Editorial: Likins should rehire fired researcher
Since July of 1998, faculty and administrators at the University of Arizona have remained divided over the firing of Alzheimer's researcher Marguerite Kay.
Some, like UA President Peter Likins, have sided with a Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which insists that Kay falsified and manipulated data in her research. In response to CAFT's findings, Likins terminated Kay last July, and refused to pay her last two weeks' salary.
But a top administrator and several key faculty members recently called on Likins to temporarily rehire Kay until an Arizona Superior Court judge finishes his overview of the case and more investigations are completed.
In May, Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal said in a summary judgment that the UA took "arbitrary and capricious" measures in Kay's dismissal. He added that the UA "ignored its own rules and regulations to dismiss (Kay) from her tenured position."
Villarreal also found that after CAFT recommended Kay's firing, the UA should have referred the matter to the Conciliation Committee.
In addition to Villarreal's conclusions, faculty senators and Jerrold Hogle, their chairman, recently came out in support of Kay's temporary rehiring.
Hogle, who generally agrees with Likins and praises him for every decision, passed a resolution with the UA Committee of Eleven last month calling on the president to reinstate Kay.
"I don't think the president's hands are tied," Hogle told the Faculty Senate last week. "I think since the process is not finished, the sanction should not be enforced."
Furthermore, John Marchalonis, head of Kay's old stomping grounds, the UA Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has always vocally supported Kay and continued to denounce the termination last week.
"Why is it so hard to do the right thing?" he asked Likins in front of the Faculty Senate.
And we must ask the same question -Øwhy hasn't Likins done the right thing?
Granted, Kay may have doctored her research. She may be the lying, cheating, sloppy researcher that some UA officials have made her out to be.
Then again, she may have done nothing wrong.
If she's innocent of the charges, not only will the UA have egg on its already blemished face, but Likins will be dealing with one incredible lawsuit.
However, as respected law professor Roy Spece told the Faculty Senate, if Likins brings back Kay and reopens the investigation, he could escape harsh consequences.
Yes, Likins will have to suffer the embarrassment of bringing back a fired employee and partially admitting errors.
A multi-million dollar lawsuit, however, would be much more detrimental to Likins position and reputation as an educator.
The time has come to give this researcher a fair investigation, one that is free from shoddy scare tactics and amateurish attorney work.
If she committed the crimes, fire her once and for all.
If she's innocent, and we must temporarily assume she is, Likins must take the only moral and ethical action.
He must rehire Marguerite Kay.