On Campus

Allan Rock: New U Ottawa president

Former politician—without a Ph.D.—chosen to head one of Canada’s leading research universities

It was reported today in the French-language daily Le Droit that Allan Rock is about to be named as the University of Ottawa’s new president.

Rock would be the first non-francophone to head the bilingual institution, a fact that was understandably of great interest to a French-language newspaper. The article also notes that the search took nearly a year — in this, U of O is hardly unusual, as searches for university heads seem to be growing longer and longer. Le Droit also notes that Rock was not the first name on the list, since this position was supposed to have been filled by early 2008. Reporter Pierre Jury says that the selection committee of 11 made offers to others before Rock, but was faced with “several refusal”. The paper says that several other politicians, including former Liberal cabinet ministers John McCallum and John Manley, were among those considered for the post.

What may be most notable about this hire is that Rock is neither a lifetime scholar/academic nor a long-serving academic administrator. He’s had a successful career, but largely outside the university’s ranks. The man has spent most of his career as a practicing lawyer and a practicing politician. He also does not have a Ph.D., though he does have a law degree.

If Le Droit is right and Rock is the presumptive president of U of O, then his unusual background is certain to provoke discussion as to whether this novel hire is (a) the start of a trend and (b), whether it’s a trend that should be emulated or nipped in the bud. Ladies and gentlemen of the academy, start your argumentative engines….

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