Monday, June 11, 2012

Updates on the #UCDavis Academic Freedom situation

A few days ago I wrote a post: Report on "Egregious Academic Freedom Violation" at #UCDavis.  The post provides some detail on an investigation carried out by the UC Davis Academic Senate into a case of apparent retribution at the UC Davis medical school.  In the case the Dean of the Medical School (Claire Pomeroy), the Executive Associate Dean Fred Meyers and the Health System Counsel appear to have carried out a retribution of sorts against a member of the faculty at the medical school (NOTE - I have a half appointment at the medical school).  The faculty member - Michael Wilkes had the gall to write an editorial (with Jerome Hoffman) for the SF Chronicle expressing opinions about a medical issue and actions of some people at the UC Davis Medical School.  Apparently, some people at the medical school did not like being criticized.  The result?  A threat to take away his space, to remove him as instructor of a medical school course, and other incites including a threatening email/letter from the medical school counsel.  Lovely.

Fortunately, the UC Davis Academic Senate was brought into the case by Wilkes and a committee of the academic senate responded VERY strongly with a report (see my previous post with more detail).  Meanwhile - news of the report spread and was covered in Inside Higher Ed.  It was then that I heard about it and felt the need to blog about it.  And news has spread a bit more (thank you PZ Myers and others).  On Friday, the UC Davis Academic Senate met (and though I am not a member of the Senate, I went to the meeting).  And the Senate passed three resolutions coming out strongly in support of Prof. Wilkes and critiquing the behavior of the Dean, Asst. Dean and Counsel from the Med. School.  Just after the resolution was passed the faculty received an email from the Provost Ralph Hexter that was very strongly saying he supported academic freedom on campus.

So that is where we stand now.  I am very pleased with the Provost's statement.  At the same time I am still dismayed at the reported behavior of the Medical School administration.  And I think this issue needs to still get some air until there are repercussions for the Medical School actions ...

Here are some related links and updates that I collected as the story has unfolded.

UPDATE: Some links of relevance

UPDATE 2: Some new links (6/8)
  • UC removes "In the media" page which linked to the Inside Higher Ed. story.
  • UC Davis Academic Senate passes three resolutions in relation to this case.  See here for full text.

UPDATE 7: 6/14

Well - finally some news.  Not sure what I think about it but at least something is moving forward.  A report was issued yesterday from a panel investigating this case.  
I have received a detailed email from Prof. Gregory Pasternack of UC Davis about the new "findings" from the report.  Pasternack was on the committee that issues the original report about this case.  He has this response to the new report:
1) Compared to the thorough 14-page analysis from the faculty investigation, the 2-page administrative review presents virtually no new information, contradicts the testimony of the Executive Associate Dean who said he was in fact responding to complaints against Dr. Wilkes, and completely ignores the totality of the threats all occurring peculiarly at the same time, creating a strong sense of retaliating when viewed as a whole. The faculty saw through thin excuses, while this review merely parrots and accepts them with no scrutiny or common sense. 
2) The administrative review claims a factual mistake in the timeline suggesting that the Executive Associate Dean wrote a key email before he was aware of Dr. Wilkes' activities.  This is factually incorrect.  There is uncertainty about the timing of various emails (UC Davis does not keep historical emails, so a request for those went unfilled), but our report is very clear that Dr. Wilkes first raised his allegations to the Dean on September 16, 2010, well before the dates discussed by the administrative review.  Dr. Wilkes, other faculty, and the Dean were already well into the dispute when the Dean began retaliatory measures. Those measures continued over a period of time. The administrative review committee ignored this information. 
3) The administrative review appears to inappropriately downplay the seriousness of lawyers threatening faculty and fails to account for the fact that the lawyer was ordered by the administrators to send the threat to Dr. Wilkes.  Why are those administrators not held accountable for those orders?  According to the logic in the administrative review, if a person writes that they are not trying to interfere with a person's academic freedom, then that grants free license to say and do anything, especially to violate faculty academic freedom. 
4) The fact that almost all administrative and legal personnel involved in the case have had adjustments to their University status since the Senate acted speaks louder than this poorly conducted and written review about what is going on. 
5) It is very disappointing that the administration will not apologize and move forward in a positive direction.

Just got this in email.  
Dear Academic Senate Members,
This message is being sent on behalf of Academic Senate Secretary, Abigail Thompson.  Please see the following link ( to access the Representative Assembly Meeting Call forThursday’s (2-28-13) meeting.  You can also access RA information, meeting calls, and meeting summaries on the RA website (
On p9 of the document this is written:

Report to the Representative Assembly by CAFR – January 19, 2013
Last spring the Representative Assembly passed a series of resolutions related to academic freedom and the Provost sent a letter to the Senate in response. This report summarizes our analysis.
  1. In June 2012 the Representative Assembly unanimously condemned the use of letters from legal counsel to intimidate faculty: The provost has indicated that steps have been taken to prevent this, but stated that the actions of the administration cannot legally be described.
  2. In response to a thorough analysis by last year’s CAFR that found that the Medical School administration had impinged on the academic freedom of Michael Wilkes, the Representative Assembly unanimously requested in June 2012 that none of the actions threatened to punish Wilkes be carried out. To date, none of the actions have been carried out although none have been explicitly ruled out.
  3. In addition, the Representative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for additional actions: an apology to Wilkes, training for medical school personnel on academic freedom and a report to the Representative Assembly with six months on the training program. The administration has elected not to do any of these things. The Provost has proposed a “town hall meeting” on academic freedom.
  4. The administration appointed a three person committee to examine the Wilkes case on their behalf. The committee’s report was provided with the letter from the Provost. There was only one new contention in the report; it called into question one piece of data in the CAFR report: the timing of one email threatening actions to be taken against Wilkes. Although put forward as a key issue, this is a secondary issue. Even assuming a revised timing of this email, the preponderance of evidence still supports the conclusions of the study conducted by CAFR last year and provided to the Representative Assembly, namely that the Medical School administration had impinged on the academic freedom of Michael Wilkes. 

1 comment:

  1. It's back!


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