I’ve not been posting regularly on this story (as you might imagine, it’s a bit tricky for me to do so), but for those following it from near and far (I’ve received emails from friends in Europe and Asia) there have been a number of interesting articles, including pieces in the LA Times, Washington Post, and SF Chronicle [some may require subscriptions]. The latter generated about 70 comments, from every corner of the ideological map.
What is striking to this observer – who still lacks any inside information about what really happened (damn!) – is the asymmetrical warfare being waged in the media. Former Dean Kessler, who is an attorney as well as a physician, knows everybody in the press from his FDA years, loves taking on big institutions (ask Big Tobacco if you doubt this), and has a – how do I say this charitably – rather unusual personal style, is able to speak freely to the media, creating a patina of glowing coverage that makes him look like a cross between Don Quixote and Ralph Nader. For example, the LA Times piece leads with a flattering picture of Kessler, looking appropriately troubled; the caption reads: “I couldn’t resign quietly,” Kessler said in an interview with The Times. “I wasn’t going to do that.” And the Washington Post piece includes this Kessler quote:
“I tried to solve the problems, because this money was not being used for the medical center, for program development, recruitment, medical education,” he said. “There are costs in life when you try to do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor Mike Bishop, by all accounts (and my experience) a solid man of integrity, and the University are prevented by the rules of the legal game from saying much of anything. (The University released this statement yesterday; it isn’t exactly a spirited defense of the Mother Land.)
I don’t want to prejudge and it certainly wouldn’t shock me if the University had promised resources that dematerialized when Kessler arrived from Yale (this happens in recruits everywhere – to the point that it is a running joke in academic circles). But what’s playing out in the papers seems a bit unfair: the press coverage would lead one to believe that there is only one side to this story – heroic gadfly takes on deceptive, secretive bureaucracy – and I’m reasonably certain that there are two… or perhaps even only one that we’re not hearing.