Did Someone Lie to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block?

By October 1, 2010

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Chancellor Gene D. Block has responded to FIRE’s August 26, 2010, letter in the matter of Associate Resident Professor James Enstrom. All signs are that UCLA retaliated against Dr. Enstrom’s activism and research in the area of environmental health. Our letter explained that the faculty members in his department voted against his reappointment on nebulous grounds–that his research on environmental health "is not aligned with the academic mission of the Department, and that [his] research output and other contributions do not meet the [Environmental Health Sciences] department minimums." According to Enstrom, however, no minimum requirements had ever been communicated to him, and any reasonable person could infer that his research on environmental healthfor example, on the extent of the threat to public health posed by certain air pollutantshas everything to do with the work of an environmental health sciences department.

The circumstances of Enstrom’s non-reappointment are suspicious for additional reasons. One of the faculty members in Enstrom’s department had lost his position on the Scientific Review Panel (SRP) on Toxic Air Contaminants for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) due to Enstrom’s activism. Enstrom had demonstrated that several SRP members had never been properly reappointed following the applicable rules. According to a lawsuit filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation in June 2009, the SRP members had been serving beyond the three-year legal limit on their terms of office without being properly re-nominated. Many of them subsequently were replaced.

Furthermore, over the years, Enstrom and a few of his colleagues in the School of Public Health have sometimes disagreed strongly about research on environmental health issues, such as the actual danger of diesel emissions. Enstrom’s peer-reviewed research is one of the things at the center of the debate in California over regulation of diesel emissionswe’re not talking about a petty department squabble.

In addition, while some faculty members in Environmental Health Sciences might not have had strong personal or political reasons for voting against Enstrom, it seems that the faculty members were never given a chance to properly assess Enstrom’s reappointment dossier. Soon, I plan to publish documents here on The Torch relating to Enstrom’s non-reappointment grievance that show the various ways that the faculty apparently were prevented from having access to Enstrom’s full dossier, but that is a topic for another post.

Here, I am examining the strange claim in Chancellor Block’s letter that "Dr. Enstrom is not a professor at UCLA, and is not a member of our faculty." According to Enstrom, he has continuously held a non-tenured faculty position in the School of Public Health since 1976. Take a look at these documents:

1. An e-mail from UCLA Dean Linda Rosenstock to "Assoc Resident Professor" James E. Enstrom on April 1, 2004. In the e-mail, Rosenstock calls Enstrom "a faculty member in good standing" and refers to his appointment as a "faculty appointment." I think it’s safe to presume that "Assoc Resident Professor" means "Associate Resident Professor."

2. The 1998-99 UCLA directory listing which identifies Enstrom as "Assoc Res Prof."

3. The 2002-03 University of California directory listing which identifies Enstrom as "Assoc Res Prof."

4. The 2005 and 2006 faculty/staff directories in Enstrom’s department, where he is listed as a "Researcher" in the Faculty section. (Specific titles are not given.)

5. The 2010 UCLA directory listing which identifies Enstrom as "Assoc Res Prof."

6. The July 1, 2010, electronic directory listing which identifies Enstrom as "Assoc Res Prof."

When I worked for the University of Chicago Directory, you bet we verified the exact status of every single member of every department, year after year, with the relevant departments. UCLA has a lot of explaining to do, because these documents make it look like Chancellor Block’s letter is based on a flat-out lie. Who has fed Chancellor Block the apparently false information about Enstrom’s status? Or is all of this just a huge misunderstanding?

Schools: University of California, Los Angeles