Stuart Chambers's Critique Of Me Is Bad Scholarship: Making It Up is a Third Way to Approach Truth Claims

September 2018

This is a response to Stuart Chambers’s article about me, entitled “REVISTING RANCOURT V. St. LEWIS: Two Ways to Approach Truth Claims”, published in the April 2018 issue of the SAFS Newsletter.

In his article, Chambers presents the thesis that I was critical of a colleague’s motives and professional independence in making her criticism of a student union report about systemic racism at the University of Ottawa because I could not invalidate her analysis and decided instead to make a collateral attack on her character.

Chambers’s thesis is false. It is a fabrication that is contrary to the available evidence.

Chambers states “To assess the validity of systemic racism, St. Lewis and Rancourt employed two very distinct approaches.” Actually, I never “assessed the validity of systemic racism”.

I did not make a pronouncement on the validity of the student union report methodology, nor did I make an analysis of the degree of confidence one can have in its specific conclusions. I could have done this, but I did not.

What I did — in two blogposts on my “U of O Watch” blog, dated December 6, 2008 and February 11, 2011 — is express the reasoned opinion that St. Lewis acted without due professional independence and objectivity in preparing, writing and promoting her written criticism of the student union report about systemic racism at the University of Ottawa.

My opinion was expressly based on the form and content of the St. Lewis criticism of the student report, on the context of the events and media reports surrounding the 2008 release of the student report, and on access-to-information documents obtained from the university.

St. Lewis wrote her criticism at the urgent request of then president Allan Rock, in days following the student release. She used data provided by the university and was sent a personalized university-prepared criticism of the student report prior to writing her criticism. The university-prepared criticism was directly managed by then VP-Academic Robert Major and was written by former Secretary of the University Henri Wong. The St. Lewis criticism reproduces virtually every point made by Wong.

St. Lewis also showed a complete draft of her criticism of the student report to Major and Rock prior to making her “final draft”. Rock expressed concern about the wording in one spot and explained to Major why it concerned him (the words appeared to admit systemic racism at the university). Major transmitted this concern and other points to St. Lewis by fax. The draft was changed by St. Lewis.

The defamation lawsuit was commenced only after the then dean of law Bruce Feldthusen suggested to St. Lewis that the university should pay the litigation, suggested the specific lawyer to run the litigation, and arranged a meeting with Rock to guarantee the funding. At that meeting, Rock approved discretionary public funding for the lawsuit “without a cap” (his words). Costs claims made to the courts show that the litigation costs to the university — which used two top lawyers from the two largest law firms in Canada, who had personally represented prime ministers of Canada in other litigations — were in excess of $1 million.

None of this case was ever about my “backing of the student report’s conclusions”, nor was it about my position regarding whether there is systemic racism at the University of Ottawa. As such, Chambers’s article is a fabrication.

Call me names but motivate your position with facts and logic. Chambers’s article is a baseless claim that I resorted to name-calling rather than engage in reasoned debate because I was blinded by a bias that “systemic racism” existed. Why would Chambers do that in the pages of the SAFS Newsletter when there is no lack of public and court documentation about the St. Lewis case?

Let me end with a criticism of Chambers’s ignorance regarding the methodology of establishing systemic racism.

Chambers approvingly states: “She refuted the SAC report’s conclusions, noting how the entire analysis was based on ‘less than 1% of the total student population’ ”.

Does Chambers realize that the St. Lewis argument, here, is ridiculous? The only things that matter are sample size (the number of students charged with discipline), degree of racial bias in the collection of the sample, and the race demographics of the student population from which the sample is drawn. The fraction of the total student population is irrelevant to the calculation of whether there is probable race bias in the making of discipline charges against students. This is not a subtle point.

Chambers also appears not to know or understand that “systemic racism” is by definition statistical, not anchored in proven racism of individuals making administrative decisions. The mechanism of any systemic racism demonstrated on sound statistical grounds is a separate investigation from the statistical demonstration itself. As such, any “fault” residing in the racialized students themselves does not enter into the calculation.

So, Chambers not only makes up stories but also opines in areas of science about which he appears to know nothing.