Letter from FIRE to UCLA School of Public Health Dean Search Committee, January 3, 2012

By on January 3, 2012

January 3, 2012

Judy D. Olian
Dean, UCLA Anderson School of Management
110 Westwood Plaza
Box 951481
Los Angeles, California 90095

Sent by U.S. Mail, Electronic Mail, and Facsimile (310-825-0218)

Dear Ms. Olian:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE; thefire.org) unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, due process, freedom of association, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and academic freedom on America’s college campuses. I am writing you today in your role as chair of the search committee charged with identifying candidates for the next dean of the UCLA School of Public Health (SPH).

FIRE is deeply concerned about academic freedom in the SPH. In 2010, the SPH’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) violated the academic freedom of Dr. James E. Enstrom, a non-tenured SPH faculty member since 1976, by using impermissible viewpoint-based discrimination in an effort to end his career at UCLA. Dr. Enstrom’s research on environmental health issues falls squarely within EHS’ research mission. However, he and a few of his SPH colleagues have disagreed strongly about his and others’ research on the risks to public health posed by certain air pollutants, a topic that has been the subject of intense debate in California and nationwide. When notifying Enstrom that EHS was ending his career, EHS Chair Richard J. Jackson stated that “your research is not aligned with the academic mission of the Department.” Non-rehire decisions made because of a faculty member’s protected expression, of which this case is an example, violate the First Amendment-and in this case academic freedom as well. Furthermore, while permitting Enstrom to appeal through UCLA’s grievance process, UCLA has refused to sign off on new research proposals by Enstrom, further violating his academic freedom while he remains at UCLA. Many additional details regarding this troubling case are available in the three enclosures and online at thefire.org/case/838.html.

I encourage UCLA and its search committee to place academic freedom at the top of their agenda when considering candidates for the next dean of the SPH. The university has created a damaging and embarrassing “chilling effect” whereby research scientists now understand that if their research points toward an inconvenient or politically unpopular scientific conclusion, they ought to remain silent lest they be punished by UCLA.

FIRE hopes that the new dean will restore academic freedom to the UCLA School of Public Health and rectify the status of Dr. Enstrom. California and the nation must be able to trust the research on which public health decisions depend. Please feel free to contact me for additional information.

Sincerely,

 

Adam Kissel
Vice President of Programs

Enclosures

cc:
Onyebuchi Arah, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Associate Dean for Global Health, UCLA School of Public Health

Ron Brookmeyer, Professor of Biostatistics, UCLA School of Public Health

Jonathan E. Fielding, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Professor of Health Services and Pediatrics, UCLA School of Public Health

Patricia Ganz, Professor of Health Services and Medicine, UCLA School of Public Health

Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, Professor of Community Health Sciences, UCLA School of Public Health; Professor of Asian American Studies, UCLA College of Letters and Science

Thomas Rice, Professor of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health

Beate Ritz, Professor and Vice Chair of Epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health; Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Fernando Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Research on Aging, UCLA School of Public Affairs

Traci Considine, Manager of Executive Searches, Office of the Chancellor, UCLA

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, Consultant, Witt/Kieffer

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Schools: University of California, Los Angeles Cases: University of California at Los Angeles: Non-Reappointment of Controversial Professor