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Fired Biotech Critic Ignacio Chapela Sues University of California

Professor sues UC in tenure dispute Suit cites university's link to biotech company
By Michelle Maitre, STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY - An assistant professor at UC Berkeley has sued the University of California, saying he was denied tenure because he criticized a multimillion-dollar research deal with a biotechnology company.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, also claims Ignacio Chapela was discriminated against because he is of Mexican origin and that he has been a victim of a secret, unwritten rule of UC's tenure process - that professors shouldnt publicly criticize those giving lots of money to the university.

Chapela, a microbial biologist who has been fighting for tenure since 2001, said the lawsuit takes his fight to a new, public level to illustrate the encroachment of private interests into university research and a resultant atmosphere that squelches scientific inquiry that leads to unpopular conclusions.

"The university has lost the capacity to do science", Chapela said Monday in a news conference outside Hilgard Hall, where he still maintains a research

"This is not a lawsuit against the university, he continued. It is a lawsuit for the university and against the people who have bastardized and taken away what the university used to do."

University officials hadn't seen Chapelas suit Monday afternoon and couldn't comments on its specifics. But UC Berkeley spokesman George Strait said the university's tenure process is one of the most stringent in the country. "We take it very seriously," Strait said, "because it undergirds the excellence of our faculty."

Strait said it was ironic Chapela would accuse the university of squelching opinions.

"We're the home of the Free Speech Movement and the champion of academic freedom. For someone to allege we are anything other than that is not to be believed," Strait said.

Chapela said his tenure denial stemmed, in large part, from his opposition to a five-year, $25 million research deal UC Berkeley signed in 1998 with Novartis, a multinational biotech business now called Syngenta.

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association <