Climate skeptic instructor fired from Oregon State University

Gordon Fulks sends this summary of the situation and asks that it be distributed. I’m happy to oblige. For some background on Dr. Drapela’s skeptical views, this slideshow “Global Warming Cracked Open” might give some insight into OSU’s booting him out.  – Anthony

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From Gordon Fulks:

Hello Everyone,

In theory at least Oregon State University (OSU) seems to be a bastion of academic freedom, diversity, and tolerance. A wide range of ideas are openly discussed. The most viable rise to the top and the least viable fade away. But it is all a fairy tale, because OSU operates under a politically correct regimen that dictates what is acceptable to say and what is not. Transgressors who dare to be different are eventually weeded out so that the campus maintains its ideological purity.

OSU is not yet as swift or efficient as the Soviet system when Joseph Stalin was trying to quash dissent among biologists who refused to go along with Trofim Lysenko. If warnings to compromise their integrity were not followed, Stalin simply had biologists shot. That quickly thinned the ranks of all biologists and persuaded the remaining ones to comply with Stalin’s wishes. Of course, it also destroyed Soviet biology, because Lysenko was pedaling nonsense. And Russian biology has never recovered.

We learned over the weekend that chemist Nickolas Drapela, PhD has been summarily fired from his position as a “Senior Instructor” in the Department of Chemistry. The department chairman Richard Carter told him that he was fired but would not provide any reason. Subsequent attempts to extract a reason from the OSU administration have been stonewalled. Drapela appears to have been highly competent and well-liked by his students. Some have even taken up the fight to have him reinstated.

What could possibly have provoked the OSU administration to take precipitous action against one of their academics who has been on their staff for ten years, just bought a house in Corvallis, and has four young children (one with severe medical problems)? Dr. Drapela is an outspoken critic of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming, the official religion of the State of Oregon, the Oregon Democratic Party, and Governor John Kitzhaber.

Five years ago, Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor went around quietly saying that he was not a believer. Then Governor Ted Kulongoski and many faculty at OSU including Dr. Jane Lubchenco made life impossible for Taylor, and he retired. (Lubchenco is now head of NOAA in the Obama administration.) Under those currently in charge, OSU climate research has grown to be a huge business, reportedly $90 million per year with no real deliverables beyond solid academic support for climate hysteria. A small army of researchers ponder the effects of Global Warming on all sorts of things from tube worms living along the Oregon Coast to butterflies inland. When the climate refuses to warm (as it has for the last twenty years), they just study ‘warming in reverse!’ Most of us call that “cooling,” but they are very careful not to upset their Obama administration contract monitors with politically incorrect terminology.

Skeptics of Global Warming who oppose the OSU approach and oppose the politicians who make it all possible but do not work for OSU also find themselves attacked. Dr. Art Robinson who is running against Peter DeFazio for an Oregon Congressional seat found three of his children under attack at OSU. All were attempting to obtain advanced degrees in the Nuclear Engineering Department and were threatened with dismissal. Because Robinson fought back, we understand that the OSU administration backed down.

As to the latest victim of political correctness at OSU, Dr. Nickolas Drapela gives us an excellent synopsis of what is going on:

The fact of the matter is that it is now two weeks since I was fired and no one has had the cajones or the common courtesy to even tell me why. I have spoken with the Dept. Chair (Rich Carter) who fired me, and he refused to tell me why. I spoke to the Dean of Science (Vince Remcho) and he couldn’t tell me why. I spoke to HR who set up a meeting with me, then cancelled it an hour before. Then I went to the Vice President of Academic Affairs (Becky Warner) and she sent me back to Rich Carter, the chemistry chair.

It’s just a sad, sad state of affairs that an institution like OSU would fire a good employee for (ostensibly) no reason and then run around and hide from the person they fired. I had stellar teaching evaluations, I won College of Science awards for teaching, and published textbooks. My class sections were always full and I was well-liked by students (see ratemyprofessors.com). I was doing my job very well. But I guess I didn’t march in step with their philosophies.

There were quite a few student protests over this at OSU (Barometer, Facebook, etc.) but to no avail.

I was given no severance and had no warning this was about to happen. In fact, I was lured into the chair’s office under the guise of a fallacious story before being fired.

As you know, I was probably the most visibly-outspoken critic of the Global Warming doctrine at OSU. I gave several public talks on the topic and did research in the area which I regularly posted on the web. I was also on a few talk radio shows in the area. I think they finally just said, we can’t have this.

Can it be that a university whose motto is “Open minds. Open doors” cannot abide even one faculty member who disagrees with their dogma? I suppose I am too naive, but I’m still reeling from it. Unbelievable.

I should say that they regularly read all my email communications, which is why I am writing from this private email address. That has been going on for quite some time now.

As far as my options at this point, like I said I haven’t even really grasped what has just happened. I don’t know what I’m going to do, or what options I have yet. I’m sure OSU wants their story to be tight and perfectly identical among all administration before coming out with an official reason why I was fired, hence the long wait and refusal to speak to me.

I truly thank you for your concern, and I hope there is some recourse, even just for the sake of exposing what is happening at OSU.

In a separate e-mail Drapela went on to say:

Thanks so much for your support and your concern. That’s really nice. My students were all really upset about it. They started an email writing campaign to have me re-hired but I guess no one cares what they think.

I find that the people who want to keep things secret all the time are usually the people that have something to hide. It is certainly ok by me for you to disseminate this story. But I’m sure OSU would be horrified.

I’m not sure how I will support my family at this point. We just bought a house in Corvallis. I have four kids, one of whom has a rare, blood disorder and requires regular trips to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital for treatment. Now we will be without health insurance.

We can only speculate as to how the decision to fire Drapela was made. Unlike the decision to force Taylor out (which came from the governor’s office), this decision was likely internal to OSU with the implicit backing of Governor Kitzhaber and NOAA administrator Lubchenco. I would suspect that Dr. Phil Mote (Director of their Climate Change Research Institute) had a hand in the decision, because he has previously been highly intolerant of those who oppose his ideas and could potentially threaten his business empire.

Please join with me in supporting Nick Drapela. Please join with me in supporting objective science, as well as academic freedom, diversity, and tolerance. The issues here go far beyond just Global Warming and strike at the very heart of who we are as scientists and Americans.

Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)

Corbett, Oregon USA

P.S. Please circulate this e-mail far and wide. The world needs to know what is going on here.

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Jaewonnie

Green is the new McCarthy…

ShrNfr

Vicious bunch aren’t they? Boy if that was a Heartland doing that to a AGW pumper, it would be splashed large across the NYT.

Very interesting that he should not be given a reason for dismissal. In the UK this simply would be impossible. Employment law demands that a written reason for dismissal is provided and it has to comply fully with strict laws of employment and termination. There would have to be strong disrepute or gross misconduct charges laid for there to be an instant dismissal. There would have to be a series of verbal warnings leading to formal written warnings and then dismissal if this was a long term issue between the parties.
It is impossible to dismiss someone now under the guise of “it’s just not working out” unless they are in a probationary period and even then you as the employer have to practically beg or pay them off to quit so there are no reprisals.
Even if you dismissed a person saying “we can’t afford to keep the position you hold so you have to leave” causes problems for the employer who then can’t offer that same position to another, different person for at least 2 years.
Just not being given a written notification of reasons for dismissal within 14 days ( I think, that may have changed) is grounds for a case of unfair dismissal and these are often won in favour of the employee.
The behaviour of this University baffles me. but then I’m not in the US.

The reference to Lysenko is more relevant than the writer probably appreciated. The behavioral sciences component of the National Science Foundation is asserting dominance over the natural sciences. You can see it in the UN reports involving education for sustainable development.
One has predictable outcomes and they wish it did not. The other is wanted as a tool to create predictable outcomes.
Anthony- I have this story and was going to break it later in the week as the Rio+20 meetings started up. We can coordinate and go ahead and get this out there. It came from following education but it is first and foremost about using climate change. It is not a minor story and like most things significant, was sitting on servers in another country.
I am not surprised this is a touchy time at OSU. Let’s not forget that charming regional ed lab out there.

beesaman

I am convinced that the present university system is going to come crashing down as let’s face it the majority of its research has zero impact in the real world, though some people might think that is a good thing! There is no academic freedom, just dogma from a small tenured elite…

The Office of the Inquisition of the Doctrine of the Faith’s got nothin’ on these guys. No public stake burning on the university quad?

Myrrh

Don’t you have unfair dismissal law in America?
Isn’t this slander/libel?

Amr Marzouk

This is scary! Really.

Latitude

….it’s a religion of peace

John Whitman

From a deeply philosophical viewpoint I had always held that the existence of evil was just a mythical product of the irrational faith in supernatural forces. I thought that bad is just bad on a person by person basis . . . . no reason to consider an over-arching evil.
The OSU behavior makes me question my previous viewpoint about the existence of evil. Is this the behavior of rational people in 21st century USA? Oregon, you should be ashamed.
John

If the cause really is a difference in ideology, (and all the evidence suggests it is) this is disgraceful…..how can they sleep in their beds?

EW-3

Time for a wrongfull termination law suit.

JonasM

For our non-US friends:
I don’t know about Oregon, but many states in the USA are what is called ‘at will’ work states (such as my home state of Ohio). This means that employment is considered to be voluntary by both parties. One can be dismissed from a job (unless you are a protected minority) for pretty much anything, including picking the wrong luncheon meats for your packed lunch, just as the employee has the right to terminate employment for any reason. The benefits of this arrangemt include the inability of an employer to enforce any non-compete clause, such as when an employee leaves to work for a competitor.
Different states vary in these laws, and adding in a state-funded institution undoubtedly complicates the situation, but termination without cause is often quite legal (again, unless you are a legally protected minority).

ferdberple

zootcadillac says:
June 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm
Very interesting that he should not be given a reason for dismissal. In the UK this simply would be impossible.
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While not impossible, firing without notice in Canada it would certainly be grounds for an unfair dismissal charge and could result in court ordered re-in-statement. Depending on whether the company was provincially or federally regulated, the government will provide you with a civil servant to bring charges against the company.

markx

THIS is the “Land of the Free”?
No dissenting opinions allowed?
and…
No reason given, no severance pay?

ferdberple

Not surprising that 97% of climate scientists believe in global warming. They believe 100% that they will get fired otherwise.

theduke

Anthony: it appears to me that several paragraphs of Dr. Drapela’s two email statements are not in italics when they should be.

crosspatch

Maybe Hillsdale College in Michigan needs a Chemistry professor? They do have a chemistry program and they take exactly $0 per year in government money so they can remain independent.

pa32r

Sorry, no sale. In this litigious day and age no one with the slightest level of sophistication fires someone with no cause and with out making that cause known to the person fired (as an employer of 350 people, I know from painful personal experience). It’s a great way to rally the troops but I’m calling BS here.

“Don’t you have unfair dismissal law in America?”

IANAL
Yes. But as a white male I was not in a protected class……
I was fired for being too old (my summary of the state and the federal EOCs findings) but they were unwilling to pursue the matter in the courts and I could not afford to.
If you are a white male it doesn’t much matter what the law says–the buy offs are treated as a cost of doing business.

Paul Penrose

If that were my state, I would be rattling the cages of the Board of Regents for an answer. If I was an alumni I would be deeply ashamed of my college.

vigilantfish

I’m desperately sorry for Nick Drapela and his family – and having four children myself, I can only imagine the anxiety Nick and his wife are experiencing. Under the code of academic freedom supposedly at the heart of university intellectual life this should have been impossible. His treatment exemplifies the reason so many of us post comments anonymously. I’m not under immediate threat, fortunately, being a historian, but the hint of skepticism that I revealed in a past grant application certainly did not help my career. The group-think intolerance of the believers and political activists is a massive threat to the careers of skeptical scientists.
Is there any way we can help? (Aside from voting Obama out of office to purge this corrupt administration…)

Richard M

ferd berple at June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm makes a good point. This could turn into another own goal. Skeptics need to use this event to destroy the 97% claim. Yes, we know it’s manufactured, but most people don’t. With this item it can be easily argued that no climate scientists would dare come out with anything other than support.

just some guy

Here’s that “97%” talking point, exposed for what it is…..
97% of climate scientists will lose thier job if they don’t believe in global warming.

ggoodknight

This is what a consensus looks like.
Academic and political freedoms look entirely different.

John Whitman

ferd berple says:
June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm
Not surprising that 97% of climate scientists believe in global warming. They believe 100% that they will get fired otherwise.
– – – – – –
ferd berple,
Good.
When fear of unemployment, as a guarantee of so-called ‘objectivity’ in conformance with the ‘so-called’ CAGW consensus, is an Oregon university’s tactic wrt skeptics then science in the USA in Oregon is dead.
John

Lou S

File an action under the FIRST AMENDMENT.

“If that were my state, I would be rattling the cages of the Board of Regents for an answer. If I was an alumni I would be deeply ashamed of my college.”

All of which (with $25.00) will get you your choice of a used beany in the school colors or a one week subscription to The Daily Barometer.

John M

Assuming that freedom of expression is still a “constitutional provision” within the state of Oregon, I suspect OSU will have to budget for some legal fees.

Along with legal actions for breach of contract and violation of statute, a fired employee may have a wrongful discharge claim. Even though Oregon generally recognizes the at-will employment rule, certain discharges are considered by the courts to be wrongful. For example, it is wrongful to discharge an employee for complying with a public duty, such as jury duty. Oregon courts have found it wrongful to discharge an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim, for resisting on-the-job sexual harassment, or for refusing to sign a statement attacking the character of another employee. The general rule is: it is wrongful to discharge an employee for fulfilling a societal obligation or asserting rights directly related to his or her role as an employee that are guaranteed by contract, statute, constitutional provision or a public policy.

http://www.osbar.org/public/legalinfo/1100_RightsLoseJob.htm

markx

Richard M says:June 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm
“…ferd berple at June 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm makes a good point. This could turn into another own goal. Skeptics need to use this event to destroy the 97% claim…”
Richard, Ferd and others in here are very correct.
This should be used as a very fine example of how the “97% consensus” is achieved.

mfo

As an aside-What I have seen in other states involves what are effectively gag rules for not violating the terms of what is being pushed under an NSF grant to research universities. The Principal Investigator if they have sufficient pull will go to Bd of Regents and get a policy in place the promotions, salaries, etc are tied to a certain policy. You don’t have to push it but it is designed that the only people who can go against are in the last position they want with tenure. Otherwise those who oppose are to be quiet.
I have seen it where colleges of ed are receiving grants for pushing certain practices, policies, and curricula in K-12. And other state university systems lusting over having such an overt means of control.
Education and climate change are too tied as effective tools for Oregon not to be thinking like this.

jim carroll

can we contribute to help with medical and legal?where do we send our money?

The relevant section of the OSU Faculty Handbook is here: http://oregonstate.edu/admin/aa/faculty-handbook-academic-freedom-and-faculty-appointments
It should be pointed out that Dr. Drapela was not exactly “fired”, although in many respects it looks like that; rather he was not reappointed. OSU apparently offers contracts for a year at a time, so-called “fixed-term” contracts, and the handbook doesn’t seem much concerned with “timely notice of non-reappointment” for such faculty. A law-suit for wrongful termination probably wouldn’t go far because he was not terminated.
There is an AAUP chapter at OSU, but my guess is that they are not willing to rock the boat.
These really are a bunch of cold, cold, cold b******s, aren’t they?

John M

Well, here’s his problem.
http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=130822&page=1
Can’t have teaching excellence, now can we.
Note that his lowest score is for “easiness”, so it’s not just that he is chums with his students. And there were 122 responses!
Of course, we know from the Penn State “inquiry” that it’s attracting grant money that is the true test of a University professor’s worthiness.

Mark Hladik

Not sure what the Oregon law is, but even an at-will state like Wyoming (my home) still recognizes ‘academic tenure’. Unless Dr. Drapela was advised that he remained an “at-will” employee once past the customary probationary period (usually three years for full-time faculty), he is automatically ‘tenured’, and cannot be dismissed without some justifiable cause, due process, and significant documentation.
Absent any or all of the above, I say a full-court press (pun intended) is in order, and OSU should be made to pay substantial actual and punitive damages.
I will Dr. Drapela well, and I hope Nicole Mitchell (formerly of the Wx Channel) is EQUALLY successful in her suit against her former employer ( cf icecap.us ) .
Regards,
Mark H.

D. Cohen

Look, you really ought to think twice before setting up laws that make it difficult to fire unwanted employees. In Japan twenty years ago it used to be — and perhaps still is — practically unheard of for white-collar employees to be fired. Then came the great Japanese crash, and lots of companies had to downsize. The story back then was when an employee didn’t leave voluntarily, management would put him deep in a sub-basement office, give him nothing to do, and gradually turn down the lights. Presumably as darkness crept in toward his paperless and computerless desk, the employee would eventually give in and “voluntarily” leave.
If the people you work for don’t want you around, it is bad for both them and you to force the association to continue. Bad for them because their character becomes degraded as they treat you unfairly, and bad for you because you not only end up accepting their unfair treatment — degrading your character also — but also waste finite working years sitting alone in the dark (only metaphorically, I hope) in return for a paycheck.
If you stumble across something illegal at work and want to spend the time needed to bring criminals to justice, by all means go ahead and make the effort, cooperating with whatever government or private agencies seem appropriate. What happened at OSU, however, doesn’t sound criminal — just unethical and hypocritical, and there’s a lot of that everywhere — though usually not so obvious to outsiders. The Dilbert comic strip should be your guide as you search for your next job (all too often the attitudes presented there are not at all exaggerated but rather the stone cold truth about how large organizations work.)

D. Cohen,
Despite all that, he is still entitled to a reason, whouldn’t you say?
It’s not like he was given warnings, or got bad performance reviews. Please stop being an apologist for what was done, and the way it was done. Put yourself in his place.

theduke

Here’s Nick Drapela’s web page.
http://chemistry.oregonstate.edu/~drapelan/drapela.htm
There is a section on climate change that does not appear to have been updated since 2009. It’s not contentious, but it is opinionated.
I suspect he was fired for venturing outside his field of expertise and publicizing his views. If that is the case, OSU is in trouble. This could turn into a cause celebre unless there is something we are not being told that is a genuine cause for firing. If his firing was based on ideological differences with a majority of the science faculty on the subject of climate change, then he has been unfairly terminated and Oregon State is guilty of violating the conventions of academic freedom

Marian

“EW-3 says:
June 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm
Time for a wrongfull termination law suit.”
Now wouldn’t that be funny. He wins his dismissal case. And bankrupts the OSU. 🙂

RoyFOMR

A personal tragedy for Dr Drapela, that’s for sure but, until and unless this is brought out transparently, a huge question mark about American democracy and sense of fair play.
I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Jay Davis

Just another story to forward to my Congressman and Speaker Boehner. More potential savings in the federal budget by defunding Oregon State.

Mr. Paul Milligan.

hmmmmm….I wonder if anyone here knows how to use the freedom of information act to access information from Universities…if the reason for Dr. Drapela’s dismissal WERE related to his views on AGW, we have the opportunity to catch them red handed.

Tim Minchin

Can’t he sue for wrongful termination ?

SteveSadlov

Well, by my reckoning, OSU is squarely within the unofficial “nation” of Ecotopia. Being that’s the case, and being that Vera Alwen (sp?) set up a nearly perfect Allendeian People’s Republic, it stands to reason that Capitalist Gaia Hating Pigs need to be silenced and reeducated. To the camp! /sarc

Gary Hladik

John Whitman says (June 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm): “Is this the behavior of rational people in 21st century USA?”
Unfortunately, yes. As long as there are big bucks in climate alarmism, it’s rational from a financial point of view to maintain the illusion of a “consensus” and purge the dissidents, especially since OSU will likely pay no penalty for doing so. It’s also rational for a capitalist to make money, when the opportunity arises, by accepting a taxpayer handout to start a business of dubious viability.
In fact, as long as we as voters let politicians spend our money and tell us how to live our lives, it’s perfectly rational for parasites such as the OSU Climate Change Research Institute, Solyndra, and Peggy the Moocher to demand more and more from those in our society who actually produce something.
http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2008/11/05/peggy_the_moocher/page/full/

theduke

IF you google “Nickolas Drapela global warming” you will find a power point presentation he did in March of 2008 (“Global Warming is a Lie”) that is fairly tendentious. I’m guessing his problems with the science faculty began around then.

Mike

The problem here is that universities are relying more and more on non-tenure track faculty. They are very vulnerable. I do not know if this man’s views on global warming were a factor, but even the fact that this is a question has a chilling effect.
Four non-tenure track faculty were fired from my dept. last year. They got their jobs back through union grievances. I certainly wish Dr. Drapela and his family all the best in either getting his job back or finding a suitable position elsewhere.
[Moderator’s Note: Good wishes are noted, Mike, but there is still the matter of that invalid e-mail address. Please be kind enough to rectify the situation. -REP]

vigilantfish

Robert E. Phelan says:
June 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm
It should be pointed out that Dr. Drapela was not exactly “fired”, although in many respects it looks like that; rather he was not reappointed. OSU apparently offers contracts for a year at a time, so-called “fixed-term” contracts, and the handbook doesn’t seem much concerned with “timely notice of non-reappointment” for such faculty. A law-suit for wrongful termination probably wouldn’t go far because he was not terminated.
There is an AAUP chapter at OSU, but my guess is that they are not willing to rock the boat.
These really are a bunch of cold, cold, cold b******s, aren’t they?
————————–
Sadly, I fear you are correct (and I completely agree with your sentiment). In my experience (and I spent many years as a contract faculty member) the union is reluctant to rock the boat on such issues, and once the contract is completed the union has no interest in the instructor as he or she no longer technically belongs to the union. At my university we do have seniority rules for faculty in the continuing education (night, spring and summer teaching) division, and the union is assiduous about having hirings adhere to seniority rules. However, there do not seem to be any such safe-guards for sessional instructors in the regular term, and I’ve seen some nasty politics happen.

Ask Judith Curry to say something in defense of this thought police victim.
And listen to deafening silence…