All posts by Bill Gleason


Elevate Them Guns a Little Lower

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Whenever I go to local restaurants, I always try to strike up a conversation with the server.  Since I live in Minneapolis, many of them are students at our numerous colleges and universities. Having worked at a restaurant while in college, I have a lot of empathy for these folks.

Sometimes I get a big surprise. This happened recently with a server who attended MCAD—the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. When he learned that I did some polymer chemistry, he…


Do People Have a Moral Obligation to Be Research Subjects?

Used with permission of U of Minnesota Bioethics Center

I didn’t want to attend this conference because I knew that it would be difficult and painful. Like having your wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia.

As my colleague, bioethicist Carl Elliot, put it: “Only 16 percent of academic health centers in this country will pay the medical bills for research subjects who are injured in clinical trials.  None will pay for lost wages and suffering.  And an ethicist is arguing that we all have a…


The Chemistry Nobel for Quasi-Crystals

Atomic model of Ag-Al quasicrystal – Wikimedia Commons

People who work with crystals have received an inordinate number of Nobel Prizes. Some of them receive the prize because of the importance of the compounds they have worked on.  Protein crystallographers have helped to unravel the mysteries of such things as photosynthesis and how hemoglobin transports oxygen. The Protein Data Bank (PDB) is a treasure trove of interesting and useful results from crystallographic experiments.  The prize has…


HPV Vaccination: More to It Than Soundbites

Capsid Protein L1 of Human Papilloma Virus type 16 – using UCSF Chimera

What Have We Learned From Bachmann’s Recent  Gardasil/HPV Eruption?

Being a scientist makes spontaneous blogging on some topics problematic. A couple of weeks ago, Michele Bachmann made the unsupported claim that HPV vaccination led to “mental retardation.”

At the time two bioethicists— professors Steve Miles at the University of Minnesota and Art Caplan at the University of Pennsylvania—called out Bachmann and challenged he…


Like Jason in ‘Friday the 13th’? Garcetti’s back!

Jacque Plante Mask – Hockey Hall of Fame credit: Wiki Media Commons


The FIRE has an interesting post on the latest developments in the Garcetti situation. Briefly, a number of cases are bubbling up toward the Supreme Court that concern the limits of academic freedom in public universities as a result of the Garcetti v. Ceballos decision. My non-lawyerly interpretation of the decision is that the Court ruled that an attorney, who criticized a warrant, had no First Amendment free-speech protec…


News From Lake Wobegon: Iowa Straw Poll Breaks Pawlenty’s Back

Dombey and Son
“As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back”

Mr. Keillor frequents the Side Track Tap, but there is another place in town, the Birchwood Cafe.  It is inhabited by a bunch of lefties, elderly hippies like me, vegans, people with nose-rings and purple hair.  You know, that type.  They buy food locally and hate Monsanto.

So this morning there was much discussion at the ‘Birch over Mrs. Bachmann’s disembowelment of Mr. Pawlenty, our beloved former governor.  Some even felt sorr…


Adam and Eve Help Out at the University of Minnesota

Credit Wikimedia: Adam and Eve – Lucas Cranach The Elder (1528)

[Added later: I've been informed by a University of Minnesota Public Relations Manager that the figure used in the original post, $250,000 was only $50,ooo. This reminds me of an old joke.]

Those ethically challenged folks at the University of Minnesota are at it again… A couple of years ago we had a dean who served on the Pepsi board even though it seemed a little incongruous for a med school dean to be involved with a company tha…


Macalester College President Calls Out the Grovers

Grover, Is That You? (image: Wikimedia)

As most readers may know by now, the State of Minnesota has been shut down since July 1 due to a failure to agree on a new budget. The GOP has been infected by a faction of “no new taxers.” These folks propose a budget in which the deficit will be made up by cuts, rather than taxes or new revenues. They object to their position being described as “all cuts,” despite the fact that it is.

Why this stubbornness? I discovered, and then tweeted furiously, that …


Is College Worth It? Answer May Depend on Accurate Net-Price Estimate

The screen shots are from online forms provided by the University of Minnesota and the University of North Carolina through the College Board net price calculator. These results were obtained by entering data in forms provided by both universities  to estimate the actual cost of attendance, as well as debt load. If you’d like to try it yourself, go here and sign in as “guest.” Then fill out the forms for these colleges making sure the so called AGI is zero, so that the student/parents are …


A Journal Shows Its Spine Against Industry-Sponsored Spine Research

Choirboy Defense: Could these lads do anything wrong? (Wikimedia)

Something remarkable has happened. A whole issue—June—of a prominent journal, The Spine Journal, is devoted to destroying industry-funded research supporting the use of a bio-therapeutic agent for spinal fusion, so-called  recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein form 2 (rhBMP-2) in the Medtronic product, Infuse.

This remarkable issue features an editorial that is available for download as a pdf: “A challenge to integrity in s…


Minnesota and Gay Marriage

Meanwhile, back in flyover land…

Our state legislature has been taken over by the crazies.  Most of the damage has been averted by an adult governor, but nevertheless they have managed to come up with ways to get around his good sense and veto.  Putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot only takes a simple majority, which they have. They do not, thank God, have enough votes to override the governor’s veto. However, the constitutional amendment route can still be used to damaging effect. C…


The Artful Dodgers

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

I’ve posted earlier about this matter in a brief note. There have been further developments that seem to warrant an update.

This situation involves the suicide of a young man in a clinical drug trial and some allegedly unethical behavior by the people running the trial.

Information about this situation is now widespread, but one example is “Bioethicists ask University of Minnesota Regents to Appoint Outside Panel to Review Ethics of the 2004 Dan Markingson Trial.”


Debate Over Academic Freedom at Minnesota

Brief note with links:

Yesterday I wrote a post on this matter for Brainstorm, but withdrew it thinking that it was “not of general interest” as they used to say in Cheaper by the Dozen.

Instead, I posted it on my Community Voices blog at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website: “University of Minnesota General Counsel: Is Defamation Protected By Academic Freedom?”

Today I notice that there is a rather extensive article on the matter in the Chronicle: “In Request, Some U. of Minnesota Faculty Membe…


Ghostwriters in the Sky

Q: What is the difference between a student procuring a ghostwritten paper and a faculty member doing the same?

A: In the first case the student pays, in the second the faculty member may be paid—sometimes a considerable sum.

Although much has been written about students—and professors—plagiarizing, there is an interesting and ongoing variation on plagiarism that is lucrative and in  some cases of financial benefit to the plagiarist.

Ghostwriters are uncredited authors and often charge a fee fo…


Should Faculty Members Serve on Governing Boards?

Justice (from Wikimedia)

As mentioned last post, there are some events at Minnesota that seem to have consequences of more than local interest.

Over the weekend, Mr. Steve Sviggum, one of the newest members of our board of regents, resigned his teaching position at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute, so that he could continue to serve on the university’s board.

Mr. Sviggum has a history as a partisan member of the GOP and is serving as a lightning rod for the now politically polari…


In Flyover Land, We Are All Badgers

Hat-tip to Stanley Fish

(image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Letter from Lake Wobegon

I’ve been suffering from post- and continuing- traumatic shock syndrome. In the hinterlands, Minnesota is right next to Wisconsin. And no, I am not trying to be patronizing, many times I’ve been told accompanied by a quizzical look:”Minnesota—that’s up by Canada, right?” Garrison Keillor has gotten rich with his Norwegian bachelor farmer routines as well as making fun of my beloved Unitarians.

Minnesotans are sup…


Academic Freedom and the Corporate University

Michael McNabb has nicely laid out the current situation at the University of Minnesota with respect to corporatization with his excellent series: “University Inc.” and “University Inc, Part II.”

There are further consequences of corporatization that Jennifer Washburn has examined in her superb article in Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors.

In summary, she writes:

“Commercial threats on campus have mounted—from industry control of research and corporate…


‘Ma Rainey’ Plays the Guthrie

Whenever I see another August Wilson play featured at the Minneapolis Guthrie Theater, I always smile.

It was not always so.  For 12 years one of the Guthrie’s former directors, Garland Wright refused to admit Wilson to the Minneapolis pantheon. As the Star-Tribune put it:

“[Wright] was loath to have Wilson’s words on the Guthrie stage on the premise that the theater was devoted to classics (never mind that the Guthrie also staged such contemporary playwrights as Arthur Miller and David Hare…


Response: Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy?

Drs. Frank Cerra and Aaron Friedman have asked for an opportunity to respond to my original post: Why Would An Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy. I am pleased to do this.

Guest Post:

Dr. Frank Cerra, former Vice President, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean

Dr. Aaron Friedman, Vice President, University of Minesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean

In a February 4, 2011 blog post-turned-editorial, University of Minnesota associate profess…


Online Higher Ed: From Poor White Trash to Poshlust

Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons

“In the 1930s, the FSA employed several photographers to document the effects of the Great Depression on the population of America. [Dorothea] Lange’s image of a migrant pea picker, Florence Owens Thompson, and her family has become an icon of resilience in the face of adversity.”

In a comment on an earlier post about online higher education, I used the phrase “poor white trash” to describe one opinion on this pedagogical method as first applied by Professor Ma…