Arizona Daily Wildcat September 24, 1997
Professor accused of failing to provide safety for class trips
Students in Mammalogy 485/585 may risk exposure to the Hanta virus, rabies and other diseases due to a lack of safety precautions taken by their professor.
According to students, Professor Michael Nachman's class fails to provide proper safety measures for work with wild rodents and other animals that may be carriers of diseases such as the Hanta virus.
The students came in contact with the animals during four field trips over the course of this semester. All students are required to attend the field trips.
According to Nachman's syllabus no student is required to trap or handle the animals because of the presence of disease in some rodent populations, however participation as an observer is still expected of the students.
"Jeremy" and "Ron," who have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, claim Nachman has been violating course regulations outlined in his syllabus.
"He told a couple of students that they had to participate and that they had to go out and set traps," Jeremy said.
Ron is currently receiving a series of post rabies exposure shots from a bite incurred during a field trip with Nachman to the Southwest Research Station near Portal on Sept. 5 -7 and the following weekend. Three other students are also receiving the same treatment.
While the syllabus clearly outlines the course policy for handling the animals, there is a different impression given while on the field trip, Ron said.
"Nachman made students feel as though they had to participate in these risky behaviors, or they would not get a good grade," he said.
According to the students, Nachman trivialized the risk of diseases such as rabies by claiming he had been bitten by bats at least 100 times in the course of his years of research.
When asked about the accusations, Nachman said the policy was clearly written in the course syllabus.
"No student is required to set out any trap," Nachman said. "It is stated specifically on the syllabus that students are not required to trap or handle any animals if they do not wish to."
Jeremy and Ron both said precautions and risks were explained in their class previous to the field trip. However, according to the two, those same precautions were not exercised in the field.
Michael Fink, epidemiology specialist for the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued several recommendations for field studies such as Nachman's.
"When we go out (in the field) we wear a disposable hospital smock, a HEPA (high efficiency particular air filter) mask and rubber gloves," Fink said.
He also said his office supplies recommendations set forth by the disease control center to individuals such as Nachman.
Nachman said he follows the recommendations of the center as well as the health department.
Jeremy said many of the animals were handled bare-handed and often transported in an enclosed vehicle with humans. He said the problem students had was not clearly knowing which animals were virus carrying versus those that were not.
Nachman reiterated his policy of handling animals stated in the syllabus when asked about the transport of the animals in an enclosed vehicle. Nachman did not comment further on the issue and other issues raised by the students.
Jeremy and Ron said their reason for bringing this issue to light was to encourage Nachman "to clean up his act," so he no longer endangers students.
"I think sooner or later someone is going to get Hanta or rabies (with the apparent lack of safety precautions)," Jeremy said. "There is going to be an exposure."