February 12, 2018
Letter to the Editor:
The decision by TTU’s President Phil Oldham to undertake an investigation into possible misconduct in research carried out by TTU and paid for by the Fitzgerald Glider Kit company is to be commended. Also to be commended was the decision of Oldham and Vice President for Research and Economic Development Barat Soni to recuse themselves from the investigation given Oldham’s early and strong endorsement of the research report and Soni’s close relationship as direct supervisor of a principal player in the matter, Tom Brewer, Associate Vice President for Strategic Research Initiatives. The TTU research yielded results sought by Fitzgerald and, once passed along to administrators in the U.S. EPA, was used in an effort to reverse regulatory rules that would have negatively impacted the ‘bottom line’ of the Glider industry. TTU’s inquiry into this affair involves looking into possible conflicts of interest and manipulation and/or suppression of data and will take place over the coming weeks.
Less commendable and simultaneous with the decision to investigate, however, was a decision by President Oldham to call for an ‘external peer review’ of the study. Numerous external reviews of the study–carried out by expert peers–have already occurred. Without exception, they have found the study to be deeply flawed and without merit in determining regulatory policy. Yet Oldham wants yet another review. This decision has puzzled many in the TTU faculty and threatens to undercut the inquiry process. The call for an external review suggests that the TTU faculty members chosen to undertake the inquiry—among them presumably engineering experts–are not to be trusted to render an objective, fair judgment in the matter. Moreover, the call for external review suggests a desperate attempt to establish an alternative narrative; one that goes against what every external reviewer to this point has found.
Such an external review raises an obvious, thorny question: who should select the external reviewers? Certainly it should not be President Oldham, who has rightly recused himself from the inquiry nor, realistically, any TTU administrator for that matter. Clearly defined TTU procedures exist for the investigation of academic misconduct but, to my knowledge, there is no procedure or precedent governing an ad hoc, external review request. No official explanation has been offered as to why it is needed, or why the TTU investigation would not suffice in and of itself. This external review is unwarranted, a bad idea, and should be abandoned.
Jon Jonakin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, TTU
Letter to the editor:
Recent expert scrutiny and commentary on TTU research carried out under the sponsorship of Fitzgerald Glider Kits confirm early suspicions regarding possible conflicts of interest and incompetent research. The TTU research had concluded that rebuilt truck engines polluted no more and perhaps less that new truck engines; thereby offering evidence to override tighter EPA emission standards being considered for the glider kit industry.
But according to experts at the International Council on Clean Transportation [ICCT], the TTU study is “rife with unexplained claims and contradictory statements.” [The ICCT analysis of the TTU research can be found at: http://www.theicct.org/blog/staff/glider-industry-petition-support-glider-trucks-debunks-itself]
From the ICCT report: “[T]he first problem is what the [TTU] summary doesn’t contain, which is anything at all about the test methodology. There are two pieces of information that are always supplied when research laboratories describe a vehicle or engine emissions test, even in summary form: information on the test equipment and information on the test cycle. The Tennessee Tech summary includes neither.” A subsequent teleconference meeting between EPA and TTU–described in the ‘docket’ hyperlink in the above ICCT document–did reveal some of the methodology pursued but this only deepened one’s understanding of the insufficiency of the research. Notes from this meeting confirmed the test lab “was unable to measure particulate emissions from diesel engines” and thus was not ”anywhere close to being equipped to follow certified emissions testing protocols that have been in place for decades.” This meant “that the ‘study’ doesn’t… empirically assess one of the two main harms from the explosion of glider sales that EPA intended to address—particulate matter emissions.” Moreover, the TTU summary report [hyperlinked in the above ICCT link] failed to “ report NOx emissions measurements…except to note that they ranged from 0.44 to 6.45 grams per horsepower-hour… — that is, between 2 times and 32 times the NOx limit for post-2010 engines! Not only does that not call into question EPA’s Phase 2 assumptions; it confirms them.” The Phase 2 rules led to limitations on glider truck sales due to these emissions.
The shoddy TTU research and early secrecy surrounding the methodology, along with the potential conflicts of interests between TTU and Fitzgerald, has caught the attention of the national press and in an unfavorable light. See: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/science/ct-epa-scientists-20171110-story.html. The desire of TTU administrators to link the university with business interests has seriously jeopardized not only TTU’s reputation but possibly the nation’s public health.
Jon Jonakin, TTU Emeritus Professor of Economics
1345 Inglewood Drive, Cookeville
Letter to the editor:
Conflicts of interest are best avoided under any circumstance but that has not stopped top administrators at TTU from involving themselves in a relationship that comes with a possible double conflict of interest. A local Crossville trucking firm, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, recently sponsored–as in paid for—research involving a TTU professor and students that measured emissions from truck engines that had been rebuilt with Fitzgerald ‘glider kits’. Fitzgerald was keen to find evidence that would overturn rules left by the Obama administration that would require Fitzgerald to abide by stricter and more costly emission standards in order to reduce excessive emissions thought to originate with rebuilt engines. From the Fitzgerald engines’ sampled in the TTU-directed study it was determined that emissions were not only not higher but were perhaps lower that emissions from new engines, thus permitting a challenge to the EPA rule change under consideration.
The first, possible and troubling conflict of interest arises from the fact that the research, until now, has remained undisclosed to public scrutiny since such ‘sponsored’ research is by law the property of the sponsor. That Fitzgerald stands to gain from such research would seem to demand the release of the study in order to determine if the sampling procedure and testing methodology are appropriate. It’s all the more important that the study be released since the TTU professor who directed the research is a Civil Engineer with a background in concrete and not a Mechanical Engineer specializing in internal combustion engines. My efforts to obtain a report of the study from Fitzgerald have been unsuccessful.
The second possible conflict of interest arises from the fact that TTU was recently granted physical space at Fitzgerald’s plant to open something called the ‘Center for Intelligent Mobility’. The opening of this Center staffed by a TTU administrator came shortly before the release of the study. As the Herald Citizen reported on July 17, 2017: “A new partnership with Tennessee Tech University emerged out of [the ‘fight’ between Fitzgerald and the proposed EPA regulations].” The possibility of a quid pro quo and compromised research under these circumstances is painfully obvious. In order to put aside doubts, Fitzgerald should release the details of the study and TTU should reconsider its interest in such ‘sponsored’ research. And it might be time for the Herald Citizen to revisit this issue with some investigative journalism.
Jon Jonakin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, TTU
1345 Inglewood Drive, Cookeville
February 14, 2018
President Oldham, Provost Stephens, Associate Provost Huo, Associate Vice President Otuonye, Associate Dean Hoy, Associate Dean Motevalli, Professor Killman, and Mr. Jones:
Faculty and others are expressing concern over one aspect in particular of the inquiry into the TTU/Fitzgerald research begun under the terms of Policy #780. It is unclear whether President Oldham, like Vice-President Soni, has recused himself from the inquiry and possible investigation.
If not, President Oldham should formally recuse himself immediately and on the basis of his prior support for this research and as evidenced by his and Associate Vice President Brewer’s signatures on the report sent to Congressperson Black and the U.S. EPA. It is likely that the inquiry committee will need to speak with President Oldham in the capacity of a ‘respondent’ in this matter and in order to determine what he knew about the details of the research and when; and what he knew about the process by which the Principal Investigator may have been wrongfully supplanted by others. Were President Oldham to retain his powers in this matter, and as spelled out in Policy #780, he would involve himself in a clear conflict of interest since ‘the President’ is responsible for determining whether or not to proceed to a formal investigation [see Section VIII.H of Policy #780].
Presumably Vice President Huo, as the ROI, will not also serve in the President’s designated role and make the above determination and whatever other determinations are called for by ‘the President’ in Policy #780. Once recused, the same policy would appear to require that a substitute be chosen in President Oldham’s place.
Thank you for your attention to the matters raised here.
Regards, Jon Jonakin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, TTU
January 18, 2018
President Oldham, Vice President Soni, Vice-President Brewer, Associate Dean Hoy, Associate Dean Motevalli, Professor Killman:
I am contacting you regarding the Fitzgerald Glider-sponsored research that was carried out under the auspices of TTU and the leadership of the Principle Investigator, Chair and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Professor Benjamin Mohr. As I am sure you are aware, the TTU report on the research concluded that trucks outfitted with the Fitzgerald Glider kits and rebuilt engines evidenced pollution emissions no greater than those emissions from new truck engines. The TTU research was subsequently used by the U.S. EPA–and with the apparent full endorsement of TTU–to support the agency’s suspension of a proposed rule that would have imposed costly pollution control regulations on the glider industry. I presume, as well, that you are aware of the subsequent and scathing criticism that the TTU glider research has come under. That criticism, I would argue, is well-founded, extensive, and deeply disturbing. In the attached two links below you will find examples of the expert witness criticisms of the TTU research. I am not aware of any substantive rebuttals that those involved with the TTU research have offered by way of reply to this criticism.
What all this suggests to me and many others in the TTU community that I have spoken with is that we have not only provided a shoddy product in the aforementioned research but that it has also involved us in what is easily understood and perceived as conflicts of interest. Conducting proprietary, sponsored research on behalf of a for-profit corporation that promises to help that corporation’s ‘bottom line’ via its effect on public policy should alert all concerned to the need to provide quality research and thereby avoid any hint of a conflict of interest. The TTU research utterly fails in this regard. The establishment of the TTU Center for Intelligent Mobility [CIM] in Fitzgerald-provided space further heightens the unavoidable perception of a conflict of interest. Indeed, the presence of conflicts of interest in the establishment of research ‘Centers’ at TTU is not a unique occurrence. The now defunct TTU Center for Health Care Informatics had as its appointed director an individual who quickly and conveniently established himself as a the head of a local company that then became a client of the same TTU Center.
What the TTU glider research further suggests is that the university has failed in its oversight of research and in its due diligence of ‘sponsored research’ in particular. These failings raise critical questions: Was the Principle Investigator, a civil engineer, the appropriate engineering professional for the research? Was the Principle Investigator directly involved in the testing of the engines at the Fitzgerald site and in the preparation of the report on the research? Does the university have policies that govern issues related to individual competence and procedure in matters concerning this type of sponsored research? I have reviewed the university’s two policies [TTU Policy #750 and TTU Policy #780] that deal with the conduct of research. It would appear to me in light of the criticisms made of the report and the relationship of TTU’s CIM with Fitzgerald that at least two violations of university Policy 780 [Misconduct in Research] are likely to have occurred: Policy 780, Section IV.E: “Conflict of Interest and Commitment: the real or apparent interference of one person’s interest with another, where potential bias may occur due to prior or existing personal or professional relationships.”; and Policy 780, Section IV.H: “Falsification: manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results, such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.”
Regarding Section IV.E and conflict of interest: The establishment of TTU’s CIM in space provided by Fitzgerald Gliders and in close conjunction with the questionable research favorable to Fitzgerald’s interests is a sufficient basis for an investigation involving a possible conflict of interest.
Regarding Section IV.H and falsification/manipulation of data: There are plausible grounds for believing that an intentional misrepresentation of the results of the study has occurred by manipulating the study in a way that ignored the pollutants of concern: nitrogen oxides and particulate matter [PM]. From the above attached EDF link, the second of the two:
[from page 18]: Regarding PM levels from glider vehicles, TTU’s letter indicated that the PM levels for all 13 test vehicles were “below the threshold detection point” and, consequently, no test data were presented. This is a misleading statement. In fact, TTU did not measure PM at all. EPA staff confirmed in a recent discussion with TTU representatives (including Thomas Brewer, one of the authors of the TTU June 15, 2017 test summary letter), that TTU had not measured PM levels. Instead, TTU had attempted to draw conclusions concerning PM levels via visual inspection and collected no PM emission data. The report’s conclusion that “[a]ll vehicles met the standard” for PM is simply not supported by TTU’s testing because TTU conceded (only after follow-up inquiry) that it did not even measure PM emission levels for any of the test vehicles.
[from page 20]: First, TTU has not provided sufficient description of its test program to allow an independent assessment of their conclusions. As noted in the preceding section, the only vehicle-specific numeric data provided were CO emission levels. But CO emissions are not the pollutant of concern for EPA for the purpose of the Phase 2 Standards or this Proposed Rule. The pollutants of concern — the ones creating the manifest public health hazard — are NOx and PM. Thus, TTU’s proffered conclusion that a glider vehicle achieved “the best result”—if based on the CO emission results, which is never clarified—is entirely misleading.
[from page 21]: “Meanwhile, TTU inexplicably did not report any individual vehicle NOx emission test values. More generally, the summary report omits vital information on testing conditions that are essential to interpret and verify the report.”
The above expert criticism is sufficient to indicate the possible presence of an intentional suppression of data [on vehicle-specific NOx levels and overall PM levels] vital to the research at hand. How could TTU have undertaken to do research on pollution emissions from rebuilt engines and subsequently failed to measure or report accuarately or appropriately that data regarding the two pollutants of immediate concern? Apart from intentional manipulation or omission of data, the only other possible explanation would be gross incompetence on the part of the TTU researchers and those who prepared the report.
Finally, let me say that TTU’s reputation is at stake here and, more importantly, the health and well-being of millions of people, as is made clear in the attached documents. The issues raised here need to be faced, discussed, and formally investigated. It is my hope that the TTU Faculty Senate and the governing Board will undertake investigations of this matter as well.
Many of us in the TTU community feel that the administration fails to understand the potential negative effects this incident can have on the university going forward. In this regard and by way of mitigating the immediate problem, I would like to ask that the university publically acknowledge that there are profound problems associated with this study and, further, that TTU should request that the EPA withdraw the study from consideration in the current matter of whether and how to regulate the glider industry.
Regards, Jon Jonakin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, TTU
AAUP TTU MINUTES
Sept. 7, 2017
In attendance: Troy Smith; Kim Godwin; Dan Allcott; Megan Atkinson; Allen Driggers, Julia Gruber, Josie McQuail,
I Dr. Gruber asked for approval of agenda; it was moved, seconded, and unanimously agreed to.
II Dr. McQuail did not have the last minutes ready so approval of minutes was tabled.
III Committee Reports: Treasurer Report Allen Driggers agreed to be Treasurer following Wali Kharif’s retirement. All agreed that Dr. Kharif did an excellent job. 33 members now who are dues paying; with new and returning members Dr. Driggers hopes for a membership increase. He spoke to people who HAD been members and several said they would rejoin. A new AAUP account had to be opened; it started with a balance of $6,462.73; 3rd quarter dues will be $1,110.25; Balance will be $5,235.48. There were some feeds, like $50 for new checks. There was a snafu about federal ID #s which are not allowed to be ON a check. A check had to be withdrawn from the national AAUP for this reason. Another outstanding expense is the t-shirt order needs to be paid.
The 15th of Sept. in the absolute deadline for Payroll Deduction. Dan Allcott proposed waiving the $10 local fee for band 1 of membership salaries/rates;.Troy Smith seconded; it was unanimously approved. This was a gesture toward adjunct, part time, and grad students, as well as, possibly, for Lecturers. We advertised this and the membership deadline in Tech Times.
Secretary McQuail brought up the fact that in sending the e-mail regarding the Sept. meeting she got a message saying it had been sent to 100 people. Kim Godwin offered to check on this; Allen Driggers also offered to get a member list from HR. We estimated that there are far more faculty than 100!
Our Bylaws state that besides the Membership Committee which is a standing committee we need to create committees every year;
Committee A, Colleen Hays and Josie McQuail volunteered
Committee W Ada Haynes, Julia Gruber and Josie McQuail volunteered.
Committee X Troy is maintaining the website.
V New Business Next item that came up was the new Board Structure and dissolution of the Board of Regents, and the issue of policy/procedures, aka Faculty Handbook. A workshop for untenured faculty had been discussed, but there was doubt about what the new policies were. Sharon Holderman volunteered to do find and collect updated tenure and promotion policies a couple of years ago, or last year. Kim Godwin is going to follow up. Ada Haynes remarked that one thing that changed was financial exigency procedures. With the new restructuring of the administration the President of the University has the power solely to eliminate departments.
Colleen Hays looked up the materials for the Board of Directors meeting last spring and saw tenure and promotion policies and an academic freedom policy. The document was more than 500 pages so there was a limit for how much she could read, but she wondered if those policies or guidelines are going into the Faculty Handbook. Dan Alcott said that the Board cannot take away Academic Freedom because of our accrediting agencies. Several people remembered that Kae Carpenter was supposed to be in charge of revisions; Kim Godwin said she reviewed some things that pertained to her. Some changes just took out the language that cited “TBR” policy. Colleen Hays said anyone asked to edit former TBR policy could only talk about their own areas of expertise.
Next the idea of AAUP socials and establishing a “Fun committee” for AAUP. Julia suggested member profiles of AAUP members for the website. Megan Atkinson and Kim Godwin volunteered for the “Fun committee.” Some kind of “mixer” for faculty was discussed. Ideas were bantered around: a nerf war; at the summer symphony there are popup tents and AAUP could have one. Having lunch with individuals was brought up. Dan Alcott said that he and Julia have been doing this; Kim Godwin credited Allen Driggers who also had been doing stuff to recruit.
V What issues should we focus on. Troy Smith said there’s no limit to what we COULD be concerned about – could come up with a list of things that are disturbing. Dan Alcott focused on the lack of shared information. Shared governance was also cited as very important.
Allen had the idea of framing the discussion as “What three wishes would you ask for from President Oldham”? Allen Driggers proposed the idea of asking the entire campus. Julia Gruber said she wanted the Board to meet with faculty; Ada Haynes that Board meetings not be on times that faculty are off campus. Julia Gruber suggested that the board should meet in the kind of buildings that most of us occupy on campus, not the brand new nursing building. Colleen Hays noted that the Board meeting caused people to ask her to move during finals (she teaches in the Nursing building)! Colleen said that we are all wondering what the Board is doing – which comes back to the lack of shared info. Dan asked why should newcomers join AAUP? What he didn’t know as a young faculty was how faculty raises work.
Dan noted the perception that President Oldham thinks meeting with the faculty is a hindrance. He is on record as having said that. He needs people to cooperate. Referring the Board meeting where one member declared that faculty don’t deserve any raise unless they are following the Board’s mandate, Dan asked which people do not deserve the 1% raise? Why didn’t the president speak up on behalf of faculty? Ada Haynes noted that Pres. Oldham was the only university president who lobbied the governor not to give 3% or 1% raises. McQuail speculated that that was because TTU was the only university seriously in the red. Troy Smith noticed that Pres. Oldham gave an article around to the Faculty Senate and Board on Shared Governance. Pres. Oldham wants to be “procedural.”
IV Troy Smith remarked that that feeds into agenda item 4 – old business – that AAUP at TTU has been conducting business via e-mail. We need to examine the Bylaws. Colleen Hays and the Ex-Com will review the Bylaws by the end of the semester.
Next meeting Ada Haynes and Troy Smith will present salary data on mean and women’s pay at TTU.
Other old business is to revisit the Wali Kharif Service Award committee.
People agreed to work on the Social. It’s planned for the end of September.
Colleen Hays moved to adjourn, Dan Alcott seconded
April 7, 2017
In attendance: Troy Smith; Wali R. Kharif; Matthew Zagumny; Kim Godwin; Elie Fetzer (student), Laura Militana – Herald Citizen; Julia Gruber, Josie McQuail, Michael Gunther; John Wilson, guest speaker
Dr. Gruber asked for approval of agenda; it was moved, seconded, and unanimously agreed to
Minutes from both February 2017 and March 2017 were circulated by e-mail and because of a lack of quorum it was decided an e-mail vote on approval was going to be done.:
Committee reports: Treaurer/Membership: Dr. Kharif in his report said that we had a Treasurer/memberships appointment: Allen Driggers agreed to serve as Treasurer/Membership Chair. Dr. Kharif gave his last membership and treasurer’s report. Current memberships as of April 7, 2017 were 38; for Payroll Deductions for 2-16-17 we had 31 members paying via payroll deduction. Direct pay: 7 members. There was no change in membership.
Treasury Report from April 7, 2017. Balance in the AAUP account was $6,503.82. This amount includes 2 deposits since March 2, 2017 totaling $1,053 – February ($526.50 and March (526.50 payroll deducted dues checks sent from TTU
Future committed payments for the 2016-17 academic year: $3,147.75
Second Quarter 2017 Chapter Payroll Dues: $1,049.25 (pay by June 2017)
Thrid Quarter 2017 Chapter Payroll Dues $1,049.25 (pay by September 2017)
Fourth Quarter 2017 Chapter Payroll Dues $1,049.25 (pay by December 2017)
Future Income from 2016-17 Academic Year: TTU Payroll Deduction Dues Checks: $1,579.50
3 checks @ $526.50 each: circa April 30, 2017, May 31, 20117, and June 30, 2017
amount available for use: $2,035.57
This estimate is based on the chapter retaining at least $2,000 in the treasury at all times.
Old business: the AAUP resolution – the resolution was posted on the AAUP website. An e-mail vote was conducted on whether to present the findings of the AAUP Resolution to the Faculty Senate, and the vote as 17 to 1 in favor.
- V) New Business: Dr. Wilson John K. Wilson, author of seven books, including Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest, Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors, Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies, and The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason. He is the co-editor of organd the editor of Illinois Academe. He has a Ph.D. in education from Illinois State University, and is the co-organizer of the Chicago Book Expo and the Evanston Literary Festival.
In his opinion, Dr. Wilson stated, speech should not be suppressed. Heinous speech will be revealed for what it is if it is allowed expression by those who hold pernicious beliefs. Fri. Dr. Wilson spoke on The Right to Protest, But Not the Right to Silence”: the right to protest on campus and free speech, including the Middlebury conflict over Charles Murray.
On Sat. Dr. Wilson will speak about “Free Speech on Campus, From Trump to Tennessee”
The meeting was adjourned for a social at Dr. Gruber’s home.
TTU enrollment numbers manipulated
Many of us have come to expect carefully manipulated and self-aggrandizing messaging or hype from the current TTU administration. The latest hype involves enrollment numbers.
Recall that the fiscal crisis at TTU that resulted in the firing of many people emerged from a combination of factors: sharp declines in student enrollment in recent years, administrative mismanagement of scholarship funds and huge increases in high echelon administrative salaries, among others.
Greater student enrollment would thus address one area of fiscal concern. On Sept. 17, the Herald-Citizen published an article passed along by the TTU administration that was headlined: ‘TTU Reports Increase In Enrollment’. See it here: http://herald-citizen.com/stories/ttu-reports-small-increase-in-enrollment,23267.
Moreover, the article hyped the fact that TTU had the “largest freshman class in recent years” which was still small relative to more distant years. Beneath the headlines and hype one read that the overall enrollment increase was “slight.” Indeed it was since there are only 10 more students enrolled this year than last.
Significantly, this was the year — two years on from the implementation of the Tennessee Promise program which assured free access to Tennessee’s two year community colleges — wherein one would have expected marked increases in junior and senior class enrollments at four year universities like TTU. This did not happen, at least at TTU, where, instead, one could infer they fell.
The tiny enrollment increase of course will do nothing to diminish TTU’s ongoing fiscal problems and these numbers should be deeply disturbing to TTU administrators.
With the exceptions of the College of Engineering and the graduate school, virtually every other college of the university registered declined in enrollment. The near freeze on the hiring of tenure track professors — a sure sign of fiscal crisis — has likely contributed to enrollment decline as fewer classes can be offered in some cases.
On the other hand, the recent increases in hires of low paid adjuncts and instructors will affect the quality of teaching and will also likely contribute to enrollment decline in coming years.
Hyping increases in freshman class enrollment while suppressing acknowledgement of the declines elsewhere in the university indicate that the current administration remains in deep denial regarding TTU’s fiscal prospects.
One can only hope that the newly established TTU governing board is paying attention and does not permit itself to believe all the hype coming from the Oldham administration.