October 29, 2006

Kampus Kops Kapture Kauffman - Only in America?

'...NEWS FLASH - At 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 25, 2006, the ever-diligent department of public safety (UofM campus cops), arrested distinguished Professor C.W. Kauffman, at his campus office.

Earlier at lunch, Kauffman related a morning phone call from the campus police, saying that they were “investigating 14 old parking tickets, and would you [he] come into the office?” Kauffman’s attorneys called and requested more information, which was not forthcoming.

When Kauffman returned from lunch, the police seized him, handcuffed him, and took him away, transferring him to a Wayne County Sheriff waiting at the Ypsilanti Michigan State Police office. The Wayne Deputy whisked Kauffman to Detroit at more than 100 mph.

After a hearing in front of Wayne county Circuit Judge William Giovan, Kauffman was released. At 7:20 p.m., Attorney Richard G. Convertino, of Plymouth, said he was taking Kauffman to seek medical attention at U of M hospital, and could not comment further at this time.

Kauffman’s whistle-blower lawsuit against the University of Michigan is before the state Supreme Court. He recently was removed from teaching duties at the University’s engineering department, where he is a highly regarded, tenured aerospace engineering professor...'

From: http://wolverinesamok.com/

Send emails of protest and support to the president of the university, Mary Sue Coleman: presoff@umich.edu

October 16, 2006

Authorship, ghost-science, access to data and control of the pharmaceutical scientific literature: Who stands behind the word?

By Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn, MSc, MB BCh, PhD, MRCPath

Aubrey Blumsohn is a pathologist and osteoporosis specialist, and previously Senior Lecturer in Metabolic Bone Medicine at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. He was suspended from his academic post in September 2005 after discussing concerns about research integrity outside of his institution. He can be contacted at: ablumsohn-3@yahoo.co.uk

'...The past two years has seen widespread commentary about the integrity of pharmaceutical medicine (2-13). The suggested remedy is that pharmaceutical companies must be divorced from direct involvement in researching clinical aspects of their own drugs (3, 7). We are heading, like the Titanic, towards an iceberg of enormous size.

Pharmaceutical companies sell products under the banner of science and medicine. However, their raison d’ĂȘtre is to make money. If industry gets involved in science, it has to balance genuine hypothesis testing and transparency against commercial interests, bureaucracy of drug regulation, and the financial consequences of dishonesty. This is not in itself a criticism – it is a simple fact.

Universities exist for a different reason – to add to human knowledge and to disseminate
that knowledge through publication and teaching. Subtle compromises (2) have allowed the pharmaceutical industry to develop an extraordinary stranglehold over the scientific process, academic discourse, regulatory safeguards and common sense (8-11,14). It is hard to see
how safeguards for dispassionate scientific discourse can be sustained when medicine flagrantly disregards them...

The problem of academics who don’t acquiesce

There have been many cases where academics have refused to acquiesce. A dispute arose between James Kahn of UC San Francisco and Immune Response Corp. over effectiveness of an AIDS vaccine in a multi-center trial. The company objected to publication of the analysis of data (which was incomplete since the company refused to supply the rest to the researchers). When UCSF researchers refused to interpret the data more favourably, the company threatened legal action. The study was published with incomplete data (23). The company
maintained that because it paid for the trial, it somehow owned the data and therefore the mode of presentation...

Most importantly, as academics we need to reassert the importance of data and the
meaning of authorship. We also need to assert “old fashioned” ideas of academic freedom, our right to speak the truth as we see it, and to allow that truth to be subjected to open debate. In the words of George Orwell (1984), “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."

Read the complete paper by Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn at: Professional Ethics Report and check his blog on Scientific Misconduct at: http://scientific-misconduct.blogspot.com/

October 12, 2006

The crisis of conscience... Academic Survival

"...In every profession, every professional with a conscience will be faced with at least one crisis. In a vocational profession like Academe, this is a shock for which the budding academic is completely unprepared. In fact, this is true of all conscientious people, whatever their profession. The fact of having to fight an issue of conscience is a crisis in itself.

Under the impact of this double shock: the crisis of conscience and the crisis of the crisis, people typically fall back on their earliest conditioning. That is, as in all the best childhood propaganda, they stand up for what they believe is right, proclaim their truth with clarity, and wait for the expected vindication and approval. To do less is a betrayal of their values, craven cowardice.

But it is quickly borne in upon the idealist that their profession will not tolerate these attitudes. Some people realise this before they make their first crusade, but all, at some stage, realise that their stark choice is to crusade and be ejected, head held high but professionally stigmatised (and do they have a family to support yet?), or to fold and become part of what they would rather stamp out.

Most, perforce, decide to fold. They may find ways of continuing the good fight in small areas, promising themselves that when they are secure in the system, when they have risen to a position of power, that they'll push for change and protect the vulnerable. Some do manage to achieve this. Many find out too late - if they are still capable of seeing the truth - that the system has instead poisoned them, and that by toeing the line, by standing by when injustices were perpetrated around them, by despising the naivety of the crusaders and believing that they brought their destruction upon themselves - by doing all this, they have become all this. And so it goes on for another generation...

From: http://www.ariadne.org/studio/michelli/acsurvival.html

October 11, 2006

South Africa: Lecturer Faces Disciplinary Committee, Possible Dismissal, As Free Expression Declines At University

Posted to the web October 10, 2006

The Freedom of Expression Institute is very concerned about the state of freedom of expression and academic freedom at the University of KwaZulu Natal. Free expression and academic freedom are in severe decline at the university.

The latest incident causing concern is the matter of Fazel Khan, who is being hauled before a disciplinary committee. Khan, a sociology lecturer at UKZN, gave interviews to certain media that had approached him regarding the publication of an article in the latest issue of ukzndaba (Vol. 3, No. 6/7, June/ July 2006), a newsletter published by UKZN's Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Department.

The article is about a film Khan had co-directed, but the article makes no mention of him or his involvement in the film, while naming his co-director as the director. The article was accompanied by a picture showing Khan's co-director. The original picture had included Khan but he was cropped out in the newsletter. An aggrieved Khan was very critical of the newsletter when approached for comment. The criticisms will be used against Khan in the disciplinary hearing where he faces possible dismissal.

The university's action is appalling. Only in the most authoritarian societies do universities prevent academics from speaking to the media about their work, their research and their opinions and criticisms on the development of society and of their own institutions.
Khan acted on the basis of his constitutional right to free expression. Any disciplinary action taken against Khan would constitute an unreasonable limitation on his right to freedom of expression and would thus be unconstitutional.

Most worrying is that this is not an unusual case. Particularly in the past six months, a climate of fear has taken root at the university, where academics, workers and students are afraid of challenging or criticising the university administration. Such a climate seriously threatens the spirit of enquiry and academic freedom. It also can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression more generally.

A number of incidents over the past year:

1. A recent report found that, "The executive management of the University of KwaZulu-Natal is not trusted by a significant number of faculty and staff to follow through on its promises or to honour its commitments," (The Mercury, 25 September 2006). The report also found there was, at the university, a lack of consultation and a lack of meaningful communication; an authoritarian attitude; the privilege of position; intimidation and bullying; a lack of transparency and democratic procedures. The fact that such perceptions exist among staff should be extremely worrying - whether they are true or not. It is disconcerting in an institution that is supposed to be a bastion of free thinking when those who have the responsibility to foster such free thinking believe it to be authoritarian and bullying.

2. The refusal by the University Vice-Chancellor, Malegapuru Makgoba, to meet with representatives of the Student Solidarity Counselling and Appeals Committee and the Socialist Student Movement to discuss student exclusions simply because they had spoken to the media.

3. An email notice from Professor Dasarath Chetty, head of UKZN's Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Department, in March 2006, to the university community informing them of the university's intention to prevent them from speaking to the media about impending strike action by staff.

4. An academic from Rhodes University, Professor Jimi Adesina, being sued by Chetty for defamation for an email Adesina had sent out wherein he had criticised Chetty's email notice to the university community (referred to in 3. above).

5. An email notice from Makgoba in August 2006, informing them that the "Senate resolved that all members of the University Community should exercise due care when communicating with the media, so as not to bring the University into disrepute."

6. The UKZN "Electronic Communications Policy" which has been effective from January 2006. This policy is a gross violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression more generally. Apart from allowing the university to spy on individuals' email correspondences, it also allows the university to read documents on staff members' PCs. Further, it makes "illegal" any email and web content that "contains material that is unlawful or in violation of any University Policy including but not limited to pornographic, oppressive, racist, sexist, defamatory against any User or third party." This is a severe restriction on academics conducting research on various aspects of racism, sexism, feminism, freedom of expression, etc.

7. A recent incident (The Mercury, 28 September 2006) when an academic was prevented by software the university IT department had installed on his computer from sending out emails because he had not assented to the "Electronic Communications Policy".

UKZN has fostered an environment of fear, apprehension and uncertainty among many staff and students. It is a climate where those who are outspoken and controversial have to be silenced.

If allowed to go unchallenged, the decision about Fazel Khan will set a negative precedent for freedom of expression in South Africa's academic institutions, because it will create a climate of self-censorship at the heart of intellectual life in this country. It will mean that academics will have to refrain from any form of commentary on or reasonable criticism of their universities out of fear of being dismissed. Academics have an inalienable right to engage in political speech about matters of public interest, and should be able to do so freely.

We believe the impending action against Fazel Khan is unnecessary. We have therefore urged Professor Makgoba to withdraw all charges against Khan and to begin the process of transforming the fearful environment at the university.

You can find the contact info for Professor Makgoba online at: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/aboutus/executive.asp

From: http://allafrica.com/stories/200610100867.html

October 02, 2006

Warwick - Leaked report reveals widespread disaffection amongst university staff

Bullied, harassed, ignored

Written by Donna Bowater, Claire Simon, Catherine Farrant and Lucinda Neal, from the Warwick Boar

Exclusive: Leaked report reveals widespread disaffection amongst University staff

A leaked report into staff attitudes at Warwick reveals shocking levels of bullying and discrimination of both academic and manual staff.

The report, obtained by this newspaper, show that 730 University employees have been harassed or bullied at work in the last 12 months, whilst 585 members of staff have been discriminated against.

80 percent of those staff members do not believe that their complaints can be resolved through the current system, and almost half of all members of staff are currently “actively seeking alternative employment” as a result of their working conditions.

An investigation by this newspaper has revealed several severe incidents of bullying and harassment of manual staff.

The University have moved quickly to allay the problems highlighted by the report, drafting a new ‘Bullying and Harassment Policy’. A spokesperson admitted: “Some of these problems are caused by poor management.” The revelations come as a series of other industrial problems threaten to disrupt campus. A national Association of University Teachers (AUT) strike over pay and conditions will see many lectures and seminars cancelled next Tuesday. Members are also being balloted over industrial action in response to changes in lecturers’ pensions.

The AUT revealed earlier this week that University lecturers effectively work for free until March 9th according to the average number of unpaid hours they work every year. This would amount to an additional £10,216 a year, adding to the longstanding dispute between lecturers’ unions and universities. The leaked survey also revealed widespread frustration at levels of pay at the University. 60 percent of all respondents were dissatisfied with their pay in comparison to people doing similar jobs in other organisations.

Warwick lecturers could yet call a further local strike, upset at the introduction of a “single pay spine”, with all academic staff to be renamed ‘Professors’.

Academics are currently graded as Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors. The new proposals would see all permanent academic staff named as Professors and the number of grades reduced to three: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and full Professor.

However, the proposals have met serious opposition from the Warwick AUT. “No one really benefits except lecturers, while these added changes to terms and conditions in the new offer mean actual detriment for members. All the campus unions are united in their views about this,” a spokesperson said.

Criticism of University management has come from all levels of staff, with 59% of both academics and manual workers claiming that line managers and supervisors do not deal with poor performance effectively.

Questions have also been raised over the efficiency of communication at Warwick, with 68 percent of staff disagreeing with the statement that, “there is good communication between the various parts of the University.”

From: http://www.warwickboar.co.uk/boar/news/bullied_harassed_ignored/

Teacher Cleared

Published on 30/09/2006, News & Star, by Pam McClounie.

'A teacher from Carlisle is celebrating after winning a five-year battle to clear her name.

Joanne Sherry, 50, who taught religious studies at Trinity School in Carlisle, and risked being banned from ever teaching again, was cleared of professional misconduct yesterday by the General Teaching Council (GTC) in Birmingham.

Minutes after the verdict Miss Sherry told the News & Star: “I’m ecstatic. I’m in shock. I can’t believe it. For five years I said I didn’t do these things and for five years no-one listened to me.

“I worked with some really horrible people and I just want to forget it all now.”

Miss Sherry, who represented herself during the hearing in Birmingham, taught at the school on Strand Road for 16 years until her relationship with senior management broke down and she left.

She was hauled before the GTC accused of five serious allegations between 2000 and 2002. The hearing has taken 18 months to resolve the allegations...'

From: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/viewarticle.aspx?id=418484