Over the past year, as the controversy over psychiatric research at the University of Minnesota has steadily grown more heated, President Eric Kaler has remained silent. Most of the public statements about the case of Dan Markingson have come from Mark Rotenberg, the former General Counsel, or more recently, Aaron Friedman, the VP for Health Sciences. But yesterday Kaler made his position clear. Apparently he believes that no one at the university is blameworthy, and that no further investigation is warranted.
Two weeks ago my colleague in the Center for Bioethics, Leigh Turner, sent Kaler a detailed letter about the suicide of Dan Markingson, asking him to support an external investigation. Kaler’s reply is revealing, but not for anything specific that he writes. His letter simply repeats the discredited claims of exoneration that we have heard for the past four years. What is revealing is the fact that he has taken such a clear stand on the issue. Kaler was not even at the University of Minnesota when Dan Markingson killed himself, and he was not responsible for appointing anyone directly involved in the research, or in the legal defense, or in the subsequent stonewalling. He could have chosen the side of justice -- or more plausibly, he could have chosen to remain neutral. Yet he didn’t.
Such a letter could have been only written by a president who is either 1) very confident that no wrongdoing has occurred, or 2) very confident that there will be no external investigation and no sanctions for anyone involved. And since anyone who has bothered to become familiar with the Markingson case knows that there was very serious wrongdoing, I can only conclude that Kaler believes that the university and its researchers are safe from investigation and sanction.
I hope that we can prove Kaler wrong.