The Baylor University student newspaper, the Lariat, finally has a piece about the academic discrimination case involving Prof. Robert Marks and his Evolutionary Informatics Lab (EIL). The story introduces an interesting new twist: now the problem with the EIL site is that it doesn’t contain “approved research.” And who is supposed to approve Prof. Marks’s research? His dean, Benjamin Kelley, who has admitted that he doesn’t understand it? And by what criteria does or doesn’t such research get approved? How about this criterion: If it’s about intelligent design and promises to lower the university’s prestige and undercut departmental funding, it does not constitute “approved research.” The Baylor administration seems to have no clue what a can of worms they are opening here. In effect, they no longer have a research university. Just as Baylor has a Tenure Review Committee (which denied Frank Beckwith tenure), will Baylor now institute a Research Review Committee (run by faculty and administrators who don’t do research, and whose first act will be to confirm and applaud the removal of Prof. Marks’s lab)?
New intelligent design conflict hits BU | By Claire St. Amant
The Baylor Lariat | Sept. 11, 2007
Baylor has received the national spotlight once again for another controversy involving intelligent design research. Dr. Robert Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, posted what university officials are calling “unapproved research” on his personal Web site hosted by Baylor’s server. The research, which concerns informatic computing and the evolutionary process, was conducted as part of Marks’ Evolutionary Informatics Lab. Baylor shut down the site in early August, shortly before a scheduled meeting to discuss the issue with Marks; his attorney, John Gilmore; Baylor General Counsel Charles Beckenhauer; Provost Dr. Randall O’Brien; and dean of engineering Benjamin Kelley — whom Gilmore credited with shutting down the site. President John Lilley did not attend.
“(Kelley) did not give my client the benefit of a meeting or a phone call,” Gilmore said.
Baylor officials say the site was removed from the server because Marks didn’t follow either of the approved processes for posting research, and the subject matter is immaterial.
“There is a whole process every professor must go through to publish academic research,” John Barry, vice president for marketing and communications, said. “He just needs to go through the proper channels.”
Barry said when publishing research on Baylor Web sites, professors can either have the backing of their department, school or dean, or decide to work independently of the university and identify it as such. Marks was working independently of the university. . . .
Luskin said he agrees with Gilmore about Baylor’s demand for a disclaimer, calling the request “reasonable.” But Luskin qualified that the request is only valid if all professors are held to the same standard.
He said his understanding is that faculty in other fields of research haven’t been restricted like Marks has. Luskin said he worries intelligent design is becoming an academic target once again.
“There may be a bit of a double standard at play,” he said.
Barry said while Baylor doesn’t hire anyone to scour the server for instances of professors posting unofficial research and illegally invoking Baylor’s name, if they are out there, the university wants to know about it.
“Anything that comes to our attention, we will look into,” Barry said. “To the best of our knowledge, other labs and centers are directly linked to approved research in that department.”
Luskin said he would like to see this issue resolved by allowing Marks to post his research with a disclaimer on the Baylor server.
“Baylor should let Dr. Marks have the academic freedom to do research and talk about it on his Web site without any undue constraints,” he said. “It isn’t that complicated.”