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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

News-in-brief: Committee to present report on alleged breach of academic freedom tomorrow

UC Davis medical school professor Michael Wilkes was informed that he would be removed as professor of a program that taught better patient care, and support for the Hungarian student exchange program that he led would be cancelled, after he wrote an op-ed for The San Francisco Chronicle that questioned the efficacy of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening tests. The op-ed was published Sept. 30, 2010, days after faculty members at the University were involved in an event that promoted the test.

According to Inside Higher Ed, which investigated the situation, Wilkes was told that he would be removed as the director of global health for the UC Davis Health System and also received letters from the health system counsel, stating that the school could sue him for defamation.

Wilkes filed a written complaint to the UC Davis Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, and the committee found allegations of intimidation and harassment to be true. The committee investigated, drafted a report and have asked officials at the UC Davis School of Medicine to write letters of apology to Wilkes and take action to prevent other future violations of academic freedom.

The committee’s report only identifies the medical school’s administrators by position title, but Inside Higher Ed contacted School of Medicine administrators. The administrators said it would be inappropriate to comment on personnel matters.

The committee will present its report to the UC Davis Academic Senate at a meeting tomorrow. Academic Senate representatives are also expected to vote on related resolutions.

Gregory Pasternack, a member of the committee and professor

of hydrology, said the threats against Wilkes were unwarranted.

“University policy encourages faculty to use their expertise to help the public, and the threat of a lawsuit is in fact, therefore, a violation of University policy,” Pasternack said. “After the pepper spray investigation, the administration told our community they would take community concerns to heart and change the way they operate. I believe the administration will recognize that they made mistakes and they will take the steps we recommend to apologize and learn from this. If they don’t, then we all have to wonder whether the words we were told were real or just lip service.”

— Muna Sadek



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