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Fired researcher fires back at Faculty Senate

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 6, 1998
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Jennifer Holmes
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Marguerite Kay defends her innocence at a Faculty Senate meeting. A former UA Alzhiemer's reseacher, Kay was fired after a UA committee found that her research was fabricated.

Dismissed UA researcher Marguerite Kay surprised the Faculty Senate yesterday with an unscheduled speech defending her research and attacking university administrators and the committee that called for her termination.

"I felt the truth needed to be out," Kay said in an interview after her talk. "I felt I had a responsibility to give accurate and correct information to my colleagues."

Kay's appearance came in the wake of University of Arizona President Peter Likins' speech last month to the Faculty Senate when he defended his decision to terminate Kay, an Alzheimer's researcher accused of falsifying data in her publications.

Kay said her appearance was not a response to the man who signed her walking papers.

"My being here today is obviously not a reaction to Likins," she said.

Likins was in Washington, D.C., yesterday and not available for comment.

Kay handed out copies of a document marked "confidential" - a resolution UA administrators asked her to sign before she was fired.

It states that Kay acknowledges "responsibility for scientific misconduct" and she regrets "important errors of judgment."

Kay refused to sign the document and Likins subsequently fired her.

She also produced a letter written in July to Likins accepting supervisory responsibility for the conduct of subordinates who may have included false data without her knowledge.

But Kay maintained in the letter that she would not admit personal guilt.

"I cannot in all honesty, and will not, accept culpability for something that has not occurred; i.e. scientific misconduct on my part," the letter states.

She told the Faculty Senate, which met for about two and a half hours yesterday at the College of Law, that the UA Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure based a portion of its investigation on tests that didn't accurately represent the broad scope of her work.

She said CAFT, which later recommended to Likins that she be terminated, focused on "cheap and simple screening tests," and not on the "expensive, direct visualization" that was also part of her Alzheimer's antibody research.

"However, as we got the same result by five different methods, I have confidence in the results," she said during her speech.

Kay and her supporters have maintained that she was denied due process during the university's investigations.

"They violated the applicable policies," Kay said after her appearance to the Senate. "The university handbook and Arizona Board of Regents policies were not followed."

But UA Provost Paul Sypherd defended CAFT, saying three faculty committees dealt with the Kay case and their judgments were appropriate.

"It was not an administrative issue," Sypherd said in an interview outside of the meeting. "The faculty spoke."

Sypherd also criticized Kay for questioning the honor of her former colleagues.

"I think it's a real stretch to impugn the integrity of so many hard-working faculty members," Sypherd said.

Faculty Chairman Jerrold Hogle said he believes Kay received due process.

"I watched the case like a hawk," Hogle said. "The two CAFT panels gave Dr. Kay due process and an ample hearing."

Hogle also said Kay's speech was an expected move.

"She's giving a defense to the Senate about what she felt really happened," he said. "The other side is that two CAFT panels unanimously felt that she committed scientific misconduct."

Carol Bernstein, a UA professor of microbiology and immunology, charged in an unscheduled speech to the Faculty Senate that during the CAFT investigation, Kay didn't have an opportunity to prepare an adequate defense.

"She never saw the written complaints against her though she repeatedly requested them," Bernstein said. "Perhaps more importantly, she never got a tenure hearing before being terminated with two days notice. This is in violation of ABOR (Arizona Board of Regents) policy."

But Sypherd said the public shouldn't expect any changes in the UA decision.

"The chair of the faculty said he followed due process very carefully and I'm taking his word for it," Sypherd said. "The president's actions are final."

David J. Cieslak can be reached via e-mail at David.J.Cieslak@wildcat.arizona.edu.