Former University of Iowa surgeon allowed to resign quietly after dispute, records show

A once-prominent University of Iowa surgeon was stripped of key duties after a messy disciplinary dispute with the school and then allowed to quietly resign a year later, according to a settlement agreement released Monday after a two-year fight for access by The Associated Press (AP).

The AP had asked for copies of resignation agreements and similar deals made with College of Medicine employees during a time when the school’s handling of faculty disciplinary issues was in the spotlight. The surgeon fought the release of documents related to him by filing a lawsuit in February 2011 that listed him only as “John Doe.”

The agreement identifies the former employee as surgeon John Chaloupka, an expert in treating brain aneurysms who directed interventional neuroradiology at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Chaloupka now works in a similar, high-level position at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla. Chaloupka and his attorney, Philip Mears, of Iowa City, did not immediately return messages left Monday by the AP.

The document does not fully answer questions about why Chaloupka left the university in June 2011, shortly after filing a legal affidavit supporting a discrimination lawsuit filed by a fellow professor in which Chaloupka called their boss a racially insensitive liar. In a later deposition given during a medical malpractice case, Chaloupka said he left Iowa because he was “getting worn down by the winters and wanted to live in a warmer climate.”

The settlement shows Chaloupka agreed not to make “disparaging remarks” about the university and that he and university officials agreed they would say only that he left to pursue another opportunity. It also says three other university doctors, John Buatti, Matthew Howard, and David Hasan, would not disparage Chaloupka. Buatti and Hasan didn’t immediately respond to phone messages left Monday. Howard’s office said he would not be available to comment.

The document shows that Chaloupka was allowed to keep his $380,000 per-year salary for the 2010-2011 academic year, even though he was moved to a non-clinical position, with a different office and no access to the university’s clinical computer records. He went from being a tenured full professor in radiology and director of the neurointerventional radiology division to a professor in the anatomy department and a research professor in radiology.

The agreement calls for Chaloupka to get a $100,000 bonus if he left before Dec. 31, 2010 — but he did not collect that.

The university released the record after the Iowa Supreme Court earlier this month rejected Chaloupka’s request to hear the case, exhausting his legal options to keep it secret after two lower courts had ordered the release to the AP.

The AP sought the document, and others, after the university’s medical school was criticized for moving too slowly to cut ties with a doctor who faked his own stabbing in Chicago and was investigated for viewing child pornography. At the time, the school also was in the midst of a dispute with radiology professor Malik Juweid, who was fired last year for harassing behavior and has returned to his native Jordan.

District Judge Thomas Reidel ruled in February 2012 that the settlement with Chaloupka was public under Iowa’s public records law and said taxpayers had a right to know the details. He said the provision for a $100,000 bonus for Chaloupka’s prompt departure “dangles a carrot” that was of interest to taxpayers.

He rejected Chaloupka’s argument that the document wasn’t a “settlement agreement” — which are public in Iowa — but rather a personnel record that should be confidential under state law. The judge noted the document is titled “Settlement Agreement and General Release” and was meant to resolve the parties’ disputes.

“The public has a right to know about arrangements governmental bodies make for the expenditure of public funds,” Reidel wrote.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled upheld Reidel’s ruling in January. During the appeal, Chaloupka argued that he expected the settlement would remain secret when he signed it, and that its public release may affect his relationships with colleagues and ability to get future employment. But the court said a balancing test considering Chaloupka’s privacy rights against the public’s need to know favored disclosure.

“We conclude the gravity of the invasion into plaintiff’s personal privacy does not exceed the public’s interest in the use of public funds,” Judge David Danilson wrote for a unanimous three-member panel.


Elitist Resistance to Class

Last Sunday there was a terrific piece in the NYT about  one of the barriers poor but excellent students have with respect to attending  elite schools.  In a nutshell, they do not know how to do it or even what it means or what difference it would make. For many ":Harvard" is a fancy cheese and Columbia has something to do with the space program. Often,  my friends who claim to have had lower class roots talk about working their way through Princeton or Harvard. My thought is that they miss the meaning of class. It  is  not just money but it is environmental.  Even if you were poor, if you grew up in an environment in which Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc., were names uttered in your house, you enjoyed far more of a head start than many others.

The article in the Times makes one mistake, I think, and could have added examples of class blindness. The mistake is the assumption that the elite schools would even like the diversity associated with working class students. Working class admissions  bring no glory to the limousine liberals who populate elite faculties. And, they could actually be conservative, go to church, eat meat, and own a gun.  The disinterest in working class people is probably driven by politics more than anything else.

Something that happened today reminded me of the class blindness matter. There are two aspects of it. First, the elitists who might want to have greater class diversity know virtually nothing about the things working class people have to deal with to go away to college -- family members that may need care, inability to go home at Christmas or any holiday, etc. The other one is more subtle. For example, today I mentioned the obvious class bias of unpaid externships. In my town most students sign one year leases. To enroll in an externship, most of which are out of town, they must pay double rent, not need to earn income in the summer, and be able to move. When I mention this the usual upper class response is "there is financial aid."  Do the elites not understand that financial is usually just a term for debt? And have they missed the fact that in today's market, paying that debt is close to impossible? I am quite tired of hearing  term "financial aid" used like it is some kind of economic equalizer. It's not but it is becoming the principal rationalization for ignoring the have nots.

Adderall for All: Students and Professors Alike

A year or so ago a colleague, far, far  closer to retirement than to taking a law school exam, told me he went to his doctor to get an Adderall prescription. The result was just what was hoped for. He could focus longer and write more articles. As I understand it, Adderall is available to all will shop around for the right doctors. I would like to write more articles too so I wondered if I should get some Aderall myself.  And, since we all want to do "our" best, should we all feel obligated to take Adderall or its therapeutic equivalents so we can be more productive. In fact, maybe employers should require it.

All of this is less important for professors since the measures of success are so elusive. On the other hand, if Adderall is an undergraduate epidemic why would it not also be widespread among law students where grading curves and class rank can made the difference between a job or no job. If it is widespread or likely to become widespread,  what of it?  One article I read suggested it was a great opportunity for lower socioeconomic kids because their families can substitute Adderall for more expensive prep courses, tutors, etc., to which wealthier students have access.  I wonder about the logic of this. In a competitive world won't the rich kids use all their expensive aids plus Adderall. Of course, maybe I just misunderstand how Adderall works.

Another article I read indicated that the abuse of Aderall is more common among middle and higher socioeconomic students. I am not sure what "abuse" means but it does include illegally obtaining Adderall. This surprised me because the richer the kid the more able he or she is to doctor shop. In either case, when it comes to aids  -- legal or illegal -- is there really any serious doubt about which class will have greater access and be able to squeeze out the greatest benefit.

Where do law school administrators and bar examiners fall into this. Nowhere is what I expect because a general rule for adminstrators seems to be to do nothing unless forced to. This may be the right outcome. It does not seem practical to test the test takers. Plus, what would the sanction be? Still, it's just another way to game the system and it seems inconsistent for state bars and some law schools to obsess about "background" but then turn a blind eye to dopers.

The Venns of Faculty Governance: Ask/Demand Policy

I see that Professor Campos is finished with his effort to expose the Law School Scam.  I read his blog once or twice but felt like I knew and agreed with most of what he was saying so I did not keep up.  Judging by some of his enemies, how wrong could he be?

Frankly, I am pretty much out of gas on my far more modest blog too. It has always had a goal that was a bit different than that of Professor Campos. Its goal was to reveal the persistent and destructive effects of institutions run by elites for their own ends.

Here is one more effort to explain the problem.  The people I know can be placed along a continuum. At one end are the "demanders." These are the folks who feel entitled to virtually everything and "demand" that their desires be met. Slipping along the continuum we come to the "askers." What ever they can think of, they ask for. At the far end are the people who do not demand or ask. If you know anything about relative deprivation, you know that to demand or ask you have to be in a context in which things are perceived as possible for people like you. For example, I remember a few years ago when two new faculty hires were told they would be given a certain sum for moving expenses. The reaction of one way, "What? They will actually pay for me to move. What a great surprise." The reaction of the other was "I cannot possible move for such a small amount." The important thing to note is that there is no correlation between need, merit, productivity, student welfare or institutional success and a person's position on that continuum.
In addition, administrators say yes to these requests and demands for a host of reasons other than student or institutional welfare. For example, an administrator may say yes just to avoid the harassment or to make sure he or she is not accused of 'insensitivity" to one political group or another. Or, the administrator may be concerned that the asker/demander is capable influencing others to believe he or she has been unreasonable.

Here is my best try at using Venn diagrams to illustrate the problem. The larger two circles are things people ask for or demand and reasons administrators say yes. The smaller circles within each one show things asked for or demanded that are consistent with student or institutional welfare and the times administrators say yes for reasons related to student or institutional welfare. That tiny overlap in the middle shows how much these interest coincide. A much larger area indicates when requests and demands that have nothing to do with student or institutional welfare get a yes answer.

University of Leicester defies Information Commissioner (and gets away with it)

The University of Leicester has refused to implement a decision issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) recommending that the University should provide me with my personal data held in manual files, which the ICO has found to constitute a relevant filing system containing a single category of information, namely, employment matters pertaining to me. 

The data includes job application material such as references, and documentation related to grievances lodged by me and the associated legal proceedings against the University and others.  (On my legal proceedings, see on this website:  'About the University of Leicester', 21 January 2010;  'Legal and other costs - the University of Leicester and others', 17 April 2010;  'Professor Bob Burgess (Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester) and the honours system', 23 January 2011.)

The ICO's recommendation was issued after investigation of a complaint received from me in 2012, the ICO concluding that the University was likely to have breached the Data Protection Act in withholding the personal data when I presented a subject access request.  The ICO also asked the University to take steps to prevent the situation from happening again.

The University responded by requesting a review of the ICO's decision, arguing that the information was unstructured personal data related to personnel matters and as such was exempt from disclosure by virtue of section 33A of the Data Protection Act.  Having informed the ICO that since it did not agree with the ICO's assessment it did not intend to disclose the information to me, the University subsequently promised that it would 'clearly implement any final decision fully'.  But when the final decision, upholding the earlier decision, was delivered, the University reneged on that promise, informing me by letter that it would not supply the data.

The ICO's hands are not tied in such a situation:  it could serve an enforcement notice on the data controller requiring it to disclose the information to the data subject.  (Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.)  But the ICO has chosen not to do this, also not responding to certain of my representations about its position in this regard or to questions about the content of a telephone conversation between it and the University just before the University sent me the letter mentioned above advising that it would not disclose the data.  (How can the ICO promote openness if it struggles to apply the concept to its own operations?)

In addition, the ICO has not adequately addressed other problems such as apparent unlawful disclosure by the University of my sensitive personal data.

The strength of the ICO's commitment to promoting the relevant standards has been questioned by Members of Parliament and others in various contexts.  Matters raised by MPs have included concerns relating to the ICO's investigation into blacklisting in the construction industry.

Glynis M. Truter