Higher Education News

Charles Darwin University may shed jobs

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:20pm
Staff have raised alarm at Australia's Charles Darwin University about proposed job cuts and the direction of the institution, which is restructuring to better orient itself towards the internatio ...
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University rolls out new 'ethical' AI programme

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:18pm
A team of professors from three different colleges at San Francisco State University in the United States have created a new graduate certificate programme in ethical artificial intelligence or AI ...
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Universities divided on no-smoking rules

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:16pm
With Japan's revised health promotion law, which includes enhanced measures against second-hand smoke, set to partially take effect at the beginning of July, universities across the country are di ...
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Mini-grids to power four universities

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:14pm
Four Nigerian universities are in the final stages of abandoning the country's main grid to be fully powered by mini-grids. Nigeria aims to use more mini-grid technology to power its people by tap ...
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University warned over survey that got 'too personal'

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:12pm
A private university received a warning from South Korea's human rights body over a mandatory survey that included highly personal questions, writes Choi Ji-won for The Korea Herald.

The ...
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Universities offer HIV treatment

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:10pm
A number of South African universities are rolling out critical antiretroviral therapy medication to students living with HIV. This means students don't have to travel far, spend money, miss class ...
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Doctors worked without pay at university hospitals

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:08pm
More than 2,000 doctors at 50 university hospitals in Japan were found to have worked without pay, with many lacking an employment contract or compensation insurance. This is according to the educ ...
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Strike threat over pay and pensions

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:06pm
The union representing tens of thousands of academics has warned that universities across the United Kingdom will be hit with a fresh wave of industrial action if a dispute over pay and pensions i ...
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Education Department repeals gainful employment regulations

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:02pm
The United States Department of Education on 28 June officially rescinded the Obama-era gainful employment regulations, which penalised some higher education programmes that graduated students wit ...
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Religious fundamentalism a growing problem - Survey

University World News - July 6, 2019 - 1:00pm
A recent survey shows religious teaching in Indonesian state universities could be amplifying fundamentalist tendencies among students, making them more accepting of extremist ideas, write Maria F ...
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Universities seen as key to dialogue with disaffected youth

University World News - July 5, 2019 - 5:01pm
Government officials have indicated that universities will be key to reaching out to Hong Kong's disaffected youth who turned out in huge numbers in recent protest marches against a proposed extra ...
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USC settles lawsuit with UC San Diego for $50 million

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 5, 2019 - 5:00pm

The University of Southern California has agreed to pay $50 million to the University of California, San Diego, to settle a highly unusual lawsuit over USC's hiring of a world-class Alzheimer’s researcher away from San Diego. The settlement is the latest in a string of embarrassing and costly missteps for USC.

UC San Diego filed the lawsuit in 2015 charging that USC and Alzheimer’s researcher Paul Aisen illegally agreed to attempt to take federal funding and research data from UC San Diego after Aisen accepted a lucrative position at USC. Aisen and UC San Diego disputed whether certain research grants were awarded to the university or to him. The original lawsuit also alleged that Aisen and USC attempted to take research data and employees with him in his move.

USC officials originally denied the allegations in 2015, saying they were “surprised and disappointed that the University of California, San Diego, elected to sue its departing faculty member and his team, as well as USC, rather than manage this transition collaboratively, as is the well-accepted custom and practice in academia.”

UCSD, in turn, said it was USC that had acted outside the bounds of normal practice, in which universities frequently woo researchers (and research teams) away from peers. Among other things, the lawsuit accused Aisen and USC of incorrectly telling UCSD employees that they might be out of a job if they didn’t follow him to USC, and of using some employees as “double agents” to try to get other employees and research funders to move with the project to USC.

On Tuesday, USC and UC San Diego both released statements saying the universities had reached a settlement in the case. Neither statement included details on the terms of the settlement, but an Inside Higher Ed open records request revealed USC agreed to pay the UC Board of Regents $50 million within 30 days.

"USC and Dr. Paul Aisen regret that the manner in which Dr. Aisen and members of the [Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study] staff left UC San Diego and brought research assets to USC created disruption to UC San Diego," USC's statement read. "These actions did not align with the standards of ethics and integrity which USC expects of all its faculty, administrators and staff.

“USC is committed to, and wants to be known for, ethics, integrity and the pursuit of academic excellence, and it has already implemented sweeping changes to this end. These standards will apply to all aspects of university operations, including the recruitment and/or transition of faculty members to or from USC. USC regrets that actions in this case fell short of these standards.”

Aisen led the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study, a UC San Diego-sponsored research program. According to court documents, UC San Diego accused USC of secretly bargaining with Aisen in order to transfer the program to USC. Aisen is alleged to have worked alongside other members of the ADCS program to force the transfer and to work as what UC San Diego's lawyers called "double agents."

According to this description of the case, Aisen and others engaged in activities such as inviting human resources staff members from USC to come to ADCS to help arrange the transfer of employees to USC.

Court documents claimed Aisen told potential sponsors of the research program that it would be moving to USC soon, after Aisen signed a deal that included a $100,000-per-year pay raise. Aisen resigned abruptly and refused to speak to his department chair about the transition and asked other employees to help him copy UC San Diego-owned data while claiming he owned it.

In 2015, a California court ordered the defendants to restore all data from the program to UC San Diego.

USC, as part of the settlement, cannot comment beyond the news release, which said USC and Aisen "acknowledge the outstanding work and the ongoing commitment and leadership of the researchers and administration at UC San Diego in the pursuit of cures for Alzheimer’s disease."

USC's Troubles Continue

While this controversy has been brewing for several years, the expensive and mortifying conclusion to it comes at a terrible time for USC.

The university has suffered a string of scandals in the last two years. It was one of several prominent institutions named as federal authorities announced indictments in an admissions scheme that allegedly allowed wealthy and privileged parents to buy their children’s way into college by taking advantage of athletic recruiting and by cheating on standardized tests.

USC has also been rocked by sexual assault allegations against a campus gynecologist and charges of drug use by its medical school’s now former dean, leading to the departure of its former president and questions about how the university is governed.

The dispute with UCSD revealed some of the same behaviors that USC has been accused of engaging in in some of the other recent scandals -- UCSD accused it of behaving unethically in pursuit of dollars and fame, part of a go-go environment of growth and prestige seeking.

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Rick Snyder, former Michigan governor, backs out of Harvard fellowship amid backlash

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 5, 2019 - 5:00pm

Rick Snyder, the Republican former governor of Michigan, told Harvard University he won’t be heading there for a fellowship after all. His announcement Wednesday follows days of vocal opposition to Snyder’s appointment to the Taubman Center for State and Local Government as a senior research fellow.

Snyder’s critics cited his response -- or lack thereof -- to the Flint, Mich., water crisis during his governorship, from 2011 to 2019.

"It would have been exciting to share my experiences, both positive and negative; our current political environment and its lack of civility makes this too disruptive," Snyder said on Twitter. "I wish them the best."

In an email to Harvard’s Kennedy School, Douglas Elmendorf, the school's dean, wrote that Snyder withdrew from his fall fellowship and that “we and he now believe that having him on campus would not enhance education here in the ways we intended.”

Flint’s population, “especially low-income black residents,” he said, has “suffered acutely because of their poisonous water supply and I have been deeply moved by the personal and thoughtful messages I have received from people in Flint.”

In 2017, Elmendorf made a similar announcement regarding the appointment of convicted Wikileaks source Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow to the Kennedy School. While Snyder backed out, however, Manning’s fellowship was rescinded. She was still invited to talk on campus, Elmendorf said at the time, but was not right for the perceived honorific of fellow.

Going forward, he said, “I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people.” (Manning at the time commented that being disinvited was a distinction in itself.)

Sean Spicer, a former Trump administration White House press secretary, also in 2017 faced opposition to his appointment as a fellow in the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. But Harvard never rescinded the job or title, and Spicer didn't back out. Corey Lewandowski, President Trump's former campaign manager, was a fellow there around the same time. Snyder's job as senior research fellow, which was to begin this week, would have been much more involved than spending a few days on campus as a visiting fellow, however.

Harvard isn't the only institution to name divisive fellows. The University of Virginia's Miller Center, for instance, named Marc Short a fellow when he was still serving as Trump's director of legislative affairs. Some of the loudest opposition to the 2018 appointment came from faculty members within the center, who said Short was still too close to a too-controversial presidency to be an effective colleague.

Short stepped down from the part-time Virginia job after six months, to work as Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff.

Harvard announced Snyder’s appointment last Friday. Jeffrey Liebman, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy and director of the Taubman Center, in an announcement touted Snyder’s "significant expertise in management, public policy and promoting civility."

Snyder said he looked forward “to sharing my experiences in helping take Michigan to national leadership in job creation, improved government performance and civility.”

The notice made no mention of Flint, and soon scholars were encouraging each other to write to Liebman in protest. They and other critics pointed out that a 2018 report co-written by professors at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health found that Snyder "bears significant legal responsibility" for the crisis "based on his supervisory role over state agencies." They also underscored the fact that Snyder’s phone was seized a month ago as part of an ongoing investigation into what happened in Flint. (Snyder has responded to related news reports as "sloppy and misleading," saying that he turned in his state phone and "all that stuff" to Michigan's attorney general before he left office.)

Tiffani Bell, who runs a nonprofit group called the Human Utility for water bill assistance in Michigan and served as a 2017 Technology and Democracy Fellow at the Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, also started a petition to rescind the appointment. “Flint residents were actually expected to pay water bills for water they couldn’t and shouldn’t drink,” the petition reads. “To add further insult to injury, Snyder allowed the state of Michigan to stop providing bottles of water free of charge to families dependent on Flint’s polluted water.”

Liebman did not respond to a request for comment at the time, but he wrote directly to some of his critics in emails that have been circulated online. This time, he acknowledged Flint and the need to study good and bad policy making.

“The abject failures of governance that caused such terrible harm to residents of Flint raise profound questions about public policy and administration, and especially about the interaction of racial justice and public-sector decision making,” he said in one email. He assured the reader that Snyder would face “hard questions” during his time on campus.

Now, of course, he won’t -- at least not at Harvard.

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Author discusses 'rape culture' and religious colleges in new book

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 5, 2019 - 5:00pm

Colleges and universities have ramped up their response to sexual assault in the past decade, largely after the Obama administration released guidance around the federal law barring sex discrimination, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Though advocates credited the 2011 Dear Colleague letter with giving survivors more protections, others criticized it for reducing due process protections for those accused.

And yet rape remains a major problem on campuses. In her new book, Rape Culture on Campus (Rowman & Littlefield), Meredith Minister, an assistant professor of religion at Shenandoah University, discusses how administrators' fixes around sexual violence -- specifically at religious institutions -- have failed to address the underlying culture that fuels these incidents. Minister answered questions about her book and "rape culture" via email. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: Why are aspects of rape culture so ingrained in colleges? How did this come about?

A: Rape culture is not unique to colleges and universities, but it does take unique shape on college and university campuses. College and university campuses are often supposed to be so-called ivory towers, separated from and sitting above society. But this is just isn’t the case. The social issues that are problems off campus are also problems on campus. Some of those problems may be exacerbated or mitigated because of the unique living conditions of students on and off campus, but they do not go away. Rape culture is a problem on campus because it is a problem off campus.

Q: Is rape culture more present on religious campuses? If so, why, and do they have an obligation to mitigate this?

A: While I wouldn’t necessarily say rape culture is more present on religious campuses, these different types of institutions do present unique challenges when responding to rape culture. One of the things I talk about in the book is the different narratives colleges and universities draw on in order to respond to sexual violence, and I offer three different types of responses institutions resort to, including 1) the narrative of isolating the problem of sexual violence on college campuses to athletics or fraternities, 2) the narrative of the college as family and, finally, 3) the narrative of a morally pure, righteous college campus that expunges guilt. These three types don’t reflect every story spun in the wake of the crisis of sexual violence but they do provide a starting point for thinking about how stories shape institutional responses to sexual violence. The third type is more available to religious institutions, and Baylor University is an example of an institution that drew on this narrative as board members used language of values, care and morality in order to defend their choices to expunge the guilty, including the head football coach and the university president.

One other point is that state schools and historically Protestant institutions are more likely than evangelical institutions to have campus resources to mitigate the harms of rape, including women’s centers, so access to resources to both prevent and respond to rape can be affected by religious commitments.

Q: Have the recent new draft regulations from the Education Department around Title IX done anything to improve the culture at colleges and universities?

A: In a word, no. For a longer answer, the new rules are supposed to protect the rights of all students in a supportive, fair manner, but many have argued that they will make it harder to report and, thus, make schools less safe. These varied responses suggest that rape has become a political pawn that obscures the realities of sexual violence on college campuses.

Rather than accept existing ways of thinking about responses to sexual violence (Obama-era guidelines versus Trump-era regulations), Rape Culture on Campus offers a framework for understanding rape on campus and then draws on that framework to suggest how campuses can work to prevent and respond to sexual violence no matter who controls the White House. Instead of understanding rape as an individual, isolated phenomenon (or a set of individual, isolated acts), I argue for understanding the problem of rape in the United States as a broad cultural phenomenon with religious roots. While the problem of sexual violence is particularly rooted in religious assumptions about purity, it is not limited to overtly religious contexts. We need to think about sexual violence as a cultural problem, instead of an individual problem, and then to use that cultural framing to rethink three binaries that undergird responses to sexual violence: consent versus rape, victims versus perpetrators, and punishment versus justice. The new guidelines rely on these binaries and, thus, fail to offer a solution that will change rape culture on college and university campuses.

Q: The public at times has been quite critical of trigger warnings -- what is your opinion of this concept?

A: When faculty use trigger warnings in a classroom, they are often trying to make classrooms more equitable spaces precisely because classrooms are neither protected nor comfortable. Trigger warnings do not make classrooms safe, in part because a space that is always safe for everyone is impossible. But trigger warnings often express a hope to tip the scales of privilege, ever so slightly, to make the classroom safer for those who have inhabited its margins. They offer an attempt to understand the collective nature of trauma and center it in the classroom, rather than individualizing trauma, pathologizing traumatized students and pushing trauma out of the classroom.

Trigger warnings need to be accompanied by much larger institutional shifts that recognize that the recent desegregation of education along race and gender lines has not come to fruition. As long as sexism and racism continue to exist on our campuses, trigger warnings will not make minoritized students safe, but they may function to center perspectives that may otherwise be marginalized in the classroom and to heighten awareness to perspectives that differ from privileged perspectives.

Q: What is the biggest deficiency in institutions addressing rape culture that you have identified?

A: Attempts to make a difference through one-time interventions for incoming students during orientation week are the biggest deficiency in institutional attempts to address rape culture. While there’s no quick fix for sexual violence on campuses, one-time interventions that occur, especially during orientation week, allow institutions to check compliance boxes and reveal how little administrators are willing to invest in addressing this problem. Part of me gets this. The problem appears insurmountable, and we have so few resources or models for a response that goes beyond these quick fixes, which now often include some form of consent education and/or bystander intervention. Consent may be “sexy,” as a recent advocacy campaign suggested, and there may be times where bystanders can intervene to mitigate harm. The assumption, however, that these interventions will solve the problem of sexual violence ignores the deep cultural roots of sexual violence and how it is tied into other forms of violence, including racial, class and religious violence, as well as violence rooted in ableism. Until we are willing to take up rape culture as a social and cultural problem, instead of just attempting to prevent or respond to individualized acts of sexual violence, rape will continue to be a problem on campus.

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New presidents or provosts: Aiken Alexandria Black River Danville Northwood Suffolk Teachers WVU

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 5, 2019 - 5:00pm
  • Martin Eggensperger, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas State University Mountain Home, has been appointed president of Black River Technical College, also in Arkansas.
  • Jacqueline M. Gill, president of Metropolitan Community College, in Missouri, has been selected as president of Danville Community College, in Virginia.
  • Kent MacDonald, president and vice chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia, has been named president and CEO of Northwood University, in Michigan.
  • Maryanne Reed, dean of Reed College of Media at West Virginia University, has been promoted to provost and vice president for academic affairs there.
  • Stephanie J. Rowley, associate vice president for research at the University of Michigan, has been named provost, dean of the college and vice president for academic affairs at Teachers College of Columbia University, in New York.
  • Julie H. Sandell, senior associate provost at Boston University, in Massachusetts, has been chosen as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Suffolk University, also in Massachusetts.
  • Michael Seymour, vice president of academic and student affairs at Lake Superior College, in Minnesota, has been selected as president of Alexandria Technical and Community College, also in Minnesota.
  • Daren Timmons, interim provost at the University of South Carolina Aiken, has been promoted to executive vice chancellor for academic affairs there.
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Proposed vision for HE revives foreign universities bill

University World News - July 4, 2019 - 11:32pm
An eminent group of experts commissioned by government to draft a five-year vision for higher education has revived the old idea to allow top foreign universities to set up branch campuses in Indi ...
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Graduate shock as wage level for loan payment is lowered

University World News - July 3, 2019 - 10:07pm
Tens of thousands of Australians who took out government loans to complete their university degrees will have to start paying them back from the beginning of July. Those already paying off loans w ...
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Honorary degrees for two presidents spark backlash

University World News - July 3, 2019 - 6:04pm
The University of Zambia (UNZA) last weekend awarded Zambian President Edgar Lungu and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa honorary doctorates in law for exceptional leadership and up ...
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How a rare plant could cost two professors their careers

Inside Higher Ed - News - July 3, 2019 - 5:00pm

Two professors at Miami University are suddenly at risk of losing their jobs over a plant that has been in their collection for over a decade.

A third, nontenured Miami employee says he was forced to resign over the iboga shrub, which can be used to make the psychoactive drug ibogaine.

Advocates for the faculty members say that the university’s response to an apparent oversight by their colleagues is heavy-handed and chilling to research of all kinds.

“These are not two professors smoking dope in the back,” said Daniel Hall, a professor of political science who served as the Hamilton campus dean when the massive plant collection, called the Conservatory, was founded with a $3.5 million gift in 2004. “They care deeply about the institution and are committed to students and the community … What’s happened just sickens me.”

What did happen? The professors, biologist Daniel Gladish and anthropologist John Cinnamon, declined interview requests. But public documents related to the case, along with colleagues’ and lawyers' accounts, provide insight.

Last year, Conservatory staff determined that their sole iboga plant -- native to West Africa and notoriously slow growing and finicky -- was dying. As is common with ailing plants, conservatory staff grew several seedlings, in hopes that at least one would survive and the rare specimen could be preserved. As is also common at the Conservatory, leftover seedlings -- in this case, four -- were offered to students in a discard area.

The story might have ended there. But a student who knew about the iboga plant’s unusual properties brought two of the discarded seedlings home. It would have taken her years to grow them into mature plants, if they survived. Still, the student allegedly told another university employee that she planned to get high off the iboga one day. That employee alerted the new campus dean, who alerted the authorities.

In late November, without notice, Drug Enforcement Agency agents visited the Conservatory and confiscated the iboga. But authorities did not press criminal charges against the professors.

Why not? Hard to say. It's clear, however, that the professors had no intention of using their dying plant to make the drug ibogaine, which in larger doses acts as a powerful psychedelic. Even if the professors wanted to make the drug, they may not have been able to do so. Ibogaine comes from iboga root bark. And while iboga bark is chewed for ritualistic purposes in parts of West Africa, processing the root into a drug is more complicated and may have required more bark than Miami possessed.

Instead, Gladish, the conservatory director, wanted the plant to add to the diversity of the collection. Cinnamon studies Gabon, where the plant is prized and plays a role in some religious ceremonies.

Brian Grubb, the conservatory's former manager who says he was forced out, said, "Never in the years I was there did anybody ever have any ulterior motives" regarding the plant. No one ever warned him about the iboga, in any way, he said. 

"It was purely scientific inquiry. We're a biology department for God's sake." The conservatory, which is open to the public, is affiliated with Miami's biology department.

Grubb is the main subject of a Miami campus police report, which says that the conservatory's iboga inventory was off and that a student was once fired for posting about the plant on social media. But Grubb said he misspoke that day, as he was thrown off guard by the sudden visit from authorities.

Eventually, the student who took the seedlings home was suspended, the professors’ supporters say. But Gladish was suspended and banned from campus in December, pending an investigation. He was later allowed to return to campus for certain purposes, but may still not interact with students.

This spring, he was informed that the university intended to terminate him over the iboga.

In the official termination notice, Provost Phyllis Callahan said that Gladish had violated federal laws against possession of a Schedule I narcotic and university policies enforcing a drug-free workplace. Callahan also said that Gladish had accepted the iboga seeds from Cinnamon upon his return from Gabon in 2004, which constituted a violation of a reporting requirement on colleagues' illegal activity.

Cinnamon, who is currently on medical leave, received a similar letter from Callahan, saying that he imported the iboga seeds illegally and “knew that such a tree was being grown” in the Conservatory. In the campus police report, Cinnamon is quoted as saying that he did not declare the seeds to U.S. officials upon returning from Gabon in 2004.

Gladish is currently appealing the move. He’ll have a chance to make his case before an advisory faculty body in the fall.

Cathy Wagner, a professor of English at Miami and president of the campus's American Association of University Professors advocacy chapter, said she hopes that the process plays out in Gladish’s favor. In the meantime, the AAUP has started a petition in support of the professors.

“We think that the discipline that’s been proposed -- termination of faculty -- is incredibly drastic,” Wagner said, noting that the AAUP promotes the idea of progressive discipline.

Academic freedom is also at play, Wagner said, in that “it seems there should be an opportunity to do research on these kinds of plants. There might be an issue with making sure they’re secured and that regulations are followed, but that kind of thing could be clarified and best practices made more consistent across different universities. That could be the positive result of all this." Faculty losing their jobs, "for working in their research areas," meanwhile, "seems like a really sad and unnecessary outcome.”

A spokesperson for the DEA said that all Schedule I drug-related research needs to be registered with and approved by the agency, in concert with the Food and Drug Administration. She declined comment on any specific case.

But possessing a single plant from which a drug could be derived is very different -- practically, if not legally -- from experimental research involving the drug itself. And professors at academic conservatories elsewhere who spoke on background said that norms vary as to whether it’s OK to a hold narcotic plants. Cannabis, coca and peyote plants are among those held in other collections, in part so that students who are studying fields such as ethnobotany can actually see what they’re learning about. University collections also contain some highly poisonous plants, and are managed accordingly.

Ernesto Sandoval, manager and curator of the Botanical Conservatory at the University of California, Davis, said some of these questions make for “a gray area.” In any case, he said, “I don’t think my university would fire me without saying, ‘Hey, can we talk about these plants?’”

Hall, the former dean at Miami, also said that if he were still the professors’ dean, he would have called them to understand what was going on before assuming the worst. He said that he worried the case would not only chill research at Miami, but also make it harder to recruit students and faculty members who may perceive the institution as “risk averse.”

“It puts innovation at risk,” he said, recalling how he and Gladish raised money for the Conservatory with the promise of making the most diverse plant collection possible.

Marc Mezibov, Gladish’s lawyer, said he had due process concerns. The university’s actions are “ham-handed and heavy-handed for no great reason,” he added. “It feels as if they don’t comport with legitimate institutional needs and reasons.”

Grubb said authorities destroyed the iboga -- and that that's a shame. "It's a rare and potentially endangered specimen. So let's say we would have had a rational discussion the day the DEA came. 'This is a national treasure in Gabon, can we get a permit to keep the plant now because we didn't know we needed one?' What would that have looked like?"

Claire Wagner, university spokesperson, said via email that the matter is "being handled following established university procedures -- part of an important obligation to treat all of our employees fairly. It is in process." She noted that the professors' tenure has not yet been revoked but otherwise declined additional comment, citing employees' "right to have the allegations heard in an impartial manner."

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