Those readers who have been following the Graduate School restructuring controversy are aware that, in response to widespread criticism of the process, all action on the proposed restructuring has been put on hold by the administration pending reports from ad hoc committees assembled by the Faculty Senate and by the Academic Staff Executive Committee (ASEC). Those reports were due by New Year’s Eve, 2009, and their public release is therefore anticipated in the very near future, perhaps even this week.
We will be very surprised if the reports endorse the wholesale restructuring pushed by Provost Paul DeLuca and Chancellor Biddy Martin. We will be equally surprised if either the provost or the chancellor readily back down from their plan, regardless of what the reports contain.
Yesterday, January 1, 2010, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that UW-Madison has been cited for conditions found to be in violation of federal regulations governing animal research laboratories. The citations followed from a surprise visit by federal inspectors sometime in December.
Why is this news relevant to the Graduate School restructuring plan? Because the threat of exactly such citations and the risk of substantial fines or even loss of accreditation have been central to the provost’s case for the restructuring. That we have not yet seen a clear explanation of how splitting up the Graduate School solves this particular problem is beside the point.
Seen in this light, the timing is interesting. The inspection by the Ofice of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) appears not to have been random but rather was likely undertaken in response to “allegations involving animal welfare brought to [OLAW’s] attention.” We do not know who made the allegations.
The inspections apparently took place “last month” (no date is given in the article) which means that any such allegations were likely made not long after the November 2 Faculty Senate meeting in which the resolution criticizing the restructuring process was passed. The WSJ article appeared exactly one day after the committee reports were due, but apparently some time (days? weeks?) after the animal lab inspections themselves took place. We do not know who tipped off the WSJ or what their motive might have been.
Every member of the UW-Madison community should be embarrassed and chagrined by the new revelations concerning animal care and should demand improved management and accountability by those charged with overseeing that care. Nevertheless, we hope very much that the timing of the report is purely coincidental and was not in any way manipulated so as to blunt the impact of the anticipated committee reports.