Dr Valenzuela punished for his research on organic and non-GMO farming
Academics and scientists at the University of Hawaii have united in condemnation of the mistreatment by university authorities of Prof Hector Valenzuela, a researcher in organic and non-GMO agriculture.
There’s more about the campaign to redress the wrongs suffered by Prof Valenzuela on the blog of Derek Bickerton, a retired professor of linguistics.
Derek is hoping to help kick-start similar actions in other universities where Agribiz companies have gained an unhealthy degree of influence and academics and scientists are persecuted for holding critical attitudes on GMOs and pesticides.
UHM faculty condemn academic freedom violations
The Hawaii Independent, 21 July 2015
The university's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources has restricted and violated one of its own professor's academic freedom, and a group of his professional colleagues are speaking out against his mistreatment.
Sixty faculty members at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have signed a letter sent to Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman, the vice-chancellor for academic affairs, and Maria Gallo, Dean of the university’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) asking that the university acknowledge the restrictions and violations of academic freedom imposed on CTAHR Professor Hector Valenzuela.
For years now, the college has been accepting money from agrochemical companies such as Monsanto while simultaneously advocating for a style of agriculture that is dependent on the products created by these companies, namely Genetically Modified Organisms that can withstand the use of the companies’ lucrative pesticides. Dr. Valenzuela’s field of expertise involves discovering ways in which crops can thrive in our climate without the use of the GMO-pesticide model of agriculture. The 20+ year CTAHR veteran spent six years in the early ‘90s developing the first long-term organic farming research project in Hawaii and the Pacific region. But around 1998, when Monsanto money began entering the equation, his research plot was shut down by the college. Over the next 15 years, Valenzuela tolerated what he calls a climate of “bigotry, retaliation and hostility” in retaliation for his failure to tow the dominant CTAHR line (documented in Paul Koberstein’s article “The Silencing of Hector Valenzuela,” published here). The university denies his accusations.
Maria Gallo was the only one of the three addressees who has responded to the faculty letter so far (originally sent July 6). However, her response did not satisfy the undersigned professors that their two primary concerns (the violations of academic freedom and of freedom of speech, and deviations from CTAHR’s publicly stated mission, both of which came to light as a result of the Koberstein article) would be addressed. They elected to publicize their letter as a result and The Independent has obtained a copy for publishing:
To: Robert W. Bley-Vroman, Chancellor, UH Manoa
Reed W. Dasenbrock, Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Maria Gallo, Dean of CTAHR
From: Concerned Faculty Members of the University of Hawai‘i.
We, the undersigned faculty members of the University of Hawai‘i, request that the University publicly recognize the restrictions of academic rights and freedoms that have been imposed over the last two decades on Professor Hector Valenzuela of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), see that all those restrictions are fully rescinded, and ensure that future policies of CTAHR do not deviate from CTAHR’s stated mission in ways of which the aforesaid restrictions are merely symptomatic.
Professor Valenzuela came to CTAHR in 1991, and is currently a Vegetable Crops Extension Specialist, S5. The first restriction on his activities was the 1999 closure, for no valid reason, of a series of research projects in organic farming that Professor Valenzuela was carrying out at the University’s Waimānalo Experiment Station. Subsequently there followed a series of harassments that included bans on workshops and other events he had planned on neighbor islands, an activity involving outreach to the community that formed part of his duties as an extension specialist, as well as discrimination against him with regard to the use of university transport and phone services. In addition he received abusive e-mails and was verbally abused by both colleagues and administrators.
The ostensible justification for such measures was that Professor Valenzuela was “criticizing CTAHR faculty and programs with intellectually dishonest arguments and actively supporting the poisonous activities of groups basically opposed to CTAHR, science and progress,” in the words of one CTAHR administrator. In fact, all that Professor Valenzuela was doing was providing farmers and other interested parties with information about organic farming methods and expressing his doubts about some of the methods employed in biotechnology. Far from his position being “opposed to science”, we can cite hundreds of scientific articles that are equally critical of various aspects of biotechnology. In other words, controversies involving biotechnology are not the single, simple conflict between pro-science/pro-biotechnology and anti-science/anti-biotechnology that CTAHR administrators have claimed, but a series of legitimate scientific arguments. Yet he was explicitly informed by his Head of Department that he could not discuss such issues in the course of his professional duties. To limit his right to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry in this way is a violation of the principles on which all universities are based, as well of the right to free discussion on which all non-totalitarian societies are based.
We are aware that some of the restrictions on Professor Valenzuela have since been rescinded, but the harassment and the denial of academic freedom continue. He has been told repeatedly by his Dean not to notify students at Mānoa and other UH campuses about meetings where biotechnology and/or pesticide use will be subjected to critical scrutiny. Insulting and abusive e-mails addressed to him have been distributed to other colleagues in breach of State privacy laws, a misdemeanor in Hawai‘i. We therefore call on the University to (a) condemn such activities on the part of CTAHR officials or any other University employees, (b) ensure that Professor Valenzuela’s right to free expression of his opinions in the performance of his duties as an extension specialist remains unabridged, so long as the content of his speech bears directly on topics involved in his subject area (the normal criterion in issues of academic freedom), and (c) that the plots on which he was carrying out his research projects be allotted him for the duration of his tenure in CTAHR.
[letter continues here http://hawaiiindependent.net/story/uhm-faculty-rally-condemn-academic-freedom-violations]