Thursday, July 30, 2009

"We're not violating a legal statute"

(I guess first do no harm is not a legal statute...)

Dr. Frank Cerra, new medical school dean at University of Minnesota, responds to questions about Dr. Polly and foot dragging on new conflict of interest policy.

Yesterday morning I had a short exchange with Dr. Cerra at an open forum for our medical school. This short video clip shows that exchange.

"We're not violating a legal statute"

How about: "First, do no harm..."?

Dr. Cerra claims that terrible complexity is justification for the two years spent - so far - with conflict of interest still on the table. Meanwhile, our neighbors in Iowa started this process in January and now have a new policy in place:

Iowa Does the Right Thing on COI
They started in January of this year

And, incredibly, we learn toward the end of the session that Dr. Cerra likes short time lines!

"I like short time lines, because it promotes focus."

Except for conflict of interest matters?

Finally, as a reward for going through this unpleasant stuff, I leave you with a humming chorus of the unofficial U of M medical school anthem:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Award For Duty Above

And Beyond The Call of Service

From the Wall Street Journal:

In May 2006, University of Minnesota spine surgeon David Polly urged a Senate committee to fund research into the severe arm, leg and spine injuries suffered by soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere.

Dr. Polly told the committee he was testifying on behalf of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and referenced his prior work caring for soldiers as a surgeon at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

What Dr. Polly didn't disclose during his testimony was that his trip to Washington was paid for by Medtronic Inc., the big medical-device maker whose bone growth product, called Infuse, has been used to treat soldiers, according to company records.

Medtronic said it was not aware that Dr. Polly hadn't disclosed his ties to the company when testifying and "expected that he would have done so." The company said it has "decided to investigate Dr. Polly's consulting relationship and activities to our company." More broadly, Medtronic said it has, over the past several weeks, undertaken a "comprehensive review" of company procedures aimed at making sure physicians disclose their work for the company and expects to issue new standards in that regard.

A University of Minnesota spokesman said the school was reviewing the information gathered by Sen. Grassley.

A university committee cleared Dr. Polly to work on the government-funded research of Medtronic's Infuse, saying that his "consulting duties for Medtronic appear sufficiently separate from the research he is performing."

Just after the university approved his work on the government-funded research, Dr. Polly billed Medtronic for time spent writing up the results from another Infuse study and met with Medtronic executives on Infuse-related topics, according to his billing records.

In total, Dr. Polly billed Medtronic for more than $50,000 in lobbying-related costs. He made trips to Washington in 2005 and 2006 and called on several members of Congress, according to the records.

According to billing records, Dr. Polly's billing rate was $4,750 for an eight-hour day in 2007, and he billed as many as 13,000 minutes a quarter -- or 216 hours over three months. In some months, he conducted at least some Medtronic business on nearly every day.

His consulting log indicates that on one occasion he spent one minute to wake up a Medtronic executive, although he listed "no charge" for that service. He did bill Medtronic for the 30 minutes he spent in the car with that executive after waking him up.

Truly service above and beyond the call of duty...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dr. David Polly - On Chuck Grassley's Hit List?

I have previously posted extensively on the activities of Dr. David Polly, a University of Minnesota orthopedic surgeon. He has also lectured in the University of Minnesota's Mini-Medical School on the topic of Conflict of Interest [sic].


Dr. Polly's Fellow Medtronic Consultant, Dr. Kuklo - Out at Wash U

Kuklo, Frank, and Polly

New Hippocratic Oath

Janet Moore, a fine reporter at the Star-Tribune, gives us the latest update:

Medtronic deals raise questions for U, surgeon

A U.S. senator from Iowa is scrutinizing whether the University of Minnesota adequately oversees potential conflicts of interest.
A top spine surgeon at the University of Minnesota who has reaped more than $1 million consulting for Medtronic Inc. is facing tough questions from a prominent U.S. senator investigating financial conflicts in medicine.

In a July 24 letter, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also asks the university pointed questions about how it monitors potential conflicts of interest involving medical school doctors who receive consulting payments from medical device companies.

But the real fire in the 142-page letter is aimed at Dr. David Polly, 52, a nationally known surgeon who heads the spine service at the U's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Grassley asserts that Polly testified before a Senate committee without disclosing that he was being paid by Medtronic; alerted Medtronic to the progress of government-sponsored research in violation of an agreement with the university; and may have given inaccurate information to a university ethics committee.

According to documents culled during Grassley's nearly two-year investigation, Polly received $1.2 million in consulting fees, honoraria and expenses from Fridley-based Medtronic between 2003 and 2007.

Medtronic said in a statement late Tuesday that "based on information that has come up in several outside inquiries, Medtronic has decided to investigate Dr. Polly's consulting relationship and activities to our company."

While the university requires physicians to report financial compensation from these business relationships, there is no limit on the amount they can receive. Further, even though Polly received more than $200,000 a year from Medtronic between 2004 and 2007, he was required by the U only to check a box stating he received "in excess of $10,000."

The U's Medical School has approved a new conflict of interest policy that requires more detailed and public disclosure of these relationships, but that document is on hold for the time being.

In the letter to University President Robert Bruininks, Grassley stated, "actions taken by thought leaders, like those at the University of Minnesota, often have a profound impact upon the decisions made by taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and the way that patients are treated."

Polly's compensation from Medtronic -- the world's largest medical technology company with $14.6 billion in annual revenue -- caught the interest of the University's Conflict Review and Management Committee in late 2006.

The committee ultimately determined that a conflict existed because Polly was the primary investigator in a study using a Medtronic bone-growth product in rats that was sponsored by a $446,000 Department of Defense grant -- but at the same time was a paid company consultant.

The 2007 study, which is just one of 96 peer-reviewed studies bearing Polly's name, appears to have captured Grassley's interest for a number of reasons. He claims Polly may have given inaccurate information to the review committee about the often-controversial Medtronic spine-mending product, which is called Infuse.

Polly allegedly said it was the only commercially available product of its kind, when another product made by Stryker was also available. Polly responded Tuesday that the Stryker product was not "routinely commercially available'' and had restrictions placed on its use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Ultimately, the committee found that Polly's conflict was "manageable," but stipulated that he could not inform Medtronic of any study finding until it was publicly available. However, Grassley claims that the following month, Polly billed Medtronic $594 for work on an "infection study write-up." Polly said Tuesday the billing was for a different study.

Grassley said he was also "alarmed to learn" that Polly billed Medtronic to testify before Congress but never informed the Senate, saying only that he represented the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. For the two days Polly was in Washington, D.C., to testify in support of the Defense Department grant, Polly billed the company $7,000, according to Grassley.

All told, Grassley determined that Polly billed Medtronic more than $50,000 for several months of "lobbying" on behalf of the grant.

Medtronic spokeswoman Marybeth Thorsgaard said in a statement, "While we reimbursed Dr. Polly for his prep time and travel in connection with the hearing, to the best of our knowledge, we were not aware that he did not disclose his relationship with the company and expected that he would have done so."

It's unclear whether the U's conflict committee followed up on whether Polly complied with its "conflict management plan" crafted in 2006. General counsel Mark Rotenberg said typically the appropriate department dean and the faculty member themselves would monitor the compliance effort.

Wrote Grassley: "There is no way to validate or verify the accuracy of the information that faculty members report in their disclosure statements. Therefore, it is unclear to me how University conflict of interest officials are able to make proper assessments of research conflicts without considering the level of financial interest as a mitigating factor when making determinations."

Asked why Grassley's sweeping investigation has targeted him, Polly said simply, "I don't know. ... Senator Grassley has an agenda and a job to do, and in his mind, he's doing his job, and in his mind, he's watching out for things perpetuated on the American public that are not appropriate or optimal.

"What I don't want to see happen is we throw the baby out with the bathwater -- some good things have come out of [bone growth products like Infuse]. It works pretty darn well. ... That's not to say there aren't problems; there are. Any time you use things in a way that is not well studied, you have to be careful.''

I don't even know where to start with this one. I've tried in the past but have been pretty much ignored. For example:

Medical School Ethics is Not An Oxymoron, I

Medical School Ethics is Not An Oxymoron, II

U Doctor on Ethics Panel Was Disciplined

Conflict of Interest, Ethics Reforms at the University of Minnesota Medical School

People Will Think What They Want To Think

Greed is Good

It's the Ick Factor

What is it going to take, folks?

Light Rail On Campus

U Should Not Be Demanding Status Quo

(Letter to the Editor)

From the Star-Tribune:

In his July 27 commentary "Light rail: Sleepless in Minneapolis," Tim Mulcahy of the University of Minnesota wrote: "To establish a win-win scenario we seek engineering that guarantees that the trains will not increase vibrations and electromagnetic interference (EMI) in our laboratories to levels that exceed what exists today, and monitoring systems to ensure that continued operation of the line remains within these standards."

I live in a neighborhood that has airplane traffic. This was not always the case. Do I have a right to demand that noise not exceed the levels of 1950 rather than bow to what is needed for the greater public good?

Some mitigation is indeed necessary. But to ask that the public keep things exactly as they are as far as vibrations and EMI simply isn't reasonable.

It is time for the U to spell out the exact problems and the cost for the mitigation. How much would it cost -- a real number, say a quotation from vendors -- to move the NMR lab to one of the new buildings under construction? What is the possibility that NIH funding could be acquired to move the NMR lab?

Asking for things to stay as they are is simply unreasonable and not economically possible.

This leaves the U open to the appearance of trying to stop the project because it doesn't like the route. Please note I said "appearance."

William B. Gleason, Minneapolis

University Faculty Member

Floating Slab Doesn't Float Met Council's Boat...

The latest in the continuing saga of the U, Met Council, and light rail:

University of Minnesota officials have a modest proposal for the new Central Corridor light-rail train (LRT) — build a “floating slab” beneath the train tracks, which will minimize vibration in nearby laboratories.

Met Council officials, who will oversee construction of the light-rail line, say the university’s proposal itself doesn’t float. A floating slab foundation on Washington Avenue, they say, could make the project so expensive that it would lose all-important federal funding.

University officials are unmoved. With only a year to go before construction is expected to begin, they worry that vibration and electromagnetic interference from the trains could have “an adverse impact” on 80 research labs in 17 buildings along Washington Avenue, which is part of the 11-mile route for the Central Corridor.

The Met Council says it has already “gone the extra mile” to address the university’s concerns.

The council noted that it has: hired two national electrical engineering experts who were involved in a light-rail line that serves Washington University in St. Louis; proposed installing copper wires under the tracks to cancel electromagnetic interference; and used vibration testing methodology that’s consistent with Federal Transit Administration standards.

Moreover, the council says that the light-rail project would cause less vibration than some of the university’s own projects, and that the current plan for street level construction is less disruptive than a previous university-endorsed plan that called for a tunnel through the area.

Bottom line, the university’s “continued resistance has the very real potential to delay the project and increase its cost, a cost that would be borne by Ramsey and Hennepin counties, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, and the state of Minnesota,” the council’s response stated.

“Also, a substantial cost increase would likely disqualify the project from federal funding.”
And so the PR nightmare, that is the University's behavior in this matter, continues. The patience of the community is badly tested. Sympathy for the U, once again, is getting harder and harder to find. It doesn't look as if the current crew at the U is up to the task at hand. Time for a change?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yet Another Futile Call For Conversation?

"There is need for a deep conversation about how much nickel-and-diming the University can take without addressing the hard question of how the University will survive."

[Senate Committee on Finance & Planning, July 14,2009]

Further information from the meeting notes:

What is the status of the hiring pause, Professor Luepker asked? The University is still hiring, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, just more slowly.

Does the University need to track down every penny?
It spends a lot of money on accounting for every cent.

And how many times must something be approved?

Professor Konstan related an example: he was asked by an accountant to justify a four-way split between units of a $200 charge. That is ridiculous, he said.

Is it still the plan to buy down resident undergraduate tuition with the federal funds and require everyone else to pay the 7.5% increase, Professor Luepker asked? It is, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Then in the fall of 2012 the increases will kick in for everyone because there will no longer be federal stimulus funds available, Professor Luepker observed. He recalled that Mr. Pfutzenreuter has said previously that the University can get through the next two years but that after that the situation will be difficult. That is correct, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said.

Professor Konstan said his department is seeing the number of TA positions dropping dramatically and students are worried; they have not cut RA positions thus far. What will happen in the Law School, he asked? The University always assumes that it will have the same number of students, even with fewer staff and fewer jobs available for graduates; perhaps it needs to begin modeling a decreased number of students.

Professor Luepker next asked Committee members to review the list of issues pending before the Committee and asked if there were any of particular interest. He also related that he had read the charge to the Committee and would like to spend time at the first meeting in the fall talking about its purview.

Professor Konstan said that it is not just the topics, it's who the Committee is talking with—when, for example, the Committee wishes to discuss making hard decisions about cuts rather than eroding units. He surmised that Vice President Pfutzenreuter would not disagree—it is the senior vice presidents and the President who make those decisions. Either the Committee needs to see them or the Faculty Consultative Committee needs to take up the issues. There is need for a deep conversation about how much nickel-and-diming the University can take without addressing the hard question of how the University will survive. That is an important discussion that needs to be on the record for the next generation of Regents and University leaders. Professor Luepker agreed and suggested the Committee needs to ask those hard questions.

At times it seems like a variation on the humor about work in the old Soviet Union. To paraphrase, Mr. Klein said, "the administration pretends to consult and we pretend to provide advice" and then the Committee moves on to the next meeting.

Professor Luepker commented that when Vice President Pfutzenreuter and others come to talk with the Committee, they explain that things were done because that's what the front office wanted. The Committee also needs to talk to the front office.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sleepless in Minneapolis

Dr. Tim Mulcahy is the VP for Research at the University of Minnesota. His take on the current light rail situation appeared this afternoon in the Strib. Here it is in its entirety:

(If you don't want to read the whole thing, skip to the U-tube video at the end and the comments above it - "Crux of the Matter")

Research at the U plays a vital role in the economy of the region and state, supports more than 20,000 jobs and holds the promise of curing some of humanity's most serious illnesses, as well as finding solutions to some of the world's most vexing problems. Much of this amazing work takes place in labs located along the light-rail line on Washington Avenue, one of the U's primary research corridors. The Central Corridor project puts at risk programs in as many as 80 labs in 17 buildings, some only 30 feet away from the line.

To establish a win-win scenario we seek engineering that guarantees that the trains will not increase vibrations and electromagnetic interference (EMI) in our laboratories to levels that exceed what exists today, and monitoring systems to ensure that continued operation of the line remains within these standards.

The university has shared these concerns -- along with some proposed solutions -- with the Metropolitan Council, the governmental unit responsible for the Central Corridor project, on numerous occasions and in four official document filings. Regrettably, these concerns remain unresolved. Hence, our dilemma: support for an important benefit on the one hand vs. the risk of significant damage to our research mission on the other.

Our optimism that a win-win outcome is possible is bolstered by the experience of a peer institution, the University of Washington, which was confronted with a virtually identical dilemma. Seattle's plan to route its light-rail line in close proximity to the university's sensitive research equipment prompted the school to articulate the same concerns we have cited. These concerns were not only considered reasonable and legitimate by the Seattle rail project leadership, the project accepted the terms stipulated by the university and have agreed to provide all necessary mitigations to ensure that the project "does no harm" to the current environmental conditions along the rail line's path through campus. Mitigation included installation of a "floating slab" track bed to reduce vibration and additional measures to prevent EMI. All involved recognized that such mitigations were essential to protect the integrity of the vital research taking place at UW.

Similarities between these two great public research universities are not limited to light-rail dilemmas. Both are their respective state's major research university; both are urban campuses knit into the fabric of their city; both conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of research annually; both train thousands of students in their research laboratories and contribute significantly to the economic well-being of the state. Both are research hubs for some of the most promising sectors of the economy -- biosciences, medical devices and imaging, renewable energy and climate change, among many others. Finally, faculty at both universities raised major concerns about the potential adverse impacts of the light-rail line on their sensitive equipment and the essential research it supports.

Sadly, however, the similarities end there. Our labs are much, much closer to the proposed LRT line than the labs on the Seattle campus. In fact, the section of the rail line that will run on Washington Avenue puts trains less than 30 feet away from some labs. But the most disheartening difference between the Seattle and Minneapolis light rail projects is the indifference of the Central Corridor project to the university's concerns.

Seattle's decision to heed its university's concerns provides a precedent confirming the legitimacy of the same issues raised here and, more important, demonstrates that it is possible to manage such issues to mutual benefit -- if only there is a willingness to do so. For the university to throw its support behind the Central Corridor project, we must be reassured that our concerns have been adequately addressed -- we need the same consideration that our sister institution in Washington state received when confronting the same challenges. To allow construction on the Central Corridor to move forward before the U's concerns about the impact on its research enterprise are resolved would be a risky, unnecessary gamble and would place the public's enormous investment in the university in jeopardy.

Until such time as an agreement is reached that provides for appropriate mitigations preserving the prerail ambient conditions along our research corridor, both during construction and ongoing operation of the Central Corridor, we at the University of Minnesota will remain sleepless in Minneapolis.

Tim Mulcahy is vice president for research at the University of Minnesota.

Light Rail Redux

The Strib and the Pioneer Press both have editorials on the latest blow-up over mitigation of the effects of the new light rail system on the University of Minnesota research facilities, especially the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance laboratories which are a sidewalk and some bushes away from the proposed line.

I've put up a truncated version of both editorials and a suggestion about this situation on the Periodic Table, Too, site:

Light Rail and the U, a Modest Proposal

Unfortunately, this situation looms as another public relations disaster for the U. From the Strib site comes the following scene-setter:


"I'm absolutely committed to dealing with the university's legitimate concerns. I've said, we will mitigate so that they can use existing equipment in existing locations, and if that mitigation does not work, we'll come up with corrective action. ...They want us to mitigate against some future uses. That's an open checkbook."

Peter Bell, Metropolitan Council chair


"We don't have room to compromise, and we won't compromise the research of the university. They have yet to prove to us that what they are proposing will work."

Kathleen O'Brien, vice president for university services

This exchange is eerily like the ones that occurred during the original siting struggle. We know how this shook out. The U administration needs to learn how to put its case in terms that a layperson can understand. This "my way or the highway" attitude is not selling very well and makes the U continue to look bad to the public.

It is time to face reality: The siting is on Washington Avenue.

How are we going to work together to solve the resultant problems?

Making claims that what the Met Council is proposing "won't work" won't cut it.

The U needs to come up with some hard numbers for the amount of money that it thinks is necessary for mitigation. Claiming that the Met Council's proposed solutions won't work based on University paid consultants is not very convincing to the man in the street.

Motherhood, apple pie, and the public good are not in the same category as research - at least in the eyes of Minnesota citizens.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Minnesota's 1993 physician payment disclosure law (the first in the nation) was an awful mistake, at least according to one Minnesota doctor.

Dr. Dan Carlat has a piece up about the recent ACRE meeting. (Association of Clinical Researchers and Educators). As Dr. Carlat puts it:

Why is ACRE so very ripe for satire? Because it consists of rich doctors complaining that they want more money from drug companies, and such an organization lacks any inherent credibility, and seems, frankly, absurd.
Some wags have suggested that the acronym stands for Academics Craving Re-imbursement for Everything. Others have suggested that the forum be renamed: Forum for University Corporate Kickbacks in Education as Determined by University Professors.

Carlat's meeting report is hilarious and will hopefully be read by pharma defenders at the U of M medical school.

And one of our own comes in for special mention:

But the eeriest presentation came from one J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, an endocrinologist who was flown out on the ACRE-jet from Minnesota. His job was to convince everybody that Minnesota’s 1993 physician payment disclosure law (the first in the nation) was an awful mistake. His tactic, theoretically, was a good one. “The law has been terrible for patients,” he declared, speaking in the ominous tones of a doctor notifying you of grim laboratory results.

“Oh boy,” I thought, pen poised, “finally, some data on the effects of transparency laws on patient outcomes.”

But alas, Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy’s evidence base amounted to a single patient, a 73 year old man with severe diabetes.

“Do you know what drug he was on?” He asked incredulously. “The cheapest drug money will buy—Glyburide….When I asked my patient why he was on that drug, I was appalled by his answer. He told me that his PCP said it is the most cost-effective drug.”

It got worse: the patient had apparently been reading newspaper articles saying bad things about the newer diabetes drugs, like Avandia. The kicker was when he told Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy that “I’ve read that doctors are getting brain-washed by drug companies to prescribe these drugs.” Don’t you see what the Minnesota disclosure law has wrought? Patients getting prescribed generic medications. Patients reading the newspaper. Patients questioning the morals of their physicians.

“Please learn from our mistakes,” Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy, now impassioned, concluded. “Massachusetts should have asked us before they passed their law. They didn’t.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em?

(Or, cheap shots are expensive?)

Governor Pawlenty's current chief-of-staff has been hired by the University of Minnesota.

From the Pioneer Press:

The University of Minnesota said today that Matt Kramer, one of the mainstays of Pawlenty's administration, will take a corporate relations position starting Aug. 17.

Kramer, 47, has been with Pawlenty for all but a few months of the governor's time in office. He started out as the appointed head of the state's economic development agency and later served as leader of the now-defunct Department of Employee Relations. Between the two, he briefly took a private sector job. He was named chief of staff in late 2006.

Compared with some other chiefs, Kramer has kept a low profile. He seldom spoke with reporters and hardly ever traveled with his boss. He helped develop the JOBZ rural economic development program, one of Pawlenty's favorite initiatives and a target of criticism from Democrats.

One of the few times Kramer came to the fore was during the 2008 legislative session. He was accused of threatening retribution against a project in the House majority leader's northern Minnesota district because the legislator criticized Pawlenty's frequent travel.

The governor's office acknowledged Kramer told the lawmaker, Tony Sertich, D-Chisolm: "Cheap shots are cheap, but they're not free." But the office said the remark was made at Pawlenty's request and denied it was connected to a later veto of the project.

The university has been under a hiring "pause" that requires a management review when new people are brought aboard to fill vacant positions. Kramer's hiring was authorized by Vice President Karen Himle and approved by President Bob Bruininks to fill a job recently vacated by a retirement, said university spokesman Dan Wolter. [Another former Pawlenty staffer.]

He will make $145,000 a year, compared with a salary of $118,870 under Pawlenty.

A further amusing aspect of this hire is the tweet by Lori Sturdevant of the Star-Tribune:

sturdevant Pawlenty chief of staff Matt Kramer has landed well at the U, but has a big job thawing years of chill between U and some businesses.

I thought OurCEO had already taken care of this. Wasn't he just named CEO of the year for his activities in changing the business/university relationship? Let me see... From "Bob Bruininks: Executive of the Year"

"But Bruininks’ commitment to improving relations between the university and the business community mirrors his passion for connecting his school to its natural surroundings — and it’s helped earn him the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s nod for Executive of the Year 2009. Whether creating departments and offices that ease interaction between the university and business, hiring key people in high-level positions or improving academic standards to ensure graduates are ready to lead the Twin Cities into the future, Bruininks has earned the business community’s respect."

So let's see, Lori Sturdevant seems to think that there are still some problems between the business community and the U and the MSP Business Journal chooses him as Executive of the year because he has earned the business community's respect.

Someone must be mistaken.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From the Department of

Really Inconsiderate Behavior

By a University Administrator

We have, from MPR:

St. Paul, Minn. — The trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System today gave MnSCU's leader a bonus of more than $30,000, even as they approved a new budget that raises tuition and eliminates more than 500 positions.

The trustees praised MnSCU Chancellor James McCormick for his leadership during tough economic times.

The board kept McCormick's base salary at $360,000, but it approved a one-time bonus of $32,500 based on his performance as chancellor in 2008-2009.

Nearly all MnSCU employees have had their salaries frozen this year.

This is outrageous. I guess he could plead, as has OurCEO in the past, that the board made him take the raise. After all he did such a fabulous job whacking those 500 positions. How do these people sleep at night?

And so it goes in the wild and wacky world of higher education administration in Minnesota...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Picture of the Day

(Not a good day to be an Oscar Mayer wiener...)

Friday, July 10, 2009

More on Emory Situation

From Dr. Dan Carlat:

In support of Dr. Doug Bremner, blogger supreme and Professor of Psychiatry and Radiology at Emory Medical School, I hereby proclaim my own academic affiliation--namely, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Recently, Emory University forced Dr. Bremner to remove its name from his blog because they didn't like things that he had to say. This has resulted in two things: First, Dr. Bremner's blog quadrupled in popularity, and second, Emory is in the midst of yet another PR fiasco. See
yesterday's article in Emory's online newsletter Academic Exchange for a good rundown of this issue.

Here's my modest proposal. Between its poor handling of the
Charles Nemeroff scandal and now its fumbling over Bremner, Emory should relinquish the use of its own name on any of its official academic material.

Sarah Goodwin, who is unenviably employed as Emory's director of media relations, made the best argument for Emory giving up its name, although she was referring to Bremner in her comments. To satirically adapt her statement for the issue at hand, "Emory has been bungling high profile issues for some period of time," and “if you read Emory's pronouncements over a long period of time, you can see comments it makes that may be of concern."

The university would still be allowed to function, to educate, and to bungle, but it simply would no longer be allowed to print the name "Emory" on its buildings or stationery. Perhaps, like Bremner's blog, the school will see a quadrupling of its enrollment.

In support of Dr. Doug Bremner, blogger supreme and Professor of Psychiatry and Radiology at Emory Medical School, I hereby proclaim my own academic affiliation--namely:

William B. Gleason, University of Minnesota
Associate Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology
Fellow, University of Minnesota Supercomputer Institute

(Having said that, I don't believe for the purposes of this blog that my affiliation is particularly important. My professional affiliation gives no special weight to what I have to say, so I really have not made a point to mention it. It is not too difficult to figure out who writes this blog and it is no secret at the U of M. People like Doug, our own PZ Myers, and Dan Carlat are what makes universities unique and valuable institutions.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

University of Minnesota Daily Calls for More Student Input On Financial Decisions

Who pays the piper, calls the tune?

[Not if the Morrill Hall folks can help it.]

From the Daily:

"The “competitively” compensated budget crafters do a disservice to all by implying that University finances are a complicated dominion reserved to an elite fiscal technocracy."

But to pretend that this elite fiscal technocracy really understands these finances is also a mistake. They haven't done all that well this last year. Suggesting in December that we should ask for substantially more money from the legislature - when the economy was already clearly in the tank - was a very bad move and made us look foolish, arrogant, and irresponsible.

Having said that, I am pretty sure that even if students had input - and hopefully they will - there will be a lot of disagreement among them about what our priorities ought to be. But a wide discussion of priorities within our means IS called for. This should include students, faculty, and staff as well as our administration.

Earlier this year in the Daily I made a suggestion for just such a conversation to happen:

A call for a campus-wide discussion

President Bruininks, Provost Sullivan: How about it?

I ask that you respond with a column on the “top three” goal and that we continue a public dialogue throughout this academic year so that communication about important issues does not continue to be a monologue. Other important topics loom, including ethical behavior, UMore Park, relations with coordinate campuses and the land grant mission, but the place to start discussion is the “top three” goal, because its pursuit precludes the solution of more important current problems.

Needless to say this suggestion was ignored. Provost Sullivan likes to talk about conversations, he just doesn't seem to want to actually engage in them. Earlier in his career, he actually began - and then dropped like a hot potato - a blog entitled:

Conversations With the Provost

I even posted some questions on his blog before the plug got pulled..

And so, as Vonnegut used to say, it goes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New University of Minnesota Regent
Asks the Right Questions

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Regent Hunter on Alcohol Policy in Gopher Stadium

Regent Hunter asks us to keep our priorities in mind. Remarks that the old Memorial Stadium, fondly remembered by some of us, was dry.

We have far more important things to worry about right now than shaking sabers at our State legislators, some of whom are strong supporters of the U.

Summer in Minnesota - It doesn't get any better than this!

(From the Strib)

Morgan Blood of Nowthen, Minn., caught this 23½-inch walleye -- her first ever -- on a lake near Walker.