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August 6, 2012 - 11:10am



Quietly the UCLA newspaper notes, a few days after it hit the Associated Press, the Harvey/Bystritsky story. 

Campus newspapers aren't set up to cover big breaking stories (do you follow Penn State events in the Daily Collegian?), so as this one develops (and it will develop), the Daily Bruin will be worth checking mainly for local comments and letters about a lawsuit against a UCLA professor and the UC Board of Regents that has the potential to be a very big story.  Not, say, Anna Nicole Smith big, but big.

Like Smith's demise, Phyllis Harvey's was protracted and pathetic.  She didn't melt down in view of the international press the way Smith did, but, like Smith, Harvey was rich, beautiful, fragile, and addicted.  As with Smith, the allegations are that Harvey was exploited by her (UCLA) psychiatrist, fed too many pills, kept dependent on the doctor for financial reasons, and ultimately, in these ways, destroyed.

"The Regents of the University of California knew or should have known of this behavior," her husband's lawyers claim, "and continued to accept the donations [Bystritsky is also accused of having hit Harvey up for research money], making the institution complicit in his scheme."

This story will escalate, UD anticipates, not only because its main character, a former model, was rich, beautiful, and blonde.  It's the perfect storm, gathering into itself several unsettling aspects of contemporary American culture.  These include the massive overprescription of powerful, dicey anti-depressants and anti-psychotics throughout the population, but, most scandalously, among our most vulnerable - children, the elderly, the Anna Nicoles. 

They also include universities and what they'll do for money. Not only football programs can corrupt academic institutions; certain potentially lucrative research programs, with their built-in conflicts of interest, can do it too. 

And just as big-time coaches are essentially cowboys, free agents, within the university, so medical school researchers may be perilously uncontrollable by the institution, as another UC campus, Davis, has recently discovered. 

Indeed, before Bystritsky began giving it problems, UCLA's med school had for years been enjoying its long association with Arnold Klein, bankrupt surgeon to the stars.

Another bimbo-explosion source within the modern American university also features in the Harvey/Bystritsky story: the trustees.  Take any big university sports scandal you like - University of Miami, Penn State.  The trustees always take the role of the tragic clown, blubbering Pagliaccis who squint into news cameras and say Wha' happen? 

The phrase we were left in the dark is echt-trustee.

If it's true that, over the protests of other doctors who wanted Harvey taken off the psychotropics, Bystritsky kept her on them; and if it can be established that the heart attack that killed her might well have been related to those drugs; and if it can be established that Bystritsky and UCLA stood to gain financially from Harvey's continued dependency on Bystritsky, this could turn into one of the biggest university stories of the year.


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