Friday, August 1, 2014

UC Davis administrators rebuked over treatment of campus critic

By Peter Schmidt
Chronicle of Higher Education

The Academic Senate of UC Davis has rebuked several administrators for threatening legal action and various administrative punishments against a medical professor who criticized the campus health system’s promotion of a controversial cancer-screening test.

Last Friday, the Academic Senate’s Representative Assembly unanimously passed resolutions demanding that Claire Pomeroy, the medical school’s dean; Frederick J. Meyers, its executive associate dean; and David Levine, the campus health system’s counsel; promptly and publicly accept responsibility “for serious errors in judgment” and write letters of apology to the professor, Michael S. Wilkes.

The Representative Assembly’s resolutions also demand that the three administrators rescind all disciplinary actions taken or threatened against Wilkes, who is a professor in the Davis health system’s department of internal medicine. The resolutions also condemn Levine and the Davis campus’ chief legal counsel, Steven Drown, “for drafting inappropriate and apparently threatening letters that violated a faculty member’s right to academic freedom.”

The assembly called on UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi to take and report on “concrete steps to prevent future violations of academic freedom” and to have the medical school’s dean “take appropriate training to prevent academic freedom violations.”

In one of the resolutions, the assembly says it “expresses severe disapproval of the notion that the University of California may take legal action against professors whose scholarly publications or professional expert commentaries may be perceived by university administrators to be injurious to university interests.”

The resolutions provide only the titles, and not the names, of the administrators being rebuked or called on to take action, but The Chronicle was able to confirm the administrators’ identities.

Through a medical school spokeswoman, Pomeroy and Meyers comment on the resolutions the assembly adopted. The Davis campus issued a statement in which Ralph Hexter, its provost and executive vice chancellor, said that “the underlying assertions in this matter are deeply troubling” and that his office “will review this case and take appropriate actions.”

At the center of the controversy is an op-ed essay published by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010, days after faculty members at the medical school held a free, public “men’s health seminar” heavily focused on prostate-cancer treatment and prevention.

The essay, jointly written by Wilkes and Jerome Hoffman, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Southern California, criticized the seminar for promoting a controversial screening procedure known as the prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA test, despite scientific evidence that routine use of the test might cause more harm than good.

In their essay, Wilkes and Hoffman wrote that most public-health panels recommend against the PSA test because it cannot distinguish whether apparent cancers are malignant or benign, and the treatments prescribed in response to it are less likely to cure a cancer that poses any real threat than they are to leave men suffering from negative treatment effects, such as impotence or incontinence.

The essay speculated that the campus’ decision to offer the public seminar “just might have to do with money,” as administering the PSA test and treating cancers identified through it are “a large part of the practice of many urologists.”

Matter of timing

The Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, which investigated Wilkes’ case, unanimously concluded in a report issued last month that the op-ed’s publication had led to “precipitous and inappropriate retaliatory statements of disciplinary sanction and legal action” against the professor, in violation of his academic freedom.

On the same day the article was published, Wilkes was copied on an e-mail from Meyers, the executive associate dean, to another administrator in which Meyers said Wilkes would not be invited to continue as head instructor of a course on doctoring after the current academic year and that the medical school planned to cut off funds for a Hungarian student exchange that Wilkes had overseen.

Meyers subsequently threatened to remove Wilkes from his position as director of global health for the Davis health system and to reassign Wilkes’ research space, the committee’s report says. The report says the executive associate dean had described such actions as being in the works for some time and characterized their timing in proximity with the publication of the controversial op-ed as purely coincidental. But, the report concludes, “the timing of events is highly suspect beyond any reasonable doubt.”

The academic freedom committee’s report concludes that Levine, the Davis health system’s lawyer, violated Wilkes’ academic freedom by sending him a letter arguing that the op-ed contained “numerous errors in fact” that “were injurious to the university interests and reputation and thus potentially actionable under the law of defamation.”

(Drown, the campus’ general counsel, subsequently issued a letter backing what Levine had said and characterizing it as offering information, rather than posing a threat.)

The various administrative actions threatened against Wilkes have never been carried out, but he has not been reassured they will not be carried out down the road, the report says. As a result, it says, he “works in fear for his job and has to withhold his professional knowledge from students and society for fear of further retaliation.”

The resolutions adopted last week by the Representative Assembly ratify the academic-freedom committee’s findings and adhere to the committee’s own recommendations.



Special to The Enterprise



What’s the buzz?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

Davis Reads book project focuses on veterans

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Carbahal and Company celebrates 30 years

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

UCD chancellor is coming up for five-year review

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

A week of groundwater news in the Year of Groundwater

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Candidate goes homeless to showcase economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Increase in health plan costs is slowing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Kashkari’s campaign coffers depleted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Parents can learn all about IEPs

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

10 essential herbs are focus of Davisite’s talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Bee beard photo wins award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Businesses can learn about PR strategies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Enjoy films, beer at benefit Friday night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Target hosts National Night Out celebration

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Digital device use is up among school-age children

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Backpacks for Kids launches annual donation drive

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Seniors share homes for savings, companionship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

City of Davis recruits for its advisory commissions

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Farmers Market shoppers can pick up free reusable produce bags

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery



It’s not what they thought

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

Protect and expand Medicare

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

It’s insurance against extremes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Political cartoon was offensive

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Let’s gas up for TAPS

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Railroads, listen up and respond

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

Treat children as refugees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8



Swimley recalls a budding star in Giants’ Susac

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Nick Watney leads Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stuart named to outstanding placekicker watch list

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Going, going, gone: A’s trade Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

UCD women’s golf tees up tough schedule

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B8





‘Guardians of the Galaxy’: Droll sci-fi hijinks

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Barnyard Theatre adds ‘Pinky’ performance after sold-out opening night.

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

WOH to hold auditions for ‘Zuccotti Park’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘Tunes on Tuesdays’ come to Freeman Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery



Grand Cherokee: A grand, and long, ride

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery



Patricia Eileen Hershberger

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

John Vernon McLane Wayland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Don Fife

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Nancy Jane Fife

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Clara Meyerhoff

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5



Comics: Friday, August 1, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A6