El caso de Chapela
Ignacio Chapela contract with UC Berkeley ended December 31, 2004. Chapela has been courageously outspoken and critical of the biotech industry and its connections to academic research and in particular its connections to UC Berkeley. (Click here to learn more about the Novartis-UC Berkeley Controversy.) He has been a tireless supporter of the work of many NGOs and activist organizations.
Chapela and Quist's Nature article reporting on GMO contamination of Mexican maize represented a major piece of evidence repudiating biotech industry claims of safety. As a result of a well-coordinated industry campaign, Nature editors all but retracted the article, repudiating its accuracy in an unprecedented editorial. The industry effort to damage Dr. Chapela's professional reputation has subsequently led to the unfair denail of his tenure. Click here to learn more about the Mexican Maize Controversy.
Today, I filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California with the California Superior Court in Oakland. This legal action, entered on my behalf by Mr. Dan Siegel, contains three main claims relating to my 8-year-long history of relationship with the University.
First, I claim to have been the victim of retaliation by the university for my role in exposing potential problems with the production and release of genetically modified (transgenic) organisms into the environment, as well as for exposing the insidious and illegitimate influence of commercial interests, inside and out of the university, in the operation of the University. This whistleblowing complaint exposes a scandalous and unacceptable level of compromise in the role and structure of the university, particularly in the biological sciences.
Secondly, I claim to have been the victim of discrimination by the university with regards to the treatment of my promotion leading to the denial of tenure, as well as with regard to the highly irregular handling of my tenure review process. This claim again exposes deep and structural failure by the university to fulfill its mandate to represent and attend to the diversity of cultural, economic, ethnic, intellectual and political inhabitants of the State of California in its educational, research and extension functions.
Thirdly, a claim of fraud states that the administrators of the University fail to disclose significant information about the criteria required to obtain tenure, since information other than scholarship is used to make such decisions.
The filing of this lawsuit opens a new and more public chapter in the 8-year development of this case, which has received world-wide attention within and outside academia as a path-defining case study of the situation of public universities, the influence of private interests on public research and education, the limits on dissent in scientific research, and the suppression of academic freedom in our times. This case also highlights the role of biotechnology and the biotech industry in our society.
The Historical Facts
On 20 November, 2003, a decision was reached by the Chancellor of UC Berkeley to deny tenure in my case, after a process which Berkeley's Academic Senate considers to be at least 400% longer than any other case on the available record. This decision meant that I must leave the university, without the possibility of entering a similar position in any other of the UC system campuses. The decision was reached in opposition to an overwhelming record of legitimate evaluation as follows:
• 17 out of 18 world-wide experts recommended that I should be tenured at Berkeley based on an analysis of my record and performance.
• 32 out of 33 (three abstentions) voting members of my department recommended that I should be tenured at Berkeley, based on their observation of my record and my performance.
• Two secret expert committees independently and unanimously recommended that I should be tenured at Berkeley.
• There was no other legitimate reason to deny tenure in evidence.
The decision to deny tenure was therefore reached through illegitimate means, and I claim that it was reached through the illegitimate influence of individuals who stand to lose financially -as well as politically and academically- from the results of my public scientific and policy work.