Please Read: Help FIRE Support Professor James Enstrom

By on April 13, 2011

Late last week, I sent a letter to FIRE’s supporters via U.S. mail requesting their help. It’s not often that a case is so egregious and has such wide-reaching negative consequences that FIRE asks for immediate resources to help us take action. Yet, that is exactly what we are facing in California, where scientists across the state are learning what happens to someone who challenges others’ research in good faith. Now I’d like to share my thoughts on the situation with the Torch audience, and urge you to consider joining the many FIRE donors who have already pledged their support to FIRE as we fight to save Professor James Enstrom’s job at UCLA.

Professor James Enstrom was let go from his job at UCLA after 34 years because he challenged scientific research that the California legislature used to enact policies regulating emissions from diesel fuel. Enstrom also was a successful whistleblower who exposed the fact that the lead "scientist" behind the original study that led to the new policies, Hien Tran, had falsely claimed to have a Ph.D. from UC Davis-when in fact, Tran had purchased it for $1,000 from a diploma mill. UCLA retaliated by telling Enstrom his research did not align with the "mission" of his department and that he would lose his job at UCLA.

That’s right. While the fake Ph.D.’s questionable research was hailed and used as the basis for controversial new air pollution regulations, UCLA was getting rid of a real Ph.D. for speaking out.

Because of his politically inconvenient activism and whistleblowing against both Tran and John Froines, a member of his own department who had served far beyond his legal term on a panel for the California Air Resources Board, Professor Enstrom’s career is on the line.

UCLA has tried to hide its retaliation against Enstrom behind a shifting array of justifications. The university first told Enstrom there was no longer funding for his position, but he correctly pointed out that UCLA had made accounting errors and had failed to notify him as his funds were being depleted. Looking for a new excuse to get rid of him, the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA initiated a review of Enstrom’s record, then absurdly argued that his environmental health research, which he has been doing in the department since 2004, was now outside the department’s "mission."

The repercussions of UCLA’s censorship extend far beyond Enstrom’s career and livelihood. They are likely to discourage any professor at UCLA-or any professor in the entire University of California system-from publishing controversial findings or speaking his or her mind against "politically correct" science. The message the university is sending to its professors and researchers is clear: "Don’t rock the boat, because you might be next."

As you know, and as this case so clearly demonstrates, there are real costs to campus censorship. Professor Enstrom is currently fighting for his job as hearings came to a close last week, and FIRE has launched an aggressive public awareness campaign on his behalf. This attention is essential to winning his case-as Justice Brandeis famously said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. With your support today, FIRE can increase our efforts to expose the injustice taking place in California. We can write more op-eds, solicit more media interviews, and reach more people to get the word out. We have already found a FIRE Legal Network attorney to provide pro bono legal defense services for Enstrom, but there is much more work to be done.

We must not let UCLA’s thinly veiled retaliation go unchallenged.

I urge you to visit www.thefire.org/donate to support FIRE’s efforts to help Professor Enstrom get his job back. We need more professors brave enough to speak their minds even when it means going against the establishment.

I know that this case may seem too unbelievable to be true, but sadly, UCLA thought it could get away with it without the public smelling the pollution of the process. FIRE is not letting that happen. Here you can find the details about this case, including a recently released video. Please consider aiding FIRE’s efforts to protect academic freedom for Professor Enstrom and for scientists across California. Don’t let UCLA dictate which science is politically correct enough to be protected.

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