Sunday, June 7, 2015

Thanks to Naomi Scheman and Chris Getowicz

From the letters section of the Sunday Star Tribune:

U RESEARCH ETHICS

Credit Elliott and Turner for prodding people into action

As a member of the implementation team at the University of Minnesota whose recommendations concerning human subjects protection are being hailed as “Markingson’s legacy” (“The best thing for the U now is to move forward,” May 31), I need to demur. While I think our recommendations if seriously implemented will greatly improve human subjects protection, the ground on which that edifice will stand is still problematically unstable. Unanswered questions and failures to hold individuals accountable remain and need to be addressed. Furthermore, credit for what we have accomplished is misplaced. Neither the team nor the external review on whose recommendations our work was based would have existed but for the efforts of Carl Elliott and his colleague Leigh Turner. Those of us in the Faculty Senate who called for the outside review deserve credit only — and this is no small thing — for refusing to go along with the clear message from successive administrations that Dr. Elliott was not to be taken seriously, and that while academic freedom afforded him some protection from direct retaliation, others’ academic responsibility lay in shunning him.

The university administration owes Profs. Elliott and Turner an apology and a debt of gratitude, but, most important going forward, it needs to grant them the credibility they have earned.

Naomi Scheman, St. Paul

The writer is a professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota.

• • •

As a 2013 graduate of the University of Minnesota, I was appalled by the May 31 “counterpoint” from university President Eric Kaler. As a student, I was active sharing my comments, concerns and criticisms with Kaler and his staff. I have always believed in the excellence of the University of Minnesota, but that faith does not extend to Kaler, his administration or our Board of Regents.

Kaler mischaracterized the legislative auditor’s report, the scope of which was on the broad institutional “culture of fear” that systematically ignored “serious ethical issues.”

The fact that Kaler cited numerous reviews that span a decade highlights continued failure. Further, the report concluded Dr. Stephen Olson’s research had “numerous” conflicts of interest, adding that he had “inappropriately” delegated work in research that involved people’s lives. I wonder then what kind of accountability we are getting when Olson continues to influence students, staff and the department?

We have yet to see Kaler do more than pay lip service to these issues without demonstrating the courage to act. Yet why would he or the Board of Regents feel compelled to act when there is no accountability? We cannot continue to have good faith in those who have routinely and consistently failed us.

Chris Getowicz, Minneapolis

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