Correction: Regnerus Not Being “Investigated”…or is he?

Last week, I noted a story in The Austin American-Statesman about Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas professor who has come under fire for research he has done on children of gay parents. The American-Statesman article is titled, “UT investigates professor’s study on children with gay parents,” and it reports the following:

Allegations of scientific misconduct have prompted the University of Texas to investigate a professor’s study that found adults with gay parents reported significantly different life experiences than the children of married, heterosexual biological parents.

The University of Texas has since disputed this account, and The Austin American-Statesman has now issued a correction to the story, calling UT’s action an “inquiry” not an “investigation.” A spokesman from the University has released message clarifying the issue from their perspective:

Last week’s blog posting by Rod Dreher contained information that was not accurate and that was drawn from a media report which has since been clarified by the publication.

There is no formal investigation into Dr. Regnerus’ work. Rather, there is an inquiry — any and all allegations of scientific misconduct against a faculty member automatically trigger such an inquiry, which is a preliminary fact finding exercise led by the Vice President for Research’s office. This is standard operating procedure.  The purpose of the inquiry is to determine whether the allegations have merit and warrant a full investigation. Nearly 30 complaints of scientific misconduct have automatically triggered an inquiry over the past 15 years — very few have led to investigations. An inquiry implies no wrongdoing. It merely confirms that we received a complaint and take all complaints seriously.

Mr. Dreher asks “How is it that a blogger can write a letter to the president of the university lodging a very serious, potentially career-destroying professional complaint against a professor, and the university can turn around and effectively put the professor on trial?”

The answer, quite simply is “he can’t.”

So the message from the University seems to be, “Nothing to see here. Move along.” But is that really the case? The fact of the matter is that the “inquiry” is still open and still may lead to a formal investigation. I hope that it doesn’t and that this is just a perfunctory procedure. But I share the concerns expressed by Peter Wood over at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Wood highlights the University’s treatment of the blogger who initially filed the complaint against Regnerus:

Regnerus article stands (or falls) on its own merits. All scholarship should be open to scrutiny. But [the blogger] Rosenweig isn’t inviting scrutiny. He is, rather vividly, seeking to use the university’s mechanisms for investigating academic misconduct to silence and stigmatize scholars whose findings he dislikes. To get the full flavor of his attack on Regnerus, read Rosenweig’s gloating account of how the university responded to his complaint by inviting him to campus (from New York) to be interviewed by the Inquiry Panel…

UT’s decision to convene an Inquiry Panel in the case shows perhaps cluelessness or institutional pusillanimity. Or, if we take [UT Spokesman] Gary Susswein’s explanation at face value, it shows scrupulous adherence to the university policy 11.B.01.  I would suspect, however, that at least a few of the wilder accusations launched against faculty members are spared the 11.B.01 treatment.  There is surely some element of human discretion involved, and discretion in this case leaned toward an “inquiry.”

I wonder what would happen if I lodged a complaint against a UT professor’s research. For the sake of argument, let’s say I complained that said professor produced an agricultural study of bovine grazing patterns that was wildly inaccurate and based on faulty methods. Let’s also suppose that I wasn’t a specialist in the field but represented an organization with a bias against the study’s conclusions. Would the University of Texas invite me to Austin to interview me personally about my concerns? Maybe they would, but I doubt it.

Where this will all lead is still an open question. We will be watching with great interest to see how it unfolds. My hope and prayer is that it doesn’t end up with Regnerus under the bus. Stay tuned.

4 Responses to Correction: Regnerus Not Being “Investigated”…or is he?

  1. Beau Bevers July 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    “let’s say I complained that said professor produced an agricultural study of bovine grazing patterns…”

    Sounds more like a study done in College Station than Austin. 🙂

    Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of ’97

    • Denny Burk July 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

      That’s what I was thinking when I wrote it!

  2. Scott Rose July 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Several reporters have filed FOIA and/or Public Information Act Requests for documentation relevant to the Regnerus study. The University of Texas sent letters to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, asking him for FOIA exemptions. The letter that UT’s lawyer sent to the Attorney General says it is asking for the FOIA exemptions because of an “investigation” involving Regnerus. So the school got caught with egg on its face, as far as the word “investigation” goes. You can read about that here:
    UT seeks to withhold parenting study documents, citing ‘investigation’
    http://americanindependent.com/217051/ut-seeks-to-withhold-parenting-study-documents-citing-investigation

  3. Scott Rose July 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    I am the Scott Rose who filed a scientific and scholarly misconduct complaint against Regnerus with UT.

    You have improperly referred to me, however, throughout your post as “Scott Rosensweig.”

    Rosensweig was indeed my given German-Jewish family name at birth. However, Scott Rose
    is the name I have used my entire adult life. Across literally thousands of by-lines published over the course of decades, I have only ever been known as “Scott Rose.”

    I am proud of my family’s heritage; I am a regular contributor to the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.

    However, as happens, almost universally, anti-gay-rights “Christian” writers and publications refer to me with “Rosensweig.”

    By contrast, virtually no pro-gay-rights sites use my German-Jewish last name instead of referring to me as “Scott Rose,” the name that always appears as my by-line.

    It appears more than evident, that the anti-gay-rights “Christian” site abusing my name that way, are doing so to say to their readers “He’s a Jew!”

    The National Organization for Marriage’s top brass got the Regnerus study funded. They have no hesitations about “driving a wedge” and fanning anti-minority hostility; their own strategy documents released only through court order described, with those exact words, plots to “drive a wedge” between African-Americans and gays, as though those groups were mutually exclusive.

    In one of her recent newsletters, NOM’s Maggie Gallagher openly addressed “Christian” readers, and invited them to continue their political gay bashing, but instead of referring to our president as “president,” Gallagher called him “Barack Hussein Obama.”

    Clearly, Gallagher was leading her readers to think “Muslim!” in a negative sense, the same way that whoever is using my German-Jewish last name is using it – (as EWTN is using it, instead of calling me “Scott Rose,”) to say, in a negative sense: “Jew!”

    NOM frequently has appealed to anti-Semitism in the populace, when it perceived it could gain some anti-gay-rights political advantage by doing so. For reference, here is the article: “Anti-Semitism Also Part Of NOM’s Hateful Wedge Strategies”
    http://tinyurl.com/6r62jrn

    Scott Rose

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