Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Markingson Lecturer: As we reform research ethics, let's not raise the bar too high.

From the first Dan Markingson Memorial Lecture, designed to honor the memory of a victim of an exploitative research study at the University of Minnesota:

"Research is the wellspring of scientific discovery. As we consider new policies and regulations in research ethics, let's be careful that we do not raise the bar so high that we demoralize, discourage, overwhelm and make it impossible for investigators to conduct research."

"The academic motto of the University of Minnesota is 'Driven to Discover.'  The road on which we drive to discovery is fast and frenetic. Problems are inevitable. The investigators in this audience, and I know many of you -- early, middle, and late stage -- are dedicated scientists who give much of your lives to searching for answers to vexing and formidable questions. The work is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and undertaken without guarantees of any success. Nevertheless, we persevere. because this is our life's work to improve the health and wellspring of our clients and patients." 

"What is not often publicized and heralded is the pioneering and transformational science that is going on at the University of Minnesota, nor the groundbreaking advances in clinical care."

"I will close here with a statement taken verbatim from a recent summary statement of a grant proposal of mine that was written by an NIMH reviewer..."

'The University of Minnesota is a world-class institution. There can be no doubt about the superior research quality at the University of Minnesota and the impressive, visionary, multidisciplinary, field-changing scientific collaborations and breakthroughs this university has consistently produced over the decades.' "Thank you."

The Hubbard School? Really?

From Chuck Turchick, on the recent announcement that the U will be re-branding the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Dear Dean Coleman,

With great sorrow and disappointment, I read the recent news items about the renaming of the U's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Of course, in your public comments you weren't in a position to raise questions about the propriety of naming schools after corporations, but it seems to me this goes against everything an academic institution stands for.

When the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and the Law issues a study or a commentary about some practice of the Hubbard Broadcasting Corporation -- or worse, doesn't comment when academic analysis and critique would be expected --  how can I not have serious reservations about the credibility of that Center?

Hubbard Broadcasting itself should be similarly concerned. If there is a scandal within the Journalism School, I surely won't be tuning in to KSTP-TV to find out about it.

I assume that neither the School of Journalism nor the College of Liberal Arts approved this name change without serious discussions, probably with many academics dissenting from the final decision. But what an opportunity this would have been to engage the entire University of Minnesota community in such a dialogue. What is the role of academia in the modern corporate world? What should be the relationship between the academy and various sectors in the larger community? In a time of diminishing public financial support, how can the University move forward without seriously damaging its credibility? Maybe that public discussion did take place, and I simply missed it.

This isn't about Mr. Hubbard's political views. It is about the University's ability to credibly analyze and critique societal institutions from an arm's-length position. Even if you are only honoring Stanley Hubbard, his name is so attached to the corporation in the public mind that many will not make such a fine distinction.

I can appreciate that as a dean, you are now in that netherworld between the university as a business and the university as an academic institution. Even so, there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. For me, this is one of them.

Sincerely yours,

Chuck Turchick
Alumnus and Continuing Education student 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Piggie Park

You thought South Carolina had a flag problem? You have no idea. The war over the Confederate flag pales next to the war over Maurice Bessinger's barbecue. Shoot, Maurice has been dead three years and folks are still fighting. (And for no good reason, if you ask me. The barbecue isn't that good. So just skip the unpleasantness and head to Sweatman's in Holly Hill.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Life is hard. We have to struggle, often unsuccessfully, to keep unpleasantness at bay. It would be easier to make sense of this if life served some important purpose."

"Yet, while we can create some meaning, our lives lack any ultimate purpose. Death can relieve our suffering, but it cannot solve our problem of meaninglessness. Moreover, because death is annihilation, it is part of our misfortune (even when, all things considered, it is the lesser of two evils). In other words, our predicament is that life is bad but that death is too."

An interview with University of Cape Town philosopher David Benatar about his new book, The Human Predicament.