Berkeley Has Taken ‘No Punitive Action’ Against Tyrone Hayes

To the Editor:

As an avid reader and admirer of this publication, it is with regret that I write this letter to the editor. Unfortunately, I have no choice lest the reputation of my institution, the University of California at Berkeley, sustain additional, unwarranted damage to its reputation.

An online piece about the university’s relationship with a member of our faculty, Professor Tyrone Hayes, was riddled with errors and serious omissions (“Berkeley Researcher Who Questioned Herbicide’s Safety Loses Lab Financing,” The Chronicle, August 14). I write to correct the record.

First, the article claimed the university “cut laboratory financing” for Professor Hayes and “shut down” his lab, but we did no such thing. In fact, Professor Hayes’s departmental business manager routinely charged his research accounts to pay bills he incurred as a result of housing large numbers of animals in our facility, and when the funds in his accounts were depleted, the department informed Professor Hayes that he had run out of money. No one in the central campus administration, including myself, was aware of either the routine charges to Professor Hayes’s accounts or the departmental notice that his funding was exhausted. The details of bill payments are not sent to the vice chancellor for research for review at this university.

The first paragraph of the article implied a link between this alleged “cut” in funding and the professor’s complaints about “corporate-led retaliation,” and the article further supported a wholly false narrative by conveying without comment—and with no corroboration or supporting facts—the professor’s belief that we were motivated by a desire to protect a research grant with Novartis. There is just one problem: The university’s contract with Novartis expired 10 years ago and was not renewed, and we have no institutional relationship with Syngenta, one of Novartis’s holdings.  Given that these facts could have been easily obtained we cannot understand why they were omitted.

The article also rehashed Professor Hayes’s long-standing and baseless claims that his financial problems are the result of inequitable lab fees he is forced to pay. Professor Hayes is charged in a manner wholly consistent with his peers according to an objective time/motion analysis that is based on the size and type of the tanks he uses to house his animals. Professor Hayes essentially criticizes the methodology used to calculate differential charges for different types of aquatic systems, but there is no dispute that methodology is applied equally across the campus.

As far as the broader situation is concerned, I want to categorically state for the record that the university has taken no punitive action against Professor Hayes, and add that we have no reason or desire to hamper, sanction, or discipline him. Given the extraordinary efforts we made to retain Professor Hayes when he was recruited by another university, we are utterly perplexed by his allegations that there exists some sort of conspiracy directed at him.

Graham Fleming
Vice Chancellor, Research
University of California
Berkeley, Calif.

The Chronicle’s story has been amended to clarify that the university’s agreement with Novartis ended in 2003. —The Editors

Return to Top