One goal of academic freedom is to protect inquiry from the guardians of orthodoxy, the machinations of those who resent any articulation of an alternate view.
Administrators at UCLA don’t seem to be fans of this goal.
James Enstrom has been at UCLA for 36 years. He lacks tenure, and his contract is not being renewed because, according to the school, his “research is not aligned with the academic mission” of his department.
The professor was booted soon after coauthoring a piece at Forbes.com, disputing the relationship between diesel soot and deaths in California. According to Enstrom, in 1998 regulators “declared diesel exhaust a toxic substance based on studying truckers and railroaders from back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, when emissions were much higher. They never factored in . . . that a very high percentage of truckers are also smokers . . . yet they were using this research to declare that all diesel exhaust is a toxic substance.”
Even colleagues who disagree with Enstrom worry about the implications for academic freedom. Michael Siegel at Boston University notes that the mission of Enstrom’s department is “to study the impacts of the environment on human health, and that’s exactly what Enstrom does. . . .”
The department apparently objects not to “the nature of his research but the nature of his findings.”
UCLA says chucking Enstrom has nothing to do with his conclusions, but won’t comment further. If there’s nothing to hide, why are they hiding it?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.