A Veterinary School professor has filed notice that he plans to sue the University, claiming sanctions imposed on him by Vet School Dean Edwin Andrews irrepairably damaged his research. A lawsuit would be the latest in Vet School Microbiology Professor Jorge Ferrer's protests against the research suspension, which began after 130 people were inadvertantly exposed to sheep he infected with a leukemia-causing virus. The April 1990 incident, which involved 100 preschoolers, was a public relations headache for the University. General Counsel Shelley Green said Wednesday that University lawyers are aware of the summons notice, which was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on June 22. She said Ferrer has not filed a complaint. Linda Koons, executive assistant to Provost Michael Aiken, said she did not know if the provost had been informed of Ferrer's pending lawsuit. "I'm just surprised he keeps wanting to push this," Koons said Tuesday. "The rest of us want to go on with our lives." The punishment prevented Ferrer from conducting animal research and from conducting or supervising studies of the virus. The sanctions were imposed in February 1991 and ended in June. "He can go on doing what he does," Koons said. "But I hope he doesn't because he keeps getting us into trouble." Dean Andrews said Wednesday he was not aware of the summons. After the sanctions were imposed, faculty committees twice recommended that the punishment be lifted. Aiken rejected the recommendations both times. "Because of their nature, these punitive sanctions will most likely destroy a research program which, as judged by leading scientist in the field, has made fundamental contributions to leukemia and retro-virus research for more than 25 years," Ferrer said in a statement when the suspension began. That same month, a committee of Vet School officials ruled that Ferrer was principally responsible for the incident, but was not guilty of misconduct or of any violations. The investigating committee found that the 30 New Bolton staff members and 100 preschoolers who came in contact with the sheep were not at risk of contracting cancer. But while Ferrer was not cited for violating research rules, the report did fault him for "lapses of judgment and poor communication." Aiken, however, said the charges were not unfounded and that the committee "made findings of fact that support the dean's sanctions." Last summer, Aiken returned the report to the Faculty Senate Academic Freedom and Responsibility Committee for further review. The committee did not respond again until April -- two months before the sanctions ended -- and did not change the report's opinion that the punishment infringed on Ferrer's academic freedom. But Aiken again refused to lift the suspension. In the April 1990 incident, Ferrer failed to separate 14 lambs innoculated with the cancer-causing HTLV-1 virus from the rest of the flock at the University's New Bolton Center, located in Chester County. Of those exposed, 31 have since been tested for the virus, which is similar to the AIDS virus, HIV, and can only be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusions, breast milk or infected needles. All of the tests were negative. The summons, filed against the University, Andrews, Aiken, Vice Provost for Research Barry Cooperman and Vet School Associate Dean Jeffrey Roberts, claims officials wrongfully suspended Ferrer, defamed him and broke his employment contract.Comments powered by Disqus
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