The Discovery Institute has a habit of misrepresenting issues, thereby publicly shooting itself in the foot. The most recent instance is a press release misleadingly titled Attack on OSU Graduate Student Endangers Academic Freedom. In it, Bruce Chapman, President of the Discovery Institute, presents a version of events filled with fabrications and misrepresentations.
Let me first briefly recapitulate the actual sequence of events.
- Sometime in the past, months or years ago, Bryan Leonard, a doctoral candidate in science education at The Ohio State University, put together a dissertation committee whose composition violated the clear requirements of the program in which he was seeking a degree.
- On Thursday, June 2, 2005, an assistant professor of French & Italian assigned to Leonard’s defense withdrew from the committee and was immediately replaced by Dr. Joan Herbers, Dean of the College of Biological Sciences and an evolutionary biologist. According to the graduate school, it was Paul Post, Leonard’s dissertation advisor, [corrected in edit] Peter Paul, head of the School of Teaching and Learning, who initially got the graduate school involved, resulting in the change in Leonard’s committee.
- In a letter dated and delivered on Friday, June 3, three full professors – Rissing, McKee, and McEnnis – transmitted concerns raised by Leonard’s public testimony in the recent Kansas BOE hearings to the graduate school of the Ohio State University. That letter is a public document, available to the press on request (using an official Ohio Request for Public Records procedure if necessary). The formal letter communicating concerns to the OSU Grad School was requested by and sent to a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday 8 June.
- Also on Friday, June 3, Leonard’s advisor, Paul Post, requested a postponement of Leonard’s defense. In other words, contrary to Bruce Chapman’s claims (discussed below), Ohio State did not prevent Leonard from defending his dissertation; his advisor requested the postponement the day after a qualified faculty member was appointed to his committee and on the same day that questions were raised about the composition of the committee.
- On Tuesday, June 7, 2005, I posted a description of what was then known about the Leonard affair, together with some reasonable inferences from that description. Notice of my posting was transmitted over my signature to members of the press.
- In statements since then, the Graduate School has said that it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the composition of Leonard’s committee and questions about the conduct of his research.
So we have a series of events, precipitated by Leonard’s advisor [corrected in edit] the School of Teaching and Learning and by Leonard himself in Kansas, that resulted in his advisor requesting the postponement of Leonard’s defense after a qualified faculty member – Dr. Herbers – was appointed to his committee.
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