Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

FSU: Faculty: Hold off on chiropractic deal

Jan. 11, 2005

Faculty: Hold off on chiropractic deal

FSU committee requests that faculty have first say

By Melanie Yeager


Florida State University's faculty members Monday sent a strong message to the FSU board of trustees and ultimately the Florida Board of Governors considering any new chiropractic program at FSU: Slow down!

"We don't want official approval of this program until faculty approve it," said George Bates, chairman of the Graduate Policy Committee.

In a 22-0 vote, committee members said moving forward violates long-standing university precedents and procedures that call on the faculty's approval for new graduate programs at FSU.

No further action should be taken without that faculty nod, they said.

"If forced to decide now, the vote would be to disapprove this program on procedural grounds," the motion reads.

It's the first formal action faculty members as a whole have taken concerning a new chiropractic school authorized by the Legislature last year. In addition to voicing concerns about the process, several expressed skepticism that such a program had any scientific merit or a place at a research university. But most simply wanted more answers before reaching a conclusion.

"To me it's kind of an insult to the whole academic process," said Jim Orcutt, a sociology professor. "This is not something we asked for - period."

The FSU proposal describes a chiropractic degree that would be offered in an eventual College of Complementary and Integrative Health. It would be a five-year joint degree for those who already have a bachelor's degree. Graduates would have to get a master's degree along with a chiropractic degree in one of the following five areas: aging studies, food and nutrition, movement science, health policy or public health.

FSU must play a 'difficult hand'

FSU has said its curriculum will be science-based and will reject some common chiropractic methods. The program is estimated to cost more than $60million to implement over five years' time. Lawmakers have provided the university $9million a year for a School of Chiropractic Medicine. FSU can use the money any way it sees fit until a school is operational.

Before the vote, FSU Provost Larry Abele apologized to the faculty for the proposal's timing. Typically new programs are brought in concept to the committee and fully vetted across campus before being forwarded for consideration by a state board.

He said the campus process has been "short-circuited" by the Board of Governors, which has prohibited FSU from beginning its process without the panel's approval. The new state board wants to "clearly assert" its authority over deciding which graduate and professional programs can be added at Florida's 11 universities, he said.

A suit filed last month in Leon County Circuit Court alleges Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature violated a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2002 that created the Board of Governors to manage universities.

Who runs the universities? Chiropractic school aside, that's the central question many observers - including several FSU trustees - want to clear up. FSU's in a tough spot. It's legally required to do what the Board of Governors requests. But the university would never want to frustrate the Legislature, which authorized the chiropractic degree and holds the purse strings for higher education.

"It does put FSU in an uncomfortable position," said trustee Stan Marshall on Monday morning. "We must play a very difficult hand, but we must remember that academic integrity trumps politics."

Marshall thinks trustees will have to make a decision "up or down" on the chiropractic program at its Friday meeting. But the agenda item for Friday reads as if trustees are just checking off a Board of Governors' requirement and leaving the heavy decision-making this early in the process to the state board.

"They didn't ask for an approval," Abele said after the meeting. "They just asked for us to submit it."

During Monday's committee meeting, faculty members voiced several concerns they'd like a subcommittee to study, including which other campus departments would be expected to provide faculty help, the merits and funding sources of chiropractic research and how a chiropractic program would affect FSU's credibility.

Several faculty members - including Leonard LaPointe, a professor of communications disorders - fear that embracing chiropractic studies as science will erode FSU's hard-earned academic reputation.

It's the concern that "FSU's academic integrity is susceptible and available to special interests, if the price is right," LaPointe said.



There will be a faculty forum, hosted by the Graduate Policy Committee at the request of the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, at 3 p.m. Thursday in Ruby Diamond Auditorium. The forum is open to the public.

Florida State University trustees will consider submitting the chiropractic-program proposal at their 1:30 p.m. Friday meeting at the FSU Research Building, 2000 Levy Ave.

The Board of Governors, which requested the proposal, is scheduled to consider FSU's plans at its Jan. 27 meeting in Gainesville.

The Florida State University Faculty Senate's Graduate Policy Committee on Monday approved the following motion by Valliere Richard Auzenne, committee member, senate president and member of the FSU board of trustees:

All curricular issues are the province of the Florida State University faculty. The Graduate Policy Committee (GPC) is the designated body of the faculty that considers and either approves or disapproves the addition of any new graduate or professional program.

The GPC is in the process of studying the proposal to establish a Doctor of Chiropractic Program and plans to gather more information. Presently, the GPC is not prepared to approve this program and therefore, no further action should be taken at this time without GPC approval. If this proposal were to move forward without GPC approval, that would be in violation of established precedents and procedures. Therefore, if forced to decide now, the vote would be to disapprove this program on procedural grounds.

This motion is NOT intended to prevent the university administration from complying with the Board of Governors.