Public Health Scientist Sidelined by Industry Tactics
Academic Freedom Complaint Filed with University at Albany Senate
Washington, DC —One of America’s most prominent public health specialists should have his full faculty privileges restored and the university administrators responsible for his professional exile punished, according to an academic freedom complaint filed today with the University Senate of the University at Albany by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint was filed today on behalf of Dr. David Carpenter, a long tenured professor and the founding Dean of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, as well as the founder and Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment.
Since May 27, 2022, Dr. Carpenter has been forbidden from teaching and barred from coming on campus by university administrators on the grounds that he is the subject of an ongoing investigation. Dr. Carpenter’s longtime public interest work and testimony in many lawsuits aiming to impose restrictions on human exposure to harmful chemicals and to compensate the injured have drawn the ire of the chemical industry, especially Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, Inc., the principal manufacturer of toxic PCBs, the subject of many of Dr. Carpenter’s more than 400 peer-reviewed studies.
A law firm representing the chemical company has filed Freedom of Information Law requests with the University seeking details on grants awarded to Dr. Carpenter and his use of fees earned as an expert witness. Further, a motion for discovery into Dr. Carpenter’s qualifications as an expert in a pending PCB toxic tort case has been filed on the basis of the investigation the company’s lawyers instigated.
To date, however, no misconduct of any sort has been identified. In fact, for months university administrators would not reveal the nature of the investigation. Now university officials seek to have Dr. Carpenter’s future testimony screened for unidentified potential conflicts of interest.
“Dr. Carpenter is a public interest icon who dedicates all fees he receives for expert testimony to his graduate student program” stated PEER General Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting, as just one example, the pivotal role his testimony had in protecting teachers and students from exposure to toxic PCBs in schools. “From what we can tell, the University has folded like a cheap suit in response to industry pressure and does not know how to walk back the damage it has done.”
Beginning in December, the University allowed Dr. Carpenter to resume work on grants he has been awarded. In June, he was allowed to advise his PhD students provided he do so by email or from “an alternate work location” – his home. The university continues to deny Dr. Carpenter access to his office and files.
“This has been my most frustrating experience in more than 50 years of teaching,” remarked Dr. Carpenter. “I do not take corporate funding, which is one reason that I have been such an effective witness.”
The academic freedom complaint filed by PEER on Dr. Carpenter’s behalf with the University Senate of the University at Albany, a campus of the State University of New York (SUNY), seeks an investigative hearing and 1) immediate restoration of his teaching privileges and campus access; 2) formal censure of the university administrators; and 3) adoption of procedures requiring that subjects of university administrative investigations be informed of the nature of alleged misconduct at the outset, absent a public declaration that doing so would compromise the investigation.
“Like any SUNY faculty member, Dr. Carpenter has the right to testify in court based upon his expertise on his own time,” added PEER Litigation & Policy Attorney Colleen Teubner, a former Assistant District Attorney for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in New York, pointing out that Dr. Carpenter has more than fulfilled his teaching obligations. “We want to end the University’s mistreatment of Dr. Carpenter and ensure that no other member of the faculty is subjected to it.”