The Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities have deep concerns about a congressional panel’s plan to subpoena universities for the names of faculty members, graduate students and other personnel involved in fetal tissue research. “Many scientists and physicians are deeply concerned for their safety and that of their patients, colleagues and students in light of inflammatory statements and reports surrounding fetal tissue donation,” the associations wrote in a letter Thursday to leaders of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. “We are troubled that this information is being sought without any rules or process in place to govern how the panel will use and protect personally identifiable and other sensitive information. … These requests appear to go beyond the panel’s stated scope of ‘relevant matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement.’”
The associations’ letter was prompted by recent revelations that the select panel intends to subpoena institutions for the names and identities of those involved in fetal tissue research, which is legal but controversial since some tissue is obtained through abortions. Some institutions responded to the panel’s initial request for information about fetal tissue research and procurement on their campuses by redacting faculty, staff and administrators’ names, citing security concerns. But the panel wants the information anyway, and is considering obtaining it by legal means. Some have said the process is more about intimidating scientists involved in this work than anything else, but members of the committee say they want to make sure the tissue was acquired legally.
Thursday's letter asks the panel to work in a "bipartisan fashion" to create rules about how personal information will be used, and how security will be promoted. "In the absence of such rules, we urge the panel not to compel the release of individually identifiable information," the associations wrote. "We urge you to allow academic institutions to continue their cooperative engagement with the panel, providing requested information about practices and the value of fetal tissue research without unnecessarily endangering the safety of those seeking to advance discovery and improve health."
Faculty unions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System are objecting to a new system rule that says officials may inspect the personal mobile phones or other devices of professors, if the professors sometimes use these devices for work, The Star Tribune reported. Faculty leaders say that this rule is not needed and would represent an invasion of privacy. They also note that many faculty members routinely use their phones for some official business, even if most of their use is private. University officials say that they aren't trying to invade anyone's privacy, but are required under state law to be able to perform such inspections to be sure that state data and information are not being shared inappropriately.
The Faculty Association of the University of British Columbia has voted no confidence in the institution's board, CBC News reported. Professors have been angry over the board's role in the departure of the president last year, and the way board leaders have responded to criticism from professors. The university released a statement after the vote in which it said that it took faculty concerns seriously and that faculty, alumni and student representatives had been to a board meeting in April to discuss governance issues.