up when they want to confine you.

Link to author's other essays about students and education.
And this LIST.

To all academics in line to be mobbed by the Israel lobby: Read this book!

I just found this great scream of a small book written in 1993 by the late Professor Tony Martin.

Martin was mobbed by the Israel lobby in a pattern that is now far too familiar. He wrote the book in the midst of the battle, with the insightful eye of a historian and researcher. It is a treasure of a record about how this all works, and very entertaining to read.

The book is entitled "The Jewish Onslaught: Despatches from the Wellesley Battlefront". The entire contents is vital reading for any target of the Israeli lobby, including the Preface, and the "Documents of the Onslaught".

Here is the start of the introduction, to give the flavour:

In January 1993, I was minding my own business and teaching my Wellesley College survey course on African American History when a funny thing happened. The long arm of Jewish intolerance reached into my classroom. Unknown to me, three student officers of the Jewish Hillel organization (campus B'nai B'rith stablemates of the Anti-Defamation League), sat in on my class and remained for a single period only. Their purpose was to monitor my presentation. As one of them explained in a campus meeting later, Jewish students had noticed The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and ]ews1 among my offerings in the school bookstore. The book documents the considerable Jewish involvement in the transatlantic African slave trade, the dissemination of which knowledge they, as Jews, considered an "anti-Semitic" and most "hateful" act. 

One hour and ten minutes undercover convinced these three young Jews that I was teaching this book as a legitimate historical work. They seemed to think that it belonged rather in the realm of "hate literature." 

There appears to have been some prior collusion between the Hillel students and their adult counterpart, the Anti-Defamation League, for Hillel almost immediately began passing out ADL materials targeting the book. These included, inevitably, an ADL reprint of "Black Demagogues and Pseudo-Scholars" by Harvard University's Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,2 African America's most notorious Judaeophile. In the weeks and months to come, Gates would be quoted in nearly every attack on my use of the book, as proof that "all" respectable, distinguished and right thinking African American scholars condemned it. The Jews unilaterally anointed Gates with the mantle of head African American scholar in charge of Black academia. He became, in their contrived and wishful thinking, the personification of the entire African American community. 

The Hillel activists left my class and headed straight for the president, dean and associate dean of the college. They then went to the current chair of my own department, Africana Studies. Like their elders (for example in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, by whom Hillel operatives are formally trained in the art of deception and dirty tricks),3 they evinced a bulldog-like instinct for going after the jugular of their intended victims. For the . last three decades of Jewish assaults on Black progress, that jugular has usually meant the economic livelihood of Black people. 

By the time that four of the Hillel executive and their rabbi director came to see me they had already mobilized those they perceived of as capable of doing me grievous economic harm. Their task was made considerably less arduous by the fact that the dean of the college, incoming acting president, outgoing chair of the board of trustees, incoming chair of the board of trustees, head and deputy head of the student government, most of the faculty holding endowed chairs and a goodly portion of the tenured faculty, not to mention sundry other persons in high positions, were all Jews. The dean of the college is also on the advisory board of the Friends of Wellesley Hillel. 

I invited the Hillel zealots and their rabbi to come to my class where we could have an open discussion. If, as they claimed, it was "anti-Semitic" to let students know that Jews bought, sold and enslaved Africans, then such a generous opportunity to disabuse the minds of my poor deluded students should have been too good to squander. The rabbi thought my offer "a very good idea," but before the appointed day, on more sober reflection, they changed their minds. Bold and fearless in undercover activity, they seemed to have little stomach for honest, open dialogue. Their refusal of my offer did not deter them from later claiming falsely that I refused to meet with them. Elements of the administration, in a frantic effort to find a red herring to "get" me with, seemed for a while to be trying to build a case around this foolishness. They appeared to be trying to construct a case of dereliction of duty on my part for allegedly not meeting with students who wanted to discuss their schoolwork with me, etc. 

By the time the Wellesley Hillel set their hostile sights on me, they had amassed considerable experience harassing other Black and Third World people. As relations between Blacks and Jews have deteriorated in recent years, Hillel chapters have become the campus-based shock troops in the ongoing Jewish onslaught against Black progress. 

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Monday, April 20, 2015

In support of Quebec's public intellectual Adil Charkaoui

By Denis G. Rancourt

Recently, in Canada, the combination of persistent racist fear in the Quebec nationalist movement, of broadly based Islamophobia in Quebec society at large, and of the Canadian government's de facto policy of energetically fabricating a frenzied public paranoia of "terrorism" as the main false pretext for Canada's new illegal war campaigns in the service of the USA (most recently against Syria), has given rise to a vicious media and institutional mobbing against Quebec's public intellectual Adil Charkaoui.

Charkaoui is a dedicated campaigner and organizer against Quebec's societal Islamophobia, arguably the most prominent figure in this battle. In 2003, he was intimidated by the state and jailed under a "security certificate", the infamous secret-trial instrument implemented by compliant courts in this country. He won that case against the government, in a long and gradual battle leading to full release in 2009, largely thanks to his courage and public presence. The government has to this day refused to disclose (even to the defendant) the evidence against him, under the pretext that this would show how it gathers evidence for these secret trials. Indeed.

Charkaoui is also a teacher and a leader of community-based education in support of proud and productive Montreal Islamic youth. His community organization rents out rooms in government schools for such activities among the large range of classes that he offers.

Recently, one such school cancelled its contract to rent rooms to Charkaoui, apparently in relation to it being possible, within "three clicks" from Charkaoui's school's web-site to arrive at some "terrorist site". Charkaoui was understandably outraged and went public with his complaint.

What followed was the establishment's backlash against his being so bold as to go on the offensive, best illustrated by this incredible mainstream TV interview (below) in which so-called journalist Anne-Marie Dussault acted like an unrelenting vicious attack dog.

The attack is not masked at all. It is a straight-up mobbing, and a most disgusting display of media bias, journalistic sophistry, and bald-faced Islamophobia. Charkaoui's response is consistently brilliant and informed. He does not allow the toxic questions to be accepted as objective, and he does not allow himself to be victimized by this grotesque show of force.

Non-French speaker will need to await a transcript of this epic interview, which so clearly exposes what Canada and Quebec "stand for", namely geopolitical criminality and the lies that mask Canada's role in these crimes against peoples.

This is disgusting media at its worst. I had never seen anything like it before in Quebec. This is a sign that the Quebec intelligentsia is losing its morality. I have not heard the needed condemnation against Radio-Canada.

The less-complete official Radio-Canada video link is this one:

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Thursday, April 16, 2015

But is it true? (Catalyzed by CBC's interview of Gideon Levy)

By Denis G. Rancourt

Well-meaning humanists often make broad pronouncements of alleged universal principles that they advance as absolute truth in the face of the most horrendous problems facing humanity. But are these pronouncements true?

There are many examples of this phenomenon in the legal decisions of our highest courts, where, if it were taken into account, sociological evidence would often be counter to the true and apparent purpose of the legal system.

But without going to lawyers and judges in their courtrooms, what about the humanists, and the activists concerned about preventing the largest mass crimes of state, including war, genocide, occupation, slavery, and extreme exploitation, often perpetrated by their home states?

Recently, I heard one of these pronouncements made by the great humanist, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, interviewed by Canada's CBC. In expressing his existential commitment to protecting Israel, Mr. Levy said:

"I will never protect myself only based on military power. This will never work. The only guarantee for the existence of Israel for the long run is making it a just place based on justice and international law."

This is a common enough expressed belief, that the application of military power cannot win peace. But is it true? It seems important to ask whether or not this is a fallacy. And the answer lies in history, rather than in our psychological desires for wishful and fictitious principles.

History gives an unequivocal answer in this case. Every time an invader and occupier has been committed enough to accomplish the genocide or permanent expulsion of the native population, by one way or another, and then occupied the territory by force, what followed was territory-wide peace. That is, what followed was virtual complete removal of the native threat, with only the usual domestic violence inherent in any hierarchical society.

Since Mr. Levy was interviewed in Canada, the most convenient example is Canada's accomplished genocide (LINK) of the native peoples that occupied the territory that it stole. Canada is now considered "one of the most peaceful nations on earth", according to the CBC and many primary school teachers. So peaceful in fact, that it now has the resources to inflict mass destruction and societal disintegration on the peoples of distant nations such as Syria, without any apparent negative consequences that rise above the very low domestic crime rate.

One counter example is sufficient to disprove the said pronouncement, but all of history is the history of such "peace making" by extermination and dominance.

Therefore, I conclude that this pronouncement of Mr. Levy is a desperate and toothless appeal to those supporting the mid-phase Israeli genocide to imagine a terrible negative consequence, but one that is not likely to materialize. The fantasy negative-consequence in question would be that occupied Palestinians could find a way to inflict enough backlash to slow and stop the genocide, or that the peoples in influential nations would successfully pressure their governments to pressure Israel enough to stop it in its project.

From the perspective of history, these fantasies are very unlikely. They would require a kind of mass-hysteria of repulsion against the criminal actions of Israel, and against the criminal actions of all home governments that support suppression of peoples.

Clearly Israel and its allied states are very concerned about any possible spark of such mass-hysteria. This explains their extreme obsessions with "hate speech laws" and "antisemitism laws" and "holocaust denial laws" and the many laws against all the civil liberties. The ruling class is feeling very uneasy about its image-management difficulties regarding its criminal activities. But in the end, all this is irrational over-reaction in places like Canada where the police are clearly in charge and where the greatest threat to humanity is "global warming" from atmospheric CO2.

My point is that these general pronouncements of baseless principles are not useful because they are not realistic. Agitation does not rely on grand appeals to the oppressor to be less oppressive, or to kind opinion activists to "mobilize". Effective agitation is based on shared disgust at being stepped on, and is anchored in reality.

I may be wrong? Maybe opinion activism and the "critical mass of like-minded people" will prove me wrong? I hope so. But, from history, it would appear that a class war or struggle leading to (not-necessarily violent) revolution has been needed every time.

Also, who am I to judge that Palestinians are not inflicting enough backlash to slow and stop the Israeli genocide? But from here, the genocide appears to be accelerating if anything. There will be another summer slaughter soon. Expressed disgust is an answer.