University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s response to the Legislative Auditor’s review skirts the heart of the findings and, in doing so, risks losing the university’s opportunity to regain public trust.

The auditor reviewed the experiences of Dan Markingson and other human subjects in drug trials in the department of psychiatry. The report found that drug trials had run amok. Conflicts of interest permeated the management of the trials. Vulnerable individuals were urged, perhaps manipulated, into participating in the trials. And some individuals suffered terribly as a result. Kaler’s March 18 response promises specific, immediate actions to correct the flaws in the department’s research protocols.

By putting the camera up close so that only the substantive research issues fall within the frame, the university sidesteps a blunt criticism. The auditor’s report found that the Markingson case raised serious issues — which university leaders have been consistently unwilling to acknowledge.

In the 10 years since Markingson’s death, the university has had two presidents, several medical school deans and several senior vice presidents of the Academic Health Center. When so many different leaders touch a problem, yet there is no change in the management of the problem, we likely have a systemic cultural pattern rather than an individual proclivity that needs correction.

Report authors throw up their hands in the face of this challenge. The report acknowledges it does not have “a recommendation that would change attitudes at the university about openness, accountability, and transparency”; it is up to the university. Consider bringing this concern into the frame, examining closely the dynamics that led to these missteps, telling us what you learn from your self-reflection and what you plan to do. Reassure us that the auditor’s critique has been received, not sidelined, and will be addressed.

Carolyn Chalmers, Minneapolis

The writer is a former director of the Office for Conflict Resolution at the University of Minnesota.

STANDARDIZED TESTING

A teacher explains why her union is involved in ‘opt-out’

I thought it might be valuable to have a current teacher respond to the March 24 commentary by Lynnell Mickelsen (“Six thoughts about the opt-out movement”). The question she asked was why much of the recent resistance to the Minnesota Comprehensive Exams “has been organized and funded by the teachers unions.” Maybe I can shed light on why I am grateful my union is working on this.

My students take the tests over a five- to six- week period. These are high-stakes tests, not for the students, but for the teachers. These scores are not used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade or is eligible for honors classes. These tests grade the schools and the teachers.

The reluctant teacher that Mickelsen referred to has figured out that this system is not the right measurement tool. The students have no consequences for not doing their best on the test. With the new evaluation process for teachers in the works, part of a teacher’s “worth” is based on these test scores. Is there any other profession that wants to be evaluated in this way? Is this a fair test? How does this benefit the students and put them first?

Sue Nielsen, Richfield

 

SOCCER STADIUM

Shouldn’t the new team first show that it can fill a stadium?

Apparently the Twin Cities will be getting a Major League Soccer franchise, contingent on building a new stadium. Frankly, I do not understand that. Many soccer teams in the MLS started out in football stadiums before moving to soccer-only stadiums once it was known the team was going to thrive. Why can’t the Minnesota team?

William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul

 

GUN SILENCERS

Read the article link given here, then form your opinion

In response to a March 27 letter about gun silencers: I would suggest becoming more informed on what a silencer actually accomplishes. Ars Technica recently had an article on the subject, opening with: “Let’s get this out of the way immediately: movies and TV consistently get silencers totally wrong. The ways silencers are used on the screen — often clamped to the barrel of a submachine gun or assault rifle or large-bore pistol, mowing down bad guys while other, blissfully unaware bad guys calmly sip their tea at the end of the hallway — is just not possible. Silencers, more properly (and accurately) referred to as ‘suppressors,’ do not silence the sound of gunfire. In most cases, they don’t even make a weapon particularly quiet.” The full article may be found at http://tinyurl.com/o7mxpk4 and is quite educational.

I am not a gun owner, and I believe the large number of accidents that are reported are due to not respecting the damage that a weapon can do. I am a veteran and have received training on gun safety and have a deep respect for what a gun can do.

Robert Nesterowich, Lauderdale

 

WAGES

Comparisons, continued: Do CEO rewards match events?

A March 27 letter attempts to outline the numerous responsibilities of the CEOs of Ameriprise Financial and Ecolab without “belittling” a waitperson, whose only task — as far as the author is aware — is to deliver the correct food on a timely basis. Suddenly a discussion of the wage gap instead gives way to an awareness chasm.

I have worked as a waitperson, and delivering the correct food, and quickly, were just two of the many tasks the job entailed. I wouldn’t expect every customer visiting my restaurant (or writing letters to the editor) to understand all aspects of my job. I do not understand all the responsibilities required of a corporate CEO. But this much I can be sure of: If the CEO is “responsible for the success” of their company, and I had been CEO when a 2011 class-action lawsuit cost my company $27.5 million, as was Ameriprise chairman James Cracchiolo (Business, March 27), I wouldn’t expect my compensation to increase to $97 million this year. Now, please, this is not an attempt to “belittle” CEOs by expecting that they are aware of company malfeasance. But from where I sit, that seems just as simple as getting the correct food to the table while it is hot.

Todd Embury, Ramsey

 

BOWE BERGDAHL

He deserves American justice; that’s why we got him back

To the March 27 letter writer who excoriated President Obama for obtaining Bowe Berg- dahl’s release: Since when does the United States allow a foreign enemy to serve as judge, jury and executioner of a member of our armed services? Whatever crimes Bergdahl may have committed (remember, he has not yet been convicted), as an American citizen and a member of the military, he deserves a fair trial here in the United States.

Joyce Denn, Woodbury