Investigative Practices and MD Anderson Cancer Center

In the AAUP’s investigations of alleged significant academic freedom violations, we generally assemble an investigating committee of AAUP members who research the case, visit the site and conduct personal interviews with individuals who have first-hand information, evaluate the institution’s conditions for academic freedom and tenure, and produce a report that assesses claims and counterclaims in the context of AAUP-recommended standards. It is the Association’s practice to share, in confidence, a preliminary draft of the proposed investigative report with key interested parties, including the administration of the institution under investigation. Our purpose in doing so is to solicit comments and corrections of fact so that the final report will be as fair and accurate as possible. In most instances the final published report therefore differs, at times significantly, from the draft.

We followed these practices in our current investigation of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our investigating committee interviewed by telephone the chief medical officer for the six University of Texas medical schools, but the MD Anderson administration declined to meet with the committee when it visited Houston in September. Last Friday afternoon, the administration submitted comments to us in response to the draft report. The same afternoon, it released those comments, along with our confidential draft report, to the media.

It is hardly unusual for an administration to take issue with material in a draft report, but it is rare indeed for an administration to violate the confidentiality of the draft, which is maintained primarily to protect the institution and its administrators and faculty members.

The MD Anderson administration’s comments will be taken into account as we prepare a final report for publication, along with the comments of other interested parties, whose assessments of the draft differ from that of the administration. We are confident that the final report, to be published later this spring, will exhibit the high degree of care and judiciousness that characterize the Association’s investigative reports.

Publication Date: 
Monday, March 16, 2015