Tuesday, August 31, 2010

20 California Legislators Write Letter to UCLA Chancellor Seeking Investigation of Enstrom Firing

Twenty California state legislators, under the letterhead of Assemblyman Dan Logue, have written the Chancellor of UCLA, expressing concern that the firing of Professor James Enstrom after 34 years at the University appears to be an effort to silence his dissenting views on the health effects of fine particulate matter.

The letter demands that Dr. Enstrom not be dismissed before his appeal has been fully evaluated. Otherwise, the legislators threaten to hold a hearing in Sacramento on the matter.

The letter states: "We are writing you as members of the California State Legislature regarding a serious personnel matter. ... Based on our understanding of the situation, [Enstrom] has not been given valid justification for the termination of his 34-year exemplary academic career at the UCLA School of Public Health. It appears to us that he is being dismissed in order to silence his scientific views on the health effects of fine particulate air pollution. In particular, we are concerned that he is being deprived of his academic freedom as a UCLA faculty member to speak out against draconian diesel vehicle regulations approved by the California Air Resources Board in 2007 and 2008." ...

"To ensure that his appeal is given proper consideration, we request that he be allowed to retain his current faculty position until his appeal has been fully evaluated. If Dr. Enstrom is dismissed before his appeal has been fully evaluated, we plan to promptly hold a hearing in Sacramento on this matter. In particular, we will allow Dr. Enstrom and others the opportunity to present evidence regarding academic freedom and scientific integrity at UCLA, particularly regarding the circumstances surrounding his dismissal."

The Rest of the Story

As I have written, the stated basis for Enstrom's termination is bogus. His termination letter states that he was fired because his research is not aligned with the mission of the Environmental Health Sciences department. However, the mission of the department is to study the health effects of environmental pollutants, and that is exactly what Dr. Enstrom's research does.

Apparently, the department faculty interprets alignment with the department's mission as meaning that the findings of one's research must be aligned with the mission of supporting regulation. Negative findings are apparently not allowed. This is an interference with academic freedom, because if one expresses a dissenting opinion, one risks being found not in alignment with the department, and this could lead to non-reappointment. It is also a threat to scientific integrity.

Readers may also want to see this article in the UCLA Daily Bruin.

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