April 18, 2012

Late Debate - Inappropriate material broadcast


May 17, 2011

For the Record: Star-Tribune Responds to Med School Dean Friedman's Charges of Inaccuracy and Unfairnes

[Added later: pdf of letter- Strib2Friedman.pdf]

May 10, 2011

Aaron Friedman, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics
Vice President for Health Sciences
Dean of the Medical School
University of Minnesota

Dear Dean Friedman:

The Star Tribune has reviewed your May 5 letter to university colleagues regarding our May 1 news story about the Medical School. We stand behind the accuracy and fairness of that story and we take exception with your misrepresentation of our work. We ask that you set the record straight and remove your letter from any forum at the university and from any public website.

In your letter, you make six accusations that our story made "implications or judgments that are simply wrong and lead to unfair conclusions." Below we respond to each of your six points.

1. You state that we are wrong in reporting that there is no national search in the works right now for a new head of the Department of Medicine because money is too tight.

On the contrary, Medical School Chief Financial Officer Pete Mitsch said in a voice-recorded interview in his office April 15 that a search for a new chairman of the Department of Medicine was started in 2009, but cancelled because the Med School didn't have money to recruit someone to a position of that caliber.

"One of the things you probably read in the financial plan, we are going to have to hire a new Department of Medicine," Mitsch said. "Hiring a head of medicine is a huge issue... We had actually started a search in 2009 and we canceled it because we just didn't have the resources to put on the table to bring in a new head of medicine."

Question: "To recruit and land someone?"
Answer: "Right. That's one of the things as we look forward that we're still trhyng to figure out how we can do that."

Dean, for your information, the CFO complimented Wes Miller, saying the school was lucky to have a "very capable" insider who "agreed to step into that role for three years." The story reflected Miller's important contributions to fixing the financial problem inside his department.

2) You misstate what our story says about federal research funding and ignore a very favorable reference to recent research funding achieved by the Department of Medicine.

The story accurately states your own CFO's calculation that the availability of federal research funding declined in the time period when the Medical School went on its hiring spree. This factor was cited in the story out of fairness to the U as an example of external factors out of the U's control that contributed to the financial crunch. This information came directly from Pete Mitsch.

"The federal budget for research had flattened out and actually was starting to decrease, so all medical schools that are research intensive were running into the same problem of: You've got all of these researchers who have their salaries supported and the pace is occupied by them, et cetera, and that stream of revenue is not increasing certainly. It's starting to go down."

He also said,"We had a squeeze on our research funding."

He also said, "Right about then the federal government started decreasing the amount of research funding that was available and the market for hospitals tightened up. So anyway, the help that we were looking for to hire some of these people didn't materialize. We brought people in and didn't have the revenue increase that you'd need to support all those new people and so we had to start scaling back a little bit."

Later, again in fairness to the university, our story notes the 30 percent increase in research funding from the National Institutes of Health won by individuals in the Department of Medicine under Wes Miller.

3) You assert that there was no "internal loan."

The Star Tribune had no independent knowledge that the Medical School borrowed funds to cover deficits until CFO Mitsch said so in the April 15 interview in his office. In the voice-recorded interview he used the word "loan" five times to describe the transaction. Here are some of his descriptions:

"We took an internal loan from the big university of about $16 million...that we are still paying back."

"When we borrowed $16 million from the Big U... it was essentially for six departments and the Dean's Office."

"This was an internal loan to help us cover some deficits. We are in the second year of our payback."

Mitsch said the payback started in fiscal year 2010 and is being repaid, interest free, at $2 million a year. He later clarified and said that the annual payment was closer to $2.3 million.

Mitsch isn't the only Medical School official to have described the transaction as a loan. Former Dean and AHC Leader Frank Cerra wrote in November 2008 that the Medical school had to cover deficits with an "interest-free loan from the University" to be paid off over seven years.

4.) You take issue with the word "withering" to describe the $10 million structural deficit described in the Medical School's financial plan, published one year ago.

"Withering" is the word we chose to describe a "recurring" deficit of this size. "Recurring" is not our word -- it was chosen one year ago by the Medical School to describe the structural imbalance, or deficit, that was draining the school's finances. The danger of this recurring deficit was described in the financial plan and repeated in the story to bolster our sue of the word, "withering."

"This situation is not sustainable," the report said, "Without aggressive programmatic changes and more careful financial planning the Medical School will be unable to invest in its most important activities or to develop new programs and initiatives."

5) Your opinion doesn't refute or clash with the story.

6) Your opinion that he story involved "second guessing" is not shared by us.

In closing, we want you to know that the Star Tribune often runs corrections. But in this case, we didn't see the need for one. We offer to meet with you to discuss your views of our story. The article was based solely on public documents and interviews with named university officials. Thank you, in advance, for your consideration of this request.


Nancy C. Barnes, Editor and Senior Vice President

Tony Kennedy, News Reporter

May 9, 2011

For the Record: Minutes Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee Friday, April 22, 2011


Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee
Friday, April 22, 2011

2. Assuring Academic Freedom

[emphasis mine]

Professor (Barbara) Elliott (on the telephone from the Duluth campus) reported that since the minutes of the last meeting (with a report on the discussion with Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy about academic freedom and responsibility and the Markingson case) went out, she has received a number of messages from across the University about the topic of academic freedom. Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy joined the previous meeting because they were invited to do so, in order to help the Committee respond to a question from the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC), one of several it had requested from General Counsel Mark Rotenberg.

There is the impression that the Committee is dealing with the case, Professor (Barbara) Elliott said. As the first hour of the meeting demonstrated, however, the Committee deals with policy, not specific cases. Part of the issue it is dealing with is: when academic freedom applies, what are the responsibilities of those in academe that ensure all voices are heard, none are silenced, and ideas are the focus of the conversation (not a personal attack).

She presented yesterday at the Senate Consultative Committee the Committee's response to the questions posed by FCC about the film Troubled Waters. The report was very well received, and the work was acknowledged as another way the University's work in academic freedom and responsibility are moving the country's conversation forward. When the Committee prepares its white paper on academic freedom, one dimension of the conversation that will be addressed is the responsibilities associated with the privilege of academic freedom. The Committee has focused on academic freedom, but what are one's duties and obligations as one enjoys and exercises academic freedom? That is why the title of the agenda item, so the Committee moves to a discussion around academic responsibility.

Professor Miksch noted the Committee had a preliminary discussion; the question give to it is whether there are limits on academic freedom, and if so, what are they? Professor Gaugler asked what the Committee intended to do. This is a follow-up to the discussion about the question FCC posed, Professor Miksch said: When one faculty member, or group of faculty members, is criticizing another faculty member, what are the limits to academic freedom? Professor Miksch said that there are a number of limits to free speech and academic freedom including inciting unlawful activity, obscenity, and defamation--but the only one, in her opinion, who can decide if defamation has occurred is a judge.

An important piece of the question is academic responsibility, Professor O'Loughlin reminded the Committee. As the Committee discussed in connection with Troubled Waters, Professor O'Loughlin said, there are some limits to academic freedom and part of the question is how it relates to academic responsibility.

Professor Turner objected to the phrase "factually incorrect" in the question from Mr. Rotenberg. Professor Miksch repeated that the Committee does not hear individual cases. It will not decide who is factually correct, nor will it cut off debate.

Professor O'Loughlin said that the question driving the discussion was about the limits to academic freedom and responsibility as a general principle; Troubled Waters and other situations, real or hypothetical, were just about teasing out where the lines of the policy is.

Professor Marran said that as for the question from Mr. Rotenberg about "factually incorrect" attacks on faculty members, that was the initial statement made to FCC by Mr. Rotenberg, not by this Committee. The minutes of the April 8 meeting, it was said, suggests that they were being irresponsible. All have the right to debate, Professor Marran said, including faculty who are here today. The Committee is making no accusations or presumptions.

Professor Gaugler asked if the visitors to the meeting could present their views. Professor (Barbara) Elliott said no; the Committee, she reiterated, looks at policy, not specific cases.

Dr. Craig commented that the Committee never heard anything about something being "factually incorrect." It was not part of the discussion. Nor did the Committee get into the facts of the case, Professor Marran added. As reflected in the minutes, the phrase "factually incorrect" was in the introductory comments but the Committee never addressed it.

The tenor of the discussion at the last meeting, Professor Gaugler said, was that Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy brought up the letter sent by a group of faculty and the University's response. He had asked what this had to do with academic freedom, and said that it was more a question of why faculty members are not speaking up in defense of faculty, not whether the faculty in the Center for Bioethics did anything wrong. He said he found it interesting and odd that two senior administrators were asking why the faculty were not speaking more about academic freedom. The question was brought up about how long one keeps a matter open after many investigations. The discussion then moved toward more general issues of academic culture and ethics.

The question from FCC asked about the limits of academic freedom and academic responsibility from a policy perspective, Professor Miksch noted again, and the limit is defamation. The Committee should affirm that all faculty members are free to pursue arguments as they see appropriate, Professor Marran said. Professor Miksch agreed.

Professor O'Loughlin said the question is how, as an academic community, "we fit pieces of academic freedom and academic responsibility together." The discussion at the end of the last meeting suggested that faculty members need to be empowered to assert their academic freedom and academic responsibility; the Committee was not saying that faculty members should not assert their academic freedom. The question is why all faculty members do not assert it.

Professor Miksch read to the Committee the letter that Professor Scheman had written to Professor Elliott about the April 8 meeting of the Committee as reported in its minutes.

Dear Professor Elliott,

I'm writing as the president of the University's AAUP chapter to convey a concern about the Committee's discussion of issues arising from the Markingson case. It is unclear what the academic freedom issues are, since, one would assume, defamatory speech is not protected and non-defamatory speech is. The questions at issue in this case turn on whether what has been reported is, in fact, defamatory; and a necessary first step in determining that is determining whether what was reported is or is not true. What we have at this point are two conflicting claims about that question. What I find disturbing is that some of the discussion at the last meeting seemed to be presuming that the claims made against the researchers were false; but the committee cannot work on that highly prejudicial presumption-- it is precisely what is at issue in the case.

I understand that the general questions raised by this case (whatever they might be) are to be taken up again by the committee, and I trust that, as chair of the committee, you will be careful that there is not a presumption being made about the truth or falsity of the charges in this particular case.

Naomi Scheman
Professor of Philosophy
President, University of Minnesota chapter of the AAUP

Professor (Barbara) Elliott said she was grateful for the letter and has drafted a response, but intends that it come from the Committee, to make the observation that it deals with policy. The Committee has nothing to do with the Markingson case or any other case. It is the Committee's intent to follow through on the policy issues, and she will forward the response to Professors (Carl) Elliott and Schultz.

Committee members decided they wished to hear from the visitors to the meeting.

Professor Taussig said she appreciated that the Committee is working on policy and that the Markingson case is background, but it is clear from the April 8 minutes that the case was discussed and there were statements about "factual inaccuracy." Her concern as a faculty member is that the Committee had a discussion with two powerful administrators and was used (unintentionally on the part of the Committee) as a form of intimidation on campus. There was another set of minutes of a meeting that included Professor Kahn, chair of the department home to the signatories of the letter to the Board of Regents [the Center for Bioethics], but the meeting did not include those who signed the letter, so there was again an attempt at silencing. She is concerned as a member of the Senate that a committee of the Senate was being used. She is also aware that Professor (Carl) Elliott wanted to present information to the Committee, regarding his opinion that the case information is not factually inaccurate, but that Professor (Barbara) Elliott said she could not invite him to present about the case to the committee. This case is coming back, Professor Taussig said, and it should be debated, and the University should provide a model for how to have this kind of debate. She reiterated that she was alarmed at the way a Senate committee was being used.

Professor Gaugler said he had not been intimidated at the last meeting but agreed there should be open debate on the case. He does not know the particulars, he noted; he has read blogs, seen the media coverage, saw the letter from Professor (Carl) Elliott, and the University's response. They can respond to the University's response if they wish, Professor Gaugler told the visitors, and he will then reach his own conclusions.

Professor Loken said she understands the concern expressed by the visitors but said she did not know where the debate should take place. It is an important issue to them, and unclear where debate should occur, but it should not occur at this Committee.

What struck her, Professor O'Loughlin said, is that at the beginning of the meeting the discussion was about administrators who talk to faculty committees about relevant issues and how it is true they are often the only voices going to meetings. That said, this practice is an issue for FCC, if anyone.

The debate started as a result of an article he wrote for Mother Jones, Professor (Carl) Elliott related. Mother Jones has a long history of investigative reporting and has a rigorous fact-checking process. The Mother Jones lawyers also reviewed the article. The University has not complained to Mother Jones about the accuracy of the article or asked the magazine to correct any part of it. Yet two senior administrators came to the Committee to complain about factual inaccuracies, the minutes presumed there were factual inaccuracies, and the question from FCC presumed there were factual inaccuracies.

Professor Miksch said the Committee has not decided whether there were factual inaccuracies, nor is it its responsibility to do so. No one has been decreed to have defamed, so the limits of academic freedom have not been reached.

What Professor (Carl) Elliott is saying, Professor Loken said, is that the Committee took it as a given that there were factual inaccuracies. That was a viewpoint expressed, and the Committee was provided documents, but she made no judgment, she said, nor are Committee members here to make such a determination.

Professor Waters said he wished the Committee to be aware that there is a context.
In the interest of opening discussion, he invited Professor (Carl) Elliott to give a public lecture to the science studies community focused on the claim that the trials which resulted in Markingson's tragic death were designed for marketing purposes, rather than for the benefit of future patients (just one aspect of malfeasance revealed in the research). The lecture was widely publicized and well attended. He expected pushback from the clinical faculty, but none spoke up during the Q&A or contacted him. Instead, they complained to the Vice President for Research. Vice President Mulcahy's comments as reported in the April 8 minutes of the Committee indicated that there was "possible irresponsible" exercise of academic freedom in scheduling a talk whose title might "damage the entire clinical trial enterprise." Ironically, the complaint included a factually inaccurate description of the title; Professor Waters read the title of the talk and the abstract: "The Clinical Trial as Pharmaceutical Marketing Tool"; "When a young man committed suicide in an industry-sponsored clinical trial of atypical antipsychotic drugs at the University of Minnesota in 2004, critics charged that he had been coerced into the study. They may be right, but the ethical problem is even larger. Today pharmaceutical companies are designing and analyzing clinical trials not to produce reliable scientific data, but to ensure that their own drugs look superior to the competition. These trials are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and distributed by drug reps as a way of marketing the drugs. Which raises the question-when is it ethically justified to enroll human subjects in marketing studies?" Professor Waters suggested that the critics should have entered the debate rather than going to the Vice President in an apparent attempt to get the administration to curtail open and rigorous debate. It is not their role to protect the pharmaceutical industry, Professor Waters said. It was a great question to put to the University community. The question from the administration to this Committee is an affront. Professor Taussig again said the Committee had been used.

Professor Miksch agreed, per Professor Loken, that it is important to have forums and debate. She noted that in its Troubled Waters report, the Committee recommends forums, like the one Professor Waters describes.

Professor Anderson commented that it is an interesting question how this issue came to the Committee, and perhaps it could have heard other viewpoints. That goes to Professor Gaugler's question about what this issue has to do with academic freedom. She said she was uncomfortable with the discussion today because she felt it was focused too much on the particular case.

The visitors raise good points, Professor Gaugler said. The Committee had administrators visit to talk about various points; if there are vigorous responses to the minutes, it is helpful for him to hear about them. The Committee can be skewed in its views if it hears more from administrators than others who may disagree with the viewpoints of the administrators.

Professor O'Loughlin said the question is how to get the faculty voice into public conversation if there are multiple narratives, and then how to get it into governance.

Professor (Barbara) Elliott said she agreed with Professor Anderson; the visitors brought their passion to the Committee, which she appreciates, but this Committee is not the place for it to be voiced. She made the same responses both to Professor (Carl) Elliott and Professor Schultz: She said the Committee did not wish to be involved in the case. So while she can understand their deep passion, and she supports their right to express it, the Committee's obligation is at the abstract policy level, about the duties and obligations of the faculty.

Where do the visitors go to have their questions addressed, Professor Porter asked? It is also a matter of time, Professor (Barbara) Elliott said; this issue is seven years old and after all that has happened, there may no longer be a place within the University for further review.

Professor Gaugler agreed that the charge to the Committee does not include dealing with a specific case, but it was forced to do so at the last meeting. If guests at a Committee meeting bring it up, the visitors have a right to respond. The case was an introduction, Professor (Barbara) Elliott pointed out; the Committee moved to a more nuanced discussion of rights and obligations.

Professor (Carl) Elliott asked who invited Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy to the Committee. Professor (Barbara) Elliott explained that FCC asked the Committee to pursue the limits of academic freedom and responsibility; the Committee may invite whom it wishes to discuss the issues.

Professor Gaugler agreed that as the discussion progressed at the last meeting it moved from the specific case to focus more about faculty rights and responsibilities in general if a faculty member is exonerated of charges of misconduct but continues to be accused by other faculty members. In his opinion, Professor (Carl) Elliott said, the question is whether the faculty member was exonerated.

Dr. Gaugler asked Professor (Carl) Elliott to set aside the Markingson case for a moment. If someone is accused and exonerated, the person's reputation is still stained, Professor Gaugler said; this is more an academic-culture question than one related to academic freedom. Where is the cut-off on academic freedom to continue to raise issues in an instance where a faculty member is exonerated? There is none until defamation occurs, and then the matter goes to court, Professor Porter observed. Professor Miksch agreed that there is a need for fuller discussion of this kind of question by the academic community.

Professor Waters said that the visitors were here because of what is going on now with respect to academic freedom, not because of what happened seven years ago. The Committee received a "have you stopped beating your wife" question. The question inserted the allegation that Professor Elliott's criticisms are based on factual inaccuracies and suggests that since the researchers were "exonerated" the criticism should stop. But the "exoneration" of the trials does not indicate that debate about them should stop. Professor Waters said that as a historian and philosopher of biology who has investigated the history of genetics, he can say that the University of Minnesota has played an important role it that history and has a lot to be proud of. But it also has something to be ashamed of, namely eugenics. Eugenics was controversial and yet "exonerated" time and time again. Does that mean debate about eugenics should have stopped? Of course not. He said that is what academic freedom at research universities is all about. He said he was concerned that uncritically entertaining this false question might serve to squelch academic freedom.

Professor (Barbara) Elliott said the Committee has an obligation to talk about the limits and responsibilities of academic freedom. It also needs to do its work.

Professor Taussig thanked the Committee for its work and thoughtful comments. She recalled that she brought up the case at the Senate meeting and remains concerned about the inadvertent use of faculty governance. The Committee received a select iteration of facts, and their visit was not a personal attack but a concern about the visit of the vice presidents to the Committee.

Professor O'Loughlin repeated her point that FCC needs to address the question of visitors to committees and to bring the issue to the Senate.

Professor Gaugler said he regretted that some people believe faculty governance is broken and useless, and anything they can do to change that perception is important. He said he believed academic freedom, tenure, governance, and robust faculty participation in this process (such as at this meeting) are important for the University.

This issue is vital, Professor O'Loughlin said, and had gotten the visitors to attend the meeting. She was glad they had come and hoped they would continue to be engaged.

Professor Miksch thanked the visitors for their comments.

May 8, 2011

For the Record: VP and Med School Dean Friedman responds to Star-Tribune

Response to Recent Medical School Headlines
May 6, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter a period of time of celebration at the University with students completing degree programs, and moving towards practice in the health professions, I'd like to pause to share with you my concerns over an inaccurate and unfair depiction of our Medical School that appeared in the Sunday newspaper.

[link added - not in original]

I've learned in my five months in the role of Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School that we all carry a wide range of perceptions about what is or is not taking place within our complex organization, but I want to assure you that the Medical School remains on solid footing, and is very well positioned to continue its missions of education, research, and patient care--as it has for 154 years.

Words matter and the choice of language used in the newspaper included terms that make implications or judgments that are simply wrong and lead to unfair conclusions.

It states that there's no search for a new Chair of Medicine because of money. Not true. We're not searching because we have a Chair of Medicine, one who serves the Department and Medical School admirably.

The story states there's a decline in federal research funding--not in the Medical School or the University overall. Simply not true for the U of M.

The statement that there was an "internal loan" is inaccurate. I can assure you that CFO Pfutzenreuter transferred no funds to the Medical School. Instead, the Dean's office assumed responsibility to re-allocate up to $2.3M across the school and its 25 departments to balance accounts school wide over the next seven years.

A $10 million budget gap was called "withering", when that's less than 1.75% of the overall $570 million budget, within the $3.5 billion University. Really?

The Biomedical Discovery District remains a significant priority, with construction proceeding on the Cancer-Cardio building.

Finally, the "second guessing" of decisions made in the past is off base and unfair. It is fundamentally unfair to criticize solid and rational decisions from 2006 with post-Recession 2011 eyes.

I think we all know how important the health sciences are to the strength and reputation of the University, and that the Medical School plays a key role there.

The Medical School has in the last two years met the financial challenges we have all faced. It is making the critical decisions necessary to ensure that it has the solid financial foundation to continue its important missions of education, research, and patient care.

I believe it's critically important that we speak up when statements are made that are unfair or simply wrong, and I also know that our community stands up for what's right. It's what we expect of the students we are sending off into the professions this month, and it's what we should expect of each other.


Aaron Friedman, M.D.
Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School


April 23, 2011

For the record: Chair of Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee to AAUP President

Subject: Re: Academic freedom & tenure committee discussion
From: Barbara Elliott

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 15:05:22 -0500

Cc: Carl Elliott ,
S Charles Schulz ,
Aaron Friedman ,
R Mulcahy ,
""AF+T" >" ,
Kathryn VandenBosch ,
Christopher Cramer ,
Gary Engstrand
To: Naomi Scheman

Dear Professor Scheman--

Thank you for your interest in AF+T's work--and attending our meeting this morning. I do understand how our work and our minutes would be of interest to you. As reflected in our committee charge, we consider a broad range of policy issues related to academic freedom and to tenure rules.

As was discussed specifically this morning, the question we have been asked to address regarding the issues you raise in your email, is whether the exercise of academic freedom by some individuals may silence (and therefore implicate the academic freedom of) others, and what responsibilities we have as an institution and as faculty to assure that all voices are heard (none are silenced) and that ideas (not people) are the focus of interest. We do not and have not made presumptions or judgments about particular cases or the circumstances of particular cases.

Whatever continuing discussions ensue regarding the question brought to us by FCC, which solicited the question from the General Counsel, will of course focus in ways consistent with our charge--on the policy concerns, not on individual cases.

[BTW--consistent with my commitment to transparency, I am copying the AF+T committee members as well as Drs. Elliott and Schulz on this email.]

For the record: AAUP Chapter President to Chair of Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee

On Apr 20, 2011, at 9:51 PM, Naomi Scheman wrote:

Dear Professor Elliott,

I'm writing as the president of the University's AAUP chapter to
convey a concern about the Committee's discussion of issues arising
from the Markingson case. It is unclear what the academic freedom
issues are, since, one would assume, defamatory speech is not
protected and non-defamatory speech is.
The questions at issue in this
case turn on whether what has been reported is, in fact, defamatory;
and a necessary first step in determining that is determining whether
what was reported is or is not true. What we have at this point are
two conflicting claims about that question. What I find disturbing is
that some of the discussion at the last meeting seemed to be presuming
that the claims made against the researchers were false; but the
committee cannot work on that highly prejudicial presumption-- it is
precisely what is at issue in the case.

I understand that the general questions raised by this case (whatever
they might be) are to be taken up again by the committee, and I trust
that, as chair of the committee, you will be careful that there is not
a presumption being made about the truth or falsity of the charges in
this particular case.


Naomi Scheman
Professor of Philosophy
President, University of Minnesota chapter of the AAUP

April 22, 2011

Another Disturbing Discussion - Senate Commitee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Added later:

A careful reading of this discussion is sickening. Yesterday, Good Friday, the next in the series of meetings of this committee took place. Preliminary accounts indicate that a forceful attack took place on some of the positions related below. Hopefully this discussion will be included in the meeting minutes when released. They will be posted on this site when available.

Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee
Friday, April 8, 2011

2. Academic Freedom and Allegations Against Faculty Members

Professor Elliott welcomed Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy to the meeting to help the Committee discuss a question framed by General Counsel Mark Rotenberg and referred to this Committee by the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC): What is the faculty collective role in addressing factually-incorrect attacks on particular University faculty research activities? The question arose in the context of the case of the young man who committed suicide while participating in a clinical trial, Professor Elliott noted, and Committee members had been provided with materials related to the case as background, including the letter from the bioethicists to the Board of Regents and the responses to it from Regent Allen, General Counsel Rotenberg, and Vice President Friedman.

Professor Gaugler inquired what this issue had to do with academic freedom.
Is it not an ethical question, rather than academic freedom? And if so, why is it before this Committee? If he were accused of doing something wrong in his job, and exonerated, but continued to be accused, what should he do, Professor McLoon asked? It is a question of the limits of academic freedom, Professor Elliott said, the notion that one can continue to pursue an idea but not to the point of defaming someone. In part the Committee is also addressing the question because it was asked to do so by FCC.

Professor Gaugler said that it is his take that the letter from the faculty members to the Board of Regents, asking that the case be reopened, was based on a lack of information, given the response of General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, and was not defamation. The events have included continuing publications with factually incorrect information in the media since the Regents,' General Counsel Rotenberg's, and Vice President Friedman's responses, Professor Elliott responded.

Vice President Mulcahy said that he presumed the reason he and Vice President Friedman were at the meeting was because of the circumstances surrounding this particular case. He has given thought to what happened, he related, and from his perspective, this event--seven years ago--was dealt with appropriately by the University, by the legal system, and by the medical system. Where academic freedom comes into play, he said, is that others are free to formulate positions even after the results of the various evaluations. He said he viewed the letter from the bioethicists as a legitimate expression of concern that disagreed with the record and said they have the right to express those views. It is uncomfortable for the University, makes it more difficult to conduct research, and is unfair to the faculty members accused, but it is a part of academic freedom.

Dr. Mulcahy said he has heard General Counsel Rotenberg talk about academic freedom, and Mr. Rotenberg has made the point that academic freedom is not boundless and it does run up to legal boundaries (e.g., defamation). Dr. Mulcahy said that he is not a lawyer so cannot comment on whether what has been said is defamation, but the point is that one cannot defame another and rely on academic freedom for protection from consequences. His view is that the statements that have been made are not legally defamation, and even though they make people uncomfortable, they must defend the right of those who make the statements to do so.

His role, and that of the University, Dr. Mulcahy said, is to be responsible for putting out the facts and letting reasonable people decide. There was a presumption the administration should respond to the charges; his view is that academic freedom should level the playing field for controversial issues and that faculty members should respond when alternative interpretations or positions are espoused by their colleagues. They wanted to defend the University, and the academic-freedom message is important, and Professor McLoon's point is also important: How would one feel if constantly put in a poor light, with academic freedom protecting those casting aspersions? Members of the faculty must play a role in responding to criticisms of other faculty or their academic work, he said. The University has an obligation to put the facts into play.

This is academic freedom, Dr. Mulcahy concluded. There is criticism of some part of the University enterprise; faculty members have the right to make those criticisms but it is also a faculty responsibility to respond. The University can only do so much, and few take his word for things because he's an administrator. Faculty views will be taken much more seriously. There is academic freedom in both directions; people can make statements and others can counter them, as long as neither side runs up against the legal limits on academic freedom.

Vice President Friedman said that there are two issues at hand. One, was the process appropriate? One of the complaints is that it was not. The University's position--and it is responsible for process--is that there were X number of investigations conducted from outside the University that reached conclusions, so the claim that it was a whitewash are not accurate. Two, there is a continuing examination of a set of faculty members, and one question is whether the IRB is good enough to protect human subjects. The claim is made that it is not. The University, however, has a large number of tenured faculty members on the IRB; the claim is that they are not good enough to protect human subjects. The faculty members on the IRB should say that is not true. If the University says the process works, that is seen as the University defending its position. If the faculty members on the IRB say so, that statement goes into the marketplace. It is not only a question of what to do when faculty members take on other faculty members, it is a question of what to do when faculty members take on other faculty members and do not like the outcome. This has dragged on for a number of years, and the position taken by the faculty members on the IRB is more important than what University administrators may say.

Professor Abul-Hajj commented that faculty members read about these issues and say that it is the opinion of those individuals, but most faculty members will say it is not their responsibility to get involved. They will say those faculty members have the right to speak their minds, but most will not spend hours responding.

Dr. Mulcahy agreed and said it was not incumbent on any faculty member to invest time to develop and publish an opinion. But there are subsets of faculty members who could, such as those on the IRB who are aware of the history--they could be vocal. The point about academic freedom was well made: In the court of public opinion, faculty debating with faculty is very different from University administrators with vested interests, who are seen as taking a defensive position. With faculty members who have less of a vested interest, there can be academic dispute. Professor Abul-Hajj suggested that the Academic Health Center FCC could look at the issues and response on behalf of the AHC faculty.

Perhaps this has to do with IRB policy, Professor Loken said, not the IRB faculty, and perhaps policy could be reconsidered. It might not be faculty versus faculty but rather faculty versus policy. Vice President Mulcahy said what he deals with most frequently in his position is faculty versus policy, and there are legitimate issues in many cases. In this case, however, it is not IRB policy. There was a statement made that the IRB is not providing adequate protection to human subjects and that there was a need for outside review. The University participates in a rigorous IRB accrediting process and has gone through it three times; the University's program is recognized as one of the best in the country. When the attack is on practice, that is different from a dialogue about policy, but the University has been told by an external group that it has an excellent program. This case goes beyond policy. Dr. Mulcahy said he has seen cases elsewhere where, after lengthy review, a faculty member is exonerated; the federal government requires in those cases that institutions do all they can to protect the reputation of the accused. The faculty members involved in the case here have been exonerated over and over again and the University is obligated to defend them. That is why the message from Vice President Friedman is important: It points out that the faculty members have been exonerated and they should not be bothered further about the case.

What have been the responses to the message Dr. Friedman sent to the AHC faculty on this issue, Professor Elliott inquired? With one exception, he has received a "thank you" from the investigators and support for his position, but nothing beyond emails sent to him. The University took a position: Enough is enough. For whatever reasons, that is insufficient for some. And there is the attitude out there: "I don't have a dog in this fight and I'm not going to get involved."

Professor Gaugler said that he has read a considerable amount about the case, as an individual faculty member, and then saw the responses from Regent Allen and Mr. Rotenberg. He is not willing to go on blogs and get in the muck, but the responses gave him some understanding of the history and particulars of the case.

Dr. Friedman said that the individual faculty members who have been through this scrutiny--he has spent time talking with them--did not hear from other faculty members on the campus until they wrote the letters. They were unclear where the rest of their colleagues stood. He and Vice President Mulcahy spent a lot of time in the public arena on this matter. There were no new facts in the last two years, but the accused faculty members were bombarded by the media without any indication of faculty support. Academic freedom is not only the freedom to complain but also the opportunity to support fellow faculty members.

Professor Gaugler said this is an issue of the environment in academe: When a faculty member is under investigation, other faculty members keep their distance. This is true across the country. No one wants to touch the issue. Professor Elliott agreed and said there is a parallel with bullying: It is a cultural issue. People see what is happening and do nothing about it.

Professor Elliott asked if Dr. Friedman had brought the matter to the AHC FCC. He has not, Dr. Friedman said, simply because they have been dealing with other issues. He can do so.

Professor McLoon said, apropos of becoming involved, that she would never feel she had sufficient information. She could not spend hours reading all the materials, but if she said she supported the accused faculty members, and received questions she could not answer, it would not look good. Could this Committee act?

Professor Miksch said, apropos of the comments of Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy, that the limits of academic freedom have not been met in this case. Controversy is what academic freedom is about, but there is also academic responsibility. If this has not stepped over the defamation line, faculty members have the right to question actions and policies, and other faculty members have the right to question those who ask the questions.

Professor O'Loughlin commented that in political science (her discipline), they call it "the spiral of silence." When someone voices a minority opinion and gets shouted down for it, others of like minds silence themselves. In this case, it appears that people are comfortable stating opposition to what is being done to their colleague privately, but not publicly, for some reason. "This is not what we usually talk about when we speak of academic freedom and responsibility, but it is part of our community responsibility. Tenured faculty members, who have academic freedom and responsibility, all can speak to it without knowing all the facts. We make assumptions all the time that if something has gone through x amount of review, it is credible. Every faculty member with or without specific background could speak up when they feel that these standards are being ignored. Indeed, it is our responsibility to do so." She said she did not know if the issue belonged in this Committee, but it is a part of academic freedom and responsibility.

Professor Gaugler agreed. The accusers should not be censored, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. This is an academic-culture issue and one can see it happen over and over.

The last sequence of events was initiated by the letter to the Board of Regents demanding a new investigation, Dr. Friedman recalled. This is a perfect time for faculty members to respond. If it had been kept in that domain, the Board of Regents should have heard from the faculty that after this much time and effort they did not believe it a good idea for the University to spend time investigating the case again. They did not hear that, so they needed to respond on behalf of the University. He thought he was responding on behalf of both the University and the faculty, but it is a risky business to have administrators respond on behalf of faculty on academic freedom.

They asked the University to respond, Professor Porter pointed out, and that response was seen as inadequate. That charge is debatable, Dr. Friedman responded. This was not something hidden for a number of years with a lot of faculty not knowing about it. Dr. Mulcahy said he would point out that this is a position he frequently sees people take: "The University" means him, Morrill Hall, Johnston Hall, the deans; when he says "the University," he means all of us. This is a University issue: administration, faculty, and staff. He said he would also observe (and not just in this case), when one sees debates in the media, the reporters can get validation but they are not motivated to gather all the facts in order to reach a conclusion--they want to sell newspapers. The accused faculty members wanted an opportunity to respond, but they could not do so because of legal matters, so no one was voicing their views. So their voice is not heard.

A question came to him recently related to the case, Dr. Mulcahy said. Some faculty members took exception when there was a seminar related to this case scheduled with a title along the lines of "How the pharmaceutical industry dupes innocent victims into clinical trials." He was asked how the University could let someone use such a provocative title; one which could damage the entire clinical-trial enterprise. His response: academic freedom. It is not their role as administrators to try to manage controversial perspectives. However, it might have been appropriate for the sponsors of such a seminar to consider the implications of such a title--how it might damage all clinical trials. That would be an example of how "responsibility" might factor into the academic freedom realm. Academic freedom provides two opportunities: the freedom to express opinions that express a contrary view, and the freedom to respond. He would not say one cannot express views, and would be even more concerned if anyone did say that.

The ideal outcome from their perspective, Professor O'Loughlin said, is that other faculty members would engage their academic freedom in this discussion. Dr. Friedman said they are regularly involved in issues that faculty members bring up--procedural questions--and most others are not directly implicated in the outcome. This is different: Faculty members saying the University should investigate other faculty members because there is a scandal. Faculty members have the freedom to say that another faculty member is not performing well, and is killing people, but the responses should not be email messages to him asking "how can you let them say that?"

They are at the point that the faculty members have been exonerated, Professor Elliott said, and it seems they are still asking whether those faculty members should be able to do their work. They are not saying the system is a problem.

If there three options (or doing nothing), to move this out of the Committee, what would they be, Dr. Craig asked? Vice President Mulcahy returned to Professor O'Loughlin's point: It could identify the role of responsibility in the context of academic freedom and the need for it to be exercised if the system is to work. He and Dr. Friedman are of the view that faculty must engage in a dialogue or debate and it should not just be one side that takes a position. He said he could imagine faculty members who are experts in the field writing something.

Why haven't they, Professor Abul-Hajj asked? He does not know, Dr. Mulcahy said. There is a greater expectation that the administration will respond. He is not saying that faculty have to do this, but they should keep it in mind. He said he was also surprised at the number of people who rushed to judgment without all the facts; he said he thought "all of our training" is to verify facts before reaching a conclusion. Some hear the "facts" the first time as presented in seminars or the media and rush to judgment.

Dr. Craig suggested giving FCC a summary of the statements and letting it decide what to do.

Dr. Friedman said he wished to take his point farther. The point of academic freedom is to give faculty members the freedom to weigh in on the events of the day. What if the exercise of that freedom is aimed at someone else on the faculty? That is where FCC could think about the responsibility and ability to respond. He said he understands that one can go up to the point of defamation; what is unique here is that a group of faculty members is going after other faculty members and saying the University's process needs changing, but in the meantime have done something seriously wrong because those faculty members have spent years in the spotlight as part of what was called a scandal.

Vice President Mulcahy thanked the Committee for the opportunity to have the conversation. He said it is his first time in his experience with this case to have a meaningful discussion; he has not had the opportunity with any faculty group before this to talk about limits and what principles should apply.

Professor Elliott thanked Drs. Friedman and Mulcahy for joining the Committee.

Following the departure of Drs. Friedman and Mulcahy, Professor McLoon inquired what the Committee would do. It was agreed that the Committee would return to this matter at its next meeting.

April 21, 2011

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning - Disturbing Discussion

On the Record

Our Numbers Good, Your Numbers Bad?

Disagree? You're full of beans...

High Level Discussion at University of Minnesota

Finance and Planning Committee

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
2:00 - 4:00
238A Morrill Hall

1. Inaccurate and Misleading Data

Professor Luepker convened the meeting at 2:00, welcomed Professor Cohen, who is serving while Professor Chambers is on sabbatical, and turned to Dr. Radcliffe to discuss data drawn from the Delta Project and recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Those data have received a lot of attention, he noted, but many who have examined it say it is not correctly done.

The data published in The Chronicle came in an article titled "Education Financing for Major Public Universities: Which Ones Get the Most and the Least," and purported to report the "subsidy for education and related expenses per student in 2008." The figure for each institution is said to be "the share of educational spending not covered by tuition," and "for many but not all flagships, state appropriations finance a significant portion of this subsidy." UNC-Chapel ranked first on the list, at a $26,373 subsidy for education and related expenses per student; the U of Washington was second, at $19,575, UC Berkeley was third, $16,165, and so on; the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was eighth at $13,616.

Dr. Radcliffe said that he has examined the methodology used by the Delta Project; it is not reported as clearly as one might wish
. They use data similar to that reported by colleges and universities to the federal government (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS), which is good for high-level aggregate analysis. People use the data, however, to answer questions the data are not organized to answer. The data for any institution, for example, will depend on the mix of programs it offers.

Professor Luepker said he did a rough calculation when he first saw these data: He divided the state appropriation by the number of students on the campus and came up with a number similar to that in The Chronicle. It sounds like a simplistic approach.

Vice President Pfutzenreuter said his comments about the data in the article were less kind. He noted that the data are for "education and related expenses" per student. He also pointed out a second, later article that appeared in The Chronicle that explains why the data in the earlier article are not accurate. He said he believes that the Delta Project has an agenda--and one that is not friendly to higher education.

To get to the $13,616 figure for the Twin Cities campus, Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained, "education and related expenses" are defined as a proxy for the full cost of education, which includes direct expenditures plus an estimate of support. "Education and related expenses" is not a common term in higher education. The Delta Project pulls data from IPEDS and manipulates them (in a way that is not clearly explained) to arrive at their definition of "education and related expenses," take net tuition (which is not clearly defined) and subtract it from "education and related expenses," to get a subsidy figure. The graph in the report is titled "A snapshot of state subsidy patterns for education and related expenses--public research sector," but The Chronicle article points out that the "subsidy figure is not necessarily finance by state appropriations at all flagships." (The author of the second article points out that for the University of Washington, the Delta Project reported a subsidy of $19,575--but the state-funded subsidy per student in 2008 was $9,797 per student, which put Washington at 28th among the 50 flagship institutions.) But as a result of the publication of these data, Mr. Pfutzenreuter concluded, people (including legislators) think the University is well-subsidized. There are people passing the Delta Project numbers around to claim that the University is over-funded.

Professor Martin noted that the number for the University of Michigan is very close to that for Minnesota, $13,309, and anyone who knows anything about the financing of the University of Michigan knows that number is ridiculous if it is claimed it represents state support. Mr. Pfutzenreuter said that the University of Minnesota spends a lot of non-state money to support the educational mission. There is no reason to pay attention to these numbers, he said; they are just bad numbers.

Professor Roe said the University needs to put together its own numbers. If one wants to determine state support for education, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, one could divide the state support of the University by full-year-equivalent students, but the University's mission is research, public service, and education, so many of the state funds are not for education.

Professor Cohen noted that both SUNY-Buffalo and Nevada at Reno have subsidy amounts greater than Minnesota, and those are not institutions with which the University competes, so it may be hopeless to try to clarify the fallacies in the numbers. If the University puts out good numbers, it looks self-serving. Is the AAU or any other national organization preparing good data? They are not, Dr. Radcliffe said, and it is difficult to assemble comparable data.

Mr. Pfutzenreuter said they struggle with how to respond to the use of bad numbers. The University has not done much about responding to them and he asked whether it should be more aggressive in doing so. There are those who write blogs and commentary, and what they write appears to be the truth, but there is no fact-checking so they define the numbers. Mr. Driscoll asked when Mr. Pfutzenreuter's office might be able to respond; not until after the budget is completed. Mr. Pfutzenreuter responded that his office is working on identifying what pays for research, education, public service, financial aid, and so on, based upon the attribution of both direct and indirect costs, in order to determine the "fully-loaded" cost of instruction and other mission activities.

Professor Zaheer suggested it would be useful to have comparable numbers from peer institutions. Mr. Pfutzenreuter said he did not know of any other institution that was calculating a fully-loaded cost of instruction, so it would not be possible to compare data. Professor Martin asked about the CIC. Dr. Radcliffe said that all of the institutions use IPEDS data, which are problematic for these kinds of analyses. The University is able to do the analysis because revenues are coded and because of its budget model, so there is a reasonable methodology for the attribution of indirect costs, and they will do the analyses by college. Professor Roe commented that the University should be doing these kinds of analyses anyway so that it knows more about its cost drivers.

The Delta Project data, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, represent the usual "garbage in, garbage out" phenomenon. They particularly disadvantage research universities, Dr. Radcliffe said, because they massage IPEDS data to reach the conclusion they wish. If institutions code data consistently, what goes into IPEDS is good, but it is not clear that institutions code consistently. Ms. Patil asked if other institutions have responded. The second Chronicle article was a response, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Dr. Radcliffe said he has listed "providing accurate and comparable data on administrative costs" as one of the top concerns for the roundtable discussion at next month's meeting of the AAU Data Exchange.

Professor Luepker observed that "things happen fast," and by the time the University gets numbers out, the damage has been done. And when data like these come out, they are damaging--they achieve currency as reality. The University responds four months later. University Relations is in transition, but the University needs a system to respond. While it is not within this Committee's purview to respond, it can ask questions about how the newly-appointed Chief of Staff proposes to deal with the need for a response. Professor Roe suggested it would be useful for the University to have a website with data that people can look at.

Professor Durfee commented, apropos of the "education and related expenses" developed by the Delta Project, that the University could ask the legislature what numbers would be useful while also responding to data like these. Dr. Radcliffe commented that the best numbers are those closest to direct costs; while there is a need to measure indirect costs, there are problems with doing it accurately.

Mr. Pfutzenreuter turned next to an explanation of "Institutional Support" in the University's budget from 2005-2010. He first noted that there are function codes grouped into various categories: instruction, research, public service, institutional support, academic support, operation and maintenance of plant, student services, auxiliary enterprises, scholarships and fellowships, and agency activity. Function codes "answer the question, 'How does this transaction accomplish the mission of the University?'" and they serve to track expenditures. He said he wished to speak about the "institutional support," which has been the subject of public comment, including "garbage that damages the reputation and integrity of the institution" and that is not checked for facts. Some of what has been published has led the public and the legislature to believe that administrative costs are out of control, but people have not bothered to check the facts.

"Institutional support" function codes identify expenditures for such activities as "(1) central executive-level activities concerned with management and long-range planning, . . . such as the governing board, planning and programming, and legal services; (2) fiscal operations including the investment office; (3) administrative data processing; (4) space management; (5) employee personnel and records; (6) logistical activities that provide procurement, storerooms, safety, security, printing, and transportation services to the institution, (7) support services to faculty and staff that are not operated as auxiliary enterprises; and (8) activities concerned with community and alumni relations, including development and fundraising." It also includes, in addition to central administrative offices, cash management, institutional research, insurance, property accounting, payroll, equal opportunity and affirmative action, the patent office, human resources, legal proceedings, Sponsored Projects Administration, public relations, and so on.

From 2005 to 2010 the institutional-support expenditures rose from $107.8 million to $234.3 million, which has led to statements that the cost of administration has exploded at the University, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. He explained the major categories in "institutional support" and the increases that occurred over the six years 2005-2010; they have increased, but not for the reasons that have been identified by those who have not checked the facts.

1. Salaries:
increased from $88.7 million to $121.0 million (+$32.3 million). This increase reflects the fact that the University installed a new enterprise system (EFS) and salary costs in the Office of Information Technology increased noticeably as a result ($5.1 million). The remainder of the increase, $27.1 million, reflects pay changes and modest growth in number of employees in a few central units.

2. Fringe benefits: increased from $7.8 million to $51.9 million (+$44.1 million). The increase reflects growth in the cost of fringe benefits but also reflects a change in federal rules regarding reporting of fringe benefits. This change is booked to a central account and represents $19.1 million in volatility of reporting according to federal rules, not a growth in administration. There are increases in direct department charges (which correlate with salary expenses) of $12 million, and the University also offered an early-retirement program, the cost of which shows up in this category as $11 million.

3. Supplies: increased from $21.2 million to $62.4 million (+$41.1 million)
. One benefit of adopting the new financial system is that they discovered several accounting practices that were wrong, Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained. The implementation of EFS provided the University with an opportunity to review old budgeting and accounting practices. One major adjustment was related to the accounting for royalty distributions from Glaxo for the HIV drug Ziagen; the correction to the accounting practice resulted in a jump in expenditures of $29 million which had previously been netted against revenues in the same account. This category also includes new software license fees at $3.7 million; the University bought a new financial system. This category also includes $3.4 million in endowment fees for the Consolidated Endowment Fund, which began to be accounted differently beginning in 2009, and a change in the accounting practices related to addressing and mailing services, which also resulted in a $2.1 million increase in the recording of expenditures. Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained that the four examples outlined account for $38.2 million of the $41.1 million increase.

4. All Other: increased by $8.9 million and related to a variety of accounting entries and minor changes in expenditures over time.

In total, Mr. Pfutzenreuter concluded, of the $126.5 million increase in "institutional support" expenditures over the period, $80.3 million had nothing to do with a growth in the administration, despite what outside commentators may claim. A majority of the remaining $46.2 million growth in expenditures relates to pay changes and associated fringe benefit costs along with minor changes in supplies and service spending.

Professor Luepker asked that a comment made later in the meeting by Provost Sullivan also be reported at this point in the minutes: When President Bruininks took office in 2002, there were 74 individuals in executive positions (deans, vice presidents, associate vice presidents, etc.). When he leaves office on June 30, 2011, there will be 74 individuals in executive positions. There will be no change in the number even though the institution's budget has increased by about $1 billion, enrollment is up by one-third, the number of degrees granted is up by 40%, and research funding has reached about $823 million.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely anyone will pay attention to these explanations, Professor Martin commented.
Ms. Stahre agreed that people do not find it interesting that there was a change in the reporting system for royalty income.

Professor Luepker observed that there are two large categories of apparent cost increases: accounting changes and swings in fringe benefits. Mr. Pfutzenreuter agreed and noted that the Retirement Incentives Option and rules governing reporting fringe benefits account for about $30 million of the $44 million in that category.

Professor Zaheer commented that one can also demonstrate that the University is a larger enterprise than it was six years ago, so these expenses are likely not a larger percentage of the total budget. But much of the increase is simply due to changes in accounting practices, Mr. Pfutzenreuter pointed out. Professor Seashore suggested that one could look at the amount salaries increased, which have grown some and are 65% of the budget, and then look at all the rest, which is accounting procedures.

The core dilemma is whether it is worth the effort to refute erroneous claims, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Several Committee members were emphatic in responding that it is. Professor Cohen said this happened before and the University needs to get the numbers out. Professor Zaheer observed that they may have to hire someone to do the work; Professor Olin said that any comment needs to take into account the increase in the number of students.

Professor Seashore said that anything Mr. Pfutzenreuter says will be viewed with suspicion. This Committee, however, is a representative group of faculty, staff, and students, and it needs to say something. Individuals may blog or comment publicly to express opinions about the University's budget, but the Committee members have looked at the data and know that those expressing the opinions are "full of beans."

There is also a need for a discussion about how to fund things, Mr. Driscoll commented, a subject in which students are very interested. But without common facts, it is difficult get through the noise-driven discussion created by the Delta Project and bloggers. It is dignified not to respond but it may hurt the University not to do so. It would behoove University Relations to provide a responsible faculty/staff/student voice.

Professor Martin said there would be value in having the Committee come up with a response. Committee members pay a lot of attention to the budget over a long period of time and they know the numbers much better than outside commentators. Professor Roe agreed, pointed out that the views from the Committee must be genuine, and suggested that a subcommittee look at Mr. Pfutzenreuter's numbers and certify the Committee's support.

Professor Seashore commented that is not just a local phenomenon and noted that Inside Higher Ed had an article about a national effort to paint higher education as an easy target: All universities need to do is cut the number of vice presidents they have. While one would like to think Minnesota would be immune, it will not be. Note the events in Wisconsin and Michigan, she pointed out. The Committee can respond to a national trend of misunderstanding administrative costs. Or purposefully misrepresenting them, Professor Martin added.

Professor Luepker asked for volunteers to serve on a small subcommittee that would also include representation from University Relations. It would not be just about facts but about how to deliver the message, he said; Committee members are not experts in that arena. Professors Martin and Roe agreed to serve, as did Mr. Driscoll. Professor Luepker said he would contact Ms. Phenix, the new Chief of Staff, about other membership, and would also draft a charge to identify what the Committee would like to see at the end of the effort.

Professor Luepker thanked Vice President Pfutzenreuter and Dr. Radcliffe for joining the meeting.

April 1, 2011

The U of M "Sets the Record Straight" on Dr. Dennis Polla or Driven to Dissemble (SM)


In another shameful attempt at damage control we find a submarine attack over another obviously fishing smelling situation at the University of Minnesota.

For background, please see: Another University of Minnesota Professor With Two Jobs What Would Jimmy Williams Say? Some Pigs Are More Equal Than Others?

As well as the original Star-Tribune article: U prof's past and 2nd job get scrutiny - Forced from post 11 years ago, he still gets $112,660 a year despite working full time in Maryland.

The U's spin-doctor on this one is Doctor Massoud Amin who is the chair of Dr. Polla's department.

From the University of Minnesota web-site:

TLI sets the record straight on Dr. Dennis Polla

We've been receiving a number of inquiries about the University of Minnesota's Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) after a recent Star Tribune article about a member of its faculty.

I'd like to specifically address some of the issues raised in the Star Tribune article about TLI faculty member Dennis Polla. It's unfortunate when important facts are omitted or manipulated in news coverage with the intent of creating a false sense of outrage. That is the case with the March 13th article. Dennis Polla's service to the U of M and our state is something we should be proud of and that gives us a unique and rich educational experience.

Dr. Amin, if this is true, why did you not write a letter to the editor or ask for the opportunity to respond in an op-ed? I'll answer that question myself. Because if you did, you would be the laughing stock of the state.

Here are the facts

* Professor Dennis Polla is a part-time employee of TLI, who teaches courses on Fridays and Saturdays and serves as our director of graduate studies, advising a cohort of about 50 students and interviewing nearly all potential students for the program;
* Professor Polla is a full-time employee of the federal government -- currently at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and formerly with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the Defense Department. He has the permission of the federal government for his part-time employment at the University.

Did the Strib claim otherwise?

* The statement that Prof. Polla lost his tenure is inaccurate. The truth, as noted in our response to all 34 questions from the Star Tribune, is that he voluntarily resigned from his tenured position in 2007 to stay at DARPA;

Dr. Amin, this statement is disingenuous. Technically it is true that Drs. Sainfort and Jacko did not lose their tenure at Georgia Tech. This is because they voluntarily resigned from their tenured positions before their tenure revocations were finalized.

* Just last month, Professor Polla received the "Medal for Exceptional Public Service" from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, which said, "America's national security is strengthened by his efforts.";

and the relevance of this is, exactly?

* Professor Polla pays his own travel expenses to and from his home state of Minnesota and his federal government workplace in the Washington, DC metropolitan area;

Did the Strib claim otherwise?

* The salary paid to Professor Polla is driven by the marketplace for an expert in defense technology and is also less than a scientist of his caliber could make in the private sector. He is an asset to our program and to the educational experience provided at TLI;

If Dr. Polla were attending full time to his responsibilities at the U this would not be an issue. The pay differential with industry is irrelevant because this can be said for most technical people at the U.

* As an instructor and advisor at TLI, Professor Polla meets and exceeds the requirements of his position, bringing one of the world's top defense technology experts into our classrooms to educate the next generation of technology industry leaders for Minnesota. Professor Polla received a national teaching award (W.M. Keck Outstanding Engineering Educator Award). In addition he previously received 7 teaching awards in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Once again, I don't understand the relevance of this to the matter at hand. No one is arguing that Dr. Polla is a poor teacher.

Your attempt to camouflage what has happened here is obvious, Dr. Amin. The Strib was actually kind to you and Dr. Polla. Let's just review a few facts. Dr. Polla lost his job as head of the Biomedical Engineering Institute. Problems with his grants were the reason. As the University's own investigation put it:

"This investigation also concluded that Dr. Polla has engaged in four types of improprieties in his private consulting activities.

First, he failed properly to disclose and obtain prior approval before proceeding with arrangements where there may be a conflict of interest.

Second, he improperly used U of M resources for the benefit of his private clients, and failed to provide the U of M an opportunity to oversee use of its resources.

Third, he concealed or attempted to conceal from the U of M relevant information regarding his private consulting.

Fourth, as a result of the manner in which he conducted his private consulting, Dr. Polla created problematic situation involving intellectual property interests of the U of M and some of his private clients."

What in the world is a person like this doing in a department that claims to: "With an eye on helping high-tech firms maximize their growth potential, TLI shows high-tech companies how to move more adeptly within the gray zone..."

Does Dr. Polla teach students how to behave ethically, or does he teach them how to move adeptly within the gray zone, meaning "don't get caught?"

Dr. Amin, your attempt to somehow paint the Star-Tribune as the bad guy and to deflect attention from your own whited sepulcher is despicable.

Driven to Discover.jpg

Some Preliminary Numbers on the Net Yield for the Sainfort Jacko Double Dipping Debacle


Georgia Tech has furnished documentation confirming that the couple were paid by Tech during the months of October, November, December, and January. A monthly accounting for 2007 and 2008 was provided within eight working days of my request under the Freedom of Information Act.

My request to the University for similar information has not been complied with so far. I was sent a copy of Sainfort-Jacko offer letters and working from this I can make some estimates. If these are incorrect it is because the University declined to provide the requested information. The University did confirm, however, that Jacko and Sainfort were paid by the University during the time in question.

The offer letters indicate that the couple would be paid an annual salary that in total is $501,000. This may actually be a low ball figure, because there are certain augmentations in the offer letter and it is not clear how these might translate into salary.

So the gross "take" is: 1/3 (4 mo.) of $501,000 = $167,000.

The penalty - which the university only announced in December - was $59,000. The penalty included a payment of $25,000 for the investigation. The University claims that my request for the total cost of the investigation is privileged information and refuses to provide it. They also had to return benefits, but not salary for the period, thus leading to the total of $59,000.

Thus the net "take" is: 167K - 59K = $108,000.

This is more than many University of Minnesota faculty and staff make in a whole year.

Also, Jacko and Sainfort were given an interest free loan and several years to pay off this penalty.

Professor Zahavy, by contrast, was fired for double dipping.

I note that faculty in Religious Studies do not usually bring in large amounts of outside grant money. Put another way, some pigs are more equal than others, especially golden pigs.

Driven to Discover.jpg

March 31, 2011

Sainfort-Jacko Offer Letters from University of Minnesota

Jacko_Sainfort offer letters - 430351_1.PDF

March 30, 2011

Response from Georgia Tech General Counsel's Office for Information About Payments to Jacko and Sainfort Under Open Records Act







March 25, 2011

Jacko/Sainfort Letters of Reprimand from U of M and Indictment in Georgia

Apparently what requires a minor disciplinary action at the University of Minnesota:

Jacko Sainfort-1.pdf

can get you a felony indictment in Georgia?


March 23, 2011

In the Matter of University of Minnesota Regent Sviggum... Has the Chairman of the Board of Regents Acted Fairly?


March 13, 2011

Polla Documents

NSF OIG FOIA response 11-39.pdf

Polla Report.pdf