University of California, Davis: Retaliation Against Medical School Professor over Newspaper Column

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of California, Davis

In September 2010, UC Davis School of Medicine professor Michael Wilkes, a recognized expert on prostate cancer screening, published an article in the San Francisco Chronicle criticizing the effectiveness of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Wilkes also criticized UC Davis’ co-sponsorship of an event he felt excessively promoted the test. The same day the article was printed, Wilkes was notified of UC Davis’ decision to reduce Wilkes’ teaching responsibilities and to cut funding to an exchange program Wilkes helped coordinate. An attorney for the UC Davis Health System threatened Wilkes with possible legal action, claiming that several claims in the editorial may have constituted actionable defamation. UC Davis’ Academic Senate unanimously called on the university to retract all threats of retaliation made against Wilkes in violation of his rights of free speech and academic freedom. In January 2013, however, an administrative review panel appointed by UC Davis largely rejected the Academic Senate’s findings that Wilkes’ rights had been violated, casting further doubt on its commitment to academic freedom.

There is currently no media coverage for this case.
  • Is UC Davis’ Investigation of Academic Freedom Case Fatally Flawed?

    March 7, 2013

    For months now, FIRE has followed the case of University of California, Davis School of Medicine professor Michael Wilkes, who has faced threats against his academic freedom for more than two years after he co-authored a controversial op-ed about prostate cancer testing in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2010. As I noted previously on The Torch, the fight for Wilkes’ academic freedom took a blow in January when an administrative review panel convened by UC Davis largely rejected the consensus of the UC Davis Academic Senate, which had determined that UC Davis had substantially violated Wilkes’ academic freedom. Here’s […]

    » Read More

  • UC Davis Update: Panel Rejects Finding of Academic Freedom Violation Against Professor

    January 14, 2013

    Last year, FIRE reported on the case of University of California, Davis medical school professor Michael Wilkes, who alleges that he faced retaliation from the university over comments made in a column he co-authored for the San Francisco Chronicle. Last spring, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility of the UC Davis Academic Senate found that the university had gravely violated Wilkes’ academic freedom. UC Davis promised an investigation after the Senate passed a resolution unanimously calling on the university to apologize to Wilkes and retract all threats against him. Among other occurrences, Wilkes was informed in a letter from […]

    » Read More

  • Waiting Time for Justice at UC Davis Med School? Two Years, and Counting

    October 17, 2012

    This summer, FIRE alerted Torch readers to the saga of Michael Wilkes, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. Wilkes faced retaliation at UC Davis after co-authoring an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle in which he criticized both a particular screening method used to detect prostate cancer (an area in which Wilkes has considerable expertise) and an event co-sponsored by UC Davis that he felt overly promoted the screening method. FIRE’s involvement with Wilkes actually didn’t begin until well after this travesty started—a travesty that is now entering its third year.  Shortly following the publication […]

    » Read More

  • Free Speech in Two-Year Deep Freeze At UC Davis Med School

    August 29, 2012

    FIRE is fighting to defend the academic freedom and free expression rights of University of California, Davis School of Medicine professor Michael Wilkes. Wilkes has been under threat of punishment for nearly two years after he co-authored a column in the San Francisco Chronicle in which he criticized both the effectiveness of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test for cancer screening and UC Davis’ sponsorship of an event he felt overly promoted the PSA test. Wilkes was threatened with employment sanctions and told by UC Davis attorneys that he could be liable for “defamation.” FIRE and the UC Davis Academic Senate […]

    » Read More

  • In ‘Forbes,’ Professor Takes UC Davis to Task for Academic Freedom Violations

    August 27, 2012

    On Friday, we introduced Torch readers to the case of Michael Wilkes, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. Wilkes faced retaliation from the university for co-publishing a critical column in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2010. Wilkes, an expert on prostate cancer screening whose research includes serving as a principal investigator on studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized UC Davis’ co-sponsorship of a seminar that he felt excessively promoted one particular screening method-the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.  Wilkes quickly faced retaliation from the UC Davis administration, including threats of […]

    » Read More

  • At UC Davis Med School, a Two-Year Cloud Over Faculty Expression

    August 24, 2012

    Perhaps the University of California, Davis School of Medicine (SOM) just doesn’t “get” free speech. It turns out that, at around the same time SOM was punishing medical student Curtis Allumbaugh on the basis of his protected emails, it was engaged in a campaign of intimidation against Michael Wilkes, an SOM faculty member. Wilkes’ great sin? Speaking his mind in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. FIRE was successful in defending Allumbaugh’s rights and has written to UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi asking her to stand up for Wilkes’ rights as well. But nearly two years after the […]

    » Read More