Letter from UCLA Academic Freedom Committee to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, April 15, 2011

By on April 15, 2011

April 15, 2011
Chancellor Gene D. Block
UCLA Chancellor’s Office
Box 951405, 2147 Murphy Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405
Re: Possible violation of academic freedom in the non-re-appointment of James Enstrom, Ph.D.
Dear Chancellor Block,
     This letter is to apprise you of our committee’s unanimous concern that the decision by the School of Public Health not to re-appoint James Enstrom, Ph.D. in the Professional Research series may represent a violation of academic freedom. Dr. Enstrom has been conducting epidemiological research in the School of Public Health since the mid-1970s. Since 2004, his appointment has been in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. Throughout this period his research has been supported by extramural funding. This extramural funding has been essential, because it provides the salary support that is necessary for the University to approve Dr. Enstrom’s annual re-appointment in the Professional Research series. Indeed, because of this extended period of uninterrupted grant support, Dr. Enstrom has justified regular re-appointment in this academic series. However, last year, in spite of ongoing funding that is projected to last until the end of 2011, Dr. Enstrom was notified that he was to be laid off. Simultaneously, Dr. Enstrom was denied the opportunity to submit further grant applications. He has raised concerns that his non-reappointment was motivated by improper concerns relating to the content of his research and his criticisms of others’ research.
     This committee fully understands that it is the prerogative of the School of Public Health to make decisions concerning its research, teaching and service missions. Thus, if the School of Public Health has a bona fide rationale for denying Dr. Enstrom’s re-appointment and for refusing to submit grant applications on his behalf, then we concur that it is within their purview to take this action. However, we also assert that UCLA has an obligation to protect the ongoing research activities of its academic staff. Its failure to do so when their research is funded by extramural agencies has the further serious consequence of preventing him (and possibly the University) from meeting his obligations to his extra-mural funders, although the University represented that it would allow him to do so when it accepted the extramural funding. Retraction of such protection, especially in cases involving individuals, like Dr. Enstrom, who have a lengthy history of research activity on campus, must be supported by strong reasons. We have not reached any conclusions about the facts of the case, but the seriousness of the consequences of his termination, as well as the allegations he has made, raise worries. We urge you to review his case to ensure that there has been no intrusion on Dr. Enstrom’s academic freedom.
Sincerely,
[Cameron Gundersen]
Chair, Academic Freedom Committee
On behalf of the members of the Academic Freedom Committee:
Irena Cronin
Esteban Dell-Angelica
Russell Jacoby
Christopher Looby
Seana Shiffrin
David Teplow
Leaniva Tuala
Elise Youn
Cc:
Thomas Rice, Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel
Ann Karagozian, Chair, Academic Senate
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Schools: University of California, Los Angeles Cases: University of California at Los Angeles: Non-Reappointment of Controversial Professor