Saturday, December 3, 2016

"She initially was berated and belittled by university officials, including the president, Mark Yudof, and his staff and sycophants, who portrayed her (and her legal counsel, the late Jim Lord) as a lone wolf in the cheating scheme, and a traitorous ingrate for subsequently blowing the whistle and disclosing it."

Marshall Tanick remembers Jan Gangelhoff and and the U's notorious athletic cheating scandal.

The psychological torture of Minnesota prisoners

Another alarming investigation by Andy Mannix in the Star Tribune:

Anthony Nasseff lay awake for hours silent, staring at the metal slot on his prison cell door, waiting for his breakfast tray to appear. That signaled morning: the beginning of another day of tedium, despair and loneliness. Nasseff was a 20-year-old inmate at Minnesota’s Oak Park Heights prison when a disorderly conduct citation earned him an initially short stay in solitary confinement.

It lasted three years.

For at least 23 hours a day, walled off from all outside sounds, Nasseff was confined inside a 8 ½-by-11-foot cell. A single bed, concrete bench, shower and toilet left just enough space for him to do push-ups. A camera mounted on the ceiling watched him at all times. Unseen hands flushed the toilet and controlled the light.

Overwhelmed by constant solitude, Nasseff decided to end his life. First he tried to choke himself to death with a bedsheet. Later he attempted overdosing on over-the-counter pain medication. When that didn’t work, he stopped eating and drinking, hoping his body would stop functioning. He calculated five days would be long enough. But he broke down after three and accepted water.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kiwi Christmas

What's going on with research protection at the U?

First came the announcement that Brian Herman was stepping down as Vice-President for Research.. This seemed odd, and not just because Vice-Presidents don't usually step down abruptly in mid-semester. It's odd also because Herman has been the administrator in charge of reforming human subjects protection at the U -- an effort to which the administration has devoted millions of dollars as well as a concerted public relations campaign.

Now comes the announcement that the U is giving its researchers the option of having their industry-funded trials overseen by a for-profit IRB rather than going through the the University of Minnesota IRB. (The announcement says, "Effective January 1, 2017, investigators will have the opportunity to submit IRB applications for protocols initiated and funded by business and industry to Quorum Review IRB.) What do we make of that?

Now, the problems with for-profit IRBs are well-known. There is a financial conflict of interest built into the business model. A sponsor pays the IRB; the IRB decides if its study is ethical. Of course, it is possible that Quorum IRB will do a creditable job despite that conflict of interest. The U's own IRB has not exactly distinguished itself over the years. Yet it does seem unusual that the U is making this move after spending so much money on an IRB upgrade.

I am guessing we will hear more soon. Watch this space.