At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Health (SPH), a search is underway for a new dean to lead the school. Of the many important qualities UCLA will be considering as it assesses potential candidates, it is respect for academic freedom that will ensure the best environment for innovative research the public can trust. FIRE made this point last week in a letter to search committee chair Judy Olian (who is also dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management).
It is a little sad that FIRE even needs to remind UCLA about respect for academic freedom. But as the case of research professor James Enstrom illustrates, that quality has been sorely lacking at SPH. For those new to the case, Reason.tv provides a good overview (featuring commentary by FIRE’s Adam Kissel) in the video below:
As Adam writes for FIRE in our letter to Olian:
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.
FIRE will continue following the case at UCLA and will keep you informed here on The Torch.