February 14, 2001

SAFS Response to Provost Doug Owram

Professor Doug Owram
Vice-President (Academic) and Provost
Office of the Provost
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
T6G 2E1

Dear Professor Owram:

Thank you for your letter of January 25. Its three main contentions were transmitted to Professor Pagliaro for comment, and we are now in receipt of his replies.

In our judgment, your first contention that the University of Alberta did not attempt to silence Dr. Pagliaro does not square with the facts as widely reported in the public press and never expressly denied (in fact, confirmed) by the University. We quote from the Edmonton Journal (page B7) of March 23, 2000: "Sandra Halme, university media-relations manager, confirmed Wednesday that Louis Pagliaro has been asked to stop giving interviews. ‘Yes, this is what we asked, until we are able to find out more about the situation.’ But Pagliaro is ignoring the request."

Had the University merely asked Professor Pagliaro, as you state in your letter to me, "in the name of scholarship integrity, to be clear with the media as to whether he is offering opinion or presenting the results of replicable research," there would be no objection. Perhaps what you have described in your January 25 letter is the course of action that the university now recognizes as appropriate in the circumstances. We concur. It appears, however, that an attempt was made in the first instance to prevent Professor Pagliaro from expressing his views in media interviews at all. We regard this with the utmost seriousness.

On the second and third points, it is of no great consequence, in our opinion, whether the University has charged Professor Pagliaro with research conduct violations and instituted formal disciplinary proceedings, or whether it is investigating a complaint.

The appointment of Professor Dixon to conduct an investigation, the partial rejection of his initial findings exculpating Professor Pagliaro, and the initiation of a further inquiry lasting several months by the same investigator appear to be both extraordinary measures under the circumstances and an abuse of process that is apt to have a severely chilling effect on campus free speech.

Under the circumstances, the suggestion that Professor Dixon has only been asked to fill a lacuna in his initial report does not ring true. Professor Dixon was quite clear in his initial report: "I am inclined to believe that in his interactions with the media, Dr. Pagliaro was reasonably forthcoming about the (informal and anecdotal) basis of his conclusions and intended to convey a distinction between his evidence and the kind of evidence that would be obtained from a research project. As a consequence, I think that it would be difficult to maintain that Dr. Pagliaro intentionally and dishonestly described his conclusions as based on scientific research ... Consequently, given that Dr. Pagliaro’s communications did not pertain to research and research results, I do not believe that they can be construed as inconsistent with GFC96, and there would be no basis for the specific complaint as outlined in Dr. Smith’s memo."

On the strength of the evidence now before us, we shall issue a news release dealing with the due process and academic freedom aspects of this case as soon as possible after the contents of Dr. Dixon’s impending report become known, when we expect the matter to be once again before the general public and the Canadian university community. It is not our intention to comment on the substance of Professor Pagliaro’s public statements. While the latter raise important issues for discussion and debate in the wider university community, our concern is solely with the University of Alberta's actions in attempting to prevent Professor Pagliaro from granting further media interviews and in investigating his activities in an excessively zealous manner.


Clive Seligman
President, and on behalf of the
Board of Directors

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