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National group condemns firing of UA researcher

By Tate Williams
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 7, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

A nationwide academic rights organization yesterday urged UA President Peter Likins to reverse last summer's firing of microbiology and immunology professor Marguerite Kay.

In a letter addressed to Likins, the American Association of University Professors stated that UA policy was not correctly followed in Kay's July termination.

Likins fired Kay after a University of Arizona Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure found she had falsified data during her Alzheimer's research in 1996.

"Assuming the essential accuracy of what we have stated in this letter, we urge the University of Arizona administration to rescind the notice of dismissal it issued to Professor Kay," the letter stated, which was signed by B. Robert Kreiser, AAUP associate secretary.

The AAUP also requested information and comment from Likins because most of their data came from Kay, the letter stated.

While Kay has said that she was denied a proper hearing and legal representation, the association found that the UA did not "bear the burden" of proving her scientific misconduct - breaking an Arizona Board of Regents regulation.

"It's just one more thing on the road to getting the university to do what's right," Kay said, referring to the AAUP statement. "I would hope that it would encourage them to reinstate me."

Kay said the statement encouraged her and she was thankful that Kreiser read through all of the transcripts from the CAFT hearing.

In May, Arizona Superior Court Judge Stephen Villareal ruled that the UA took "capricious" action in firing Kay, but did not state that she was innocent of misconduct.

Likins said that an AAUP statement has no formal authority in university matters, and did not consider the statement to be significant.

"They have their right to say whatever they wish to say," he said. "They have no standing in the matter."

Although Likins had not seen the actual statement last night, or discussed it with university attorneys, he said the UA will probably not respond to the letter.

Likins said he will only reinstate Kay to her position if the courts instruct him to do so.

Kay's attorney, Don Awerkamp, was not available for comment yesterday, but Kay said he has not yet filed an appeal. She is currently awaiting a ruling from the Office of Research Integrity.

But Carol Bernstein, AAUP Arizona chapter president, said the letter is an important step.

Bernstein, who hand-delivered the complaint to the national office, said the organization receives about 1,000 requests for intervention every year. They only reply to about 10 of those cases.

She added that the next step for the AAUP would be a formal censure, which she said would mar the university's reputation.