Duke decides Hellinga case. Or so it seems.

Search words Homme Hellinga Anil Potti Duke University

✔ Fact Checker here.

Well Mr. Brodhead can stop sending out e-mails blaming students for a sour public perception of Duke and calling for a "culture" shift among them.

Because secret decisions like this in the Hellinga saga undermine an institution more than a Tailgate party.

Precisely three years after questions arose in December 2007, we do not know what the charges were, we do not know if Hellinga faced them alone or if others in biochemistry were involved, we do not know who judged him. We do not know what procedural safeguards there were, nor what standard was applied.

It seems certain -- I guess -- that there is a conclusion, and it seems to be there was no "faculty misconduct" as narrowly defined. But we can infer something must be stirring from the words of the PR officer: "... the University has taken appropriate action to address any concerns identified.” Well at least FC infers, what is your interpretation of this Astucious statement?

As the Chronicle reports, even Hellinga's colleagues in biochemistry are in the dark. Imagine working with a guy down the hall, and not being comfortable with scientific collaboration because you simply do not know the facts. Not just a guy down the hall, but the department's James B. Duke Professor.

All this is hardly reassuring -- and even more troubling when you remember that Dr. Anil Potti -- even though he has resigned -- will face the precise kind of proceeding likely ending with the same kind of bewilderment.

As for culture shifts, allow me, please, to refer to a case of faculty misconduct at Harvard decided this past summer. This involved Michael Hauser, prominent in the field of human and animal cognition, with the road to judging him so bumpy that Dean of the Arts and Sciences Michael Smith announced a total review of "communication and confidentiality practices."

Today the PR e-mail to the Chronicle stated, “The details of this review, conducted under the University’s research misconduct policies and procedures, are confidential." Curiously, the federal law mandates that Hellinga himself cited to duck comment to the Chronicle were not relied on by Duke.

Just like at Harvard, our university's clandestine policies and procedures -- the administrative and faculty culture at Duke -- cry out for review.

Thank you for reading.