Friday, September 20, 2013

The Saga of Howard Zochlinski, ex-#UCDavis PhD Student

I met with Howard Zochlinski last week at UC Davis.  His story is like none I have ever heard.  Howard does not have ready web access.  He has little money.  He needs to go to the library to check his email.  And he met with me to ask me to share his story.  And I readily agreed to.  I do not know ANY of the history personally.  I do not even know whether all of what he says is true or not.  But the story is worth putting out there in my opinion for people to make their own judgements.

To begin to get to know the details behind the saga of Howard Zochlinski you might want to start with the petition he just posted on Change.Org: Petitioning To The Honorable John G. Roberts, Chief Justice, and the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Other sources of information about Howard's story are linked below:
The DavisWiki page summarizes some of the details on the saga and I have copied the current text from there below:
Howard Zochlinski has been the center of academic and judicial controversy within California and the UC System, including at UC Davis. 
When Howard was an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara in the early 1970s he was arrested; none of the charges stuck. 20 years later he was a Genetics doctoral candidate at UC Davis and was arrested by the same policeman who had arrested him back in Santa Barbara. 
The arrests in Santa Barbara resulted in either dropped charges or were thrown out of court. All three of these arrests were made by the same two officers, John Jones and John MacPherson. Howard believes that these arrests were the result of his being a Vietnam War protestor. During his detainment he claims that he was sexually assaulted while in police custody and believes that officer Jones was instrumental in arranging it.
He transferred to UC Berkeley where four years later he graduated with a Bachelors degree. He then earned two Masters over the next six years from University of Hawaii and John Hopkins University. During this time officer Jones transferred from UC Santa Barbara to the UC Davis Police Department. 
In 1984 Howard was admitted to UC Davis as a PhD candidate. In 1992 officer Jones again arrested Howard, this time for stalking. Jones claims that there was nothing personal or targeted about the arrest; Howard claims that the arrest was the result of Jones holding a vendetta and being an anti-semite. This charge as well was dropped when the victim did not appear in court. Howard also maintains that Jones arrest report does not meet the legal definition for the charges that were filled against him. 
In 1993 he was arrested again, but acquitted in court. His defense attorney claimed that the police were not conscientious in the manner in which they handled the case. It does not appear that officer Jones was involved in this case. 
Shortly prior to the time of this last arrest after having been a PhD candidate for 9 years Howard was dismissed for not filling an acceptable thesis by the deadline his committee had assigned. 
Howard believes that the stalking arrest had prejudiced his department against him. Part of his feelings of persecution stem from having had a conduct hold placed on his academic record; one with an end date in the year 2099. Student Judicial Affairs says that this was a clerical error. Howard thinks that this contributed to his difficulty in landing a job.
Howard filed a lawsuit with the University in regards to his dismissal as a student. As of 2006, the details and status of this lawsuit are unknown. In 2005, the Academic Senate of UC Davis overwhelmingly ruled to re-admit Zochlinski as a student. Such a ruling by the Academic Senate is fairly unheard of, prompting University officials to question what would happen next. However Jeff Gibeling, Dean of Graduate Studies, ruled against readmitting Zochlinski on the basis that his predecessor had made the same ruling. As such, this case is still ongoing.
I am still trying to wrap my brain around the whole saga.  But if even a tiny fraction of it is true, which certainly seems to be these case, he has been pretty badly treated.  Again, I do not know all the details or what is the "truth" but I can say for certain that Howard continues to struggle and I cannot for the life of me see any reason not to allow him to be readmitted as a student.


  1. I find no mention of what his dissertation committee thinks. Who is on his committee and what is their opinion of Howard and his doctoral work?

  2. I find no mention of what his dissertation committee thinks. Who is on his committee and what is their opinion of Howard and his doctoral work?

    1. Well, a Sacramento News and Review article about the case has at least one comment:

      “We weren’t really aware of all the legal and personal issues that Howard was struggling with,” said Murray Gardner, one of the members on Zochlinski’s original dissertation committee who is professor emeritus at the UCD Center for Comparative Medicine. “If we had known, we probably would’ve given him more time to finish his thesis. Things might not be the way they are today.”

      It also has some comments from people at UC Davis about their fear of Zochlinski. Again, I do not know what to think here. But it seems like if the UC Davis Academic Senate proposed allowing him to be readmitted back then, and then this was thwarted by a dean, he might have a case.