Art Robinson at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine he founded
A Republican congressional candidate who claims his three doctoral-student children at Oregon State University are suffering political payback, says one son was barred this week from access to a four-year-old Ph.D. project that has earned praise from prominent scientists and an award.
The Corvallis-based university, which previously issued two statements denying Art Robinson’s initial charges last week, also contends the latest claim is false.
Robinson, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio for Oregon’s 4th District seat last fall, has alleged that Oregon State administration and faculty members in the nuclear physics program began threatening to terminate Joshua Robinson just two days after the Nov. 2 election. Art Robinson, backed by the tea party movement, drew widespread grass-roots support before losing to DeFazio 54.5 percent to 43.6 percent. DeFazio won his previous election with 82 percent of the vote.
Joshua Robinson’s sister, Bethany, a four-year Ph.D. student with a 3.89 grade-point average, says she also has been told her thesis work will be terminated. And Art Robinson says his son Matthew, who has a 3.91 grade-point average, also could lose his graduate work.
Joshua Robinson won an OSU award for his construction and development of a prompt gamma neutron activation elemental analyzer that is attached to the OSU nuclear reactor. The project also has received enthusiastic praise from scientists at two prominent U.S. research facilities, according to Art Robinson.
On Thursday, however, Joshua Robinson tried to enter the OSU reactor bay to work on his project but was reluctantly informed by a reactor operator that he had been barred from entry under orders from Professor Steven Reese, Art Robinson stated on a blog he has established to publicize his charges, called Oregon State Outrage.
Later, Reese confirmed to Joshua Robinson he had been banned from continuing to work with the apparatus he built for his graduate work or even to be in the room where the project is located, the blog post states.
Joshua Robinson, according to his father, built the equipment with his own hands, including engineering drawings, machine-shop work, welding and assembly.
Reese said he already had lined up two graduate students to work on the project under him. He said his authority for taking over the project came from a letter to Joshua from the department head – Reese’s wife, Kathryn Higley, Art Robinson claims.
Art Robinson calls it a “contrived letter that is contrary to OSU rules, contrary to the law, and contrary to professional ethics and which makes demands that Higley knows Joshua cannot meet.”
Joshua Robinson’s master’s thesis award
Higley says Joshua Robinson must form a new thesis committee and apply for a new project, while Joshua contends he already has a committee and is well into a project that was approved long ago.
Art Robinson argued Joshua’s privilege of unsupervised access to the reactor facility was earned more than four years ago and is entirely independent of the advisory issue raised in Higley’s letter.
“Reese is simply arbitrarily misusing his power as administrator without justification against Joshua,” Robinson said. “Reese can allow Joshua to use this facility. There is no reason not to do so.”
Reese suggested that Joshua take up the issue with David Hamby, who Art Robinson described as “the third and apparently most senior member of the group of four OSU faculty administrators who have been working to deny the Robinson students the opportunity to finish their Ph.D. work.”
Hamby, Robinson pointed out, was recently a member of the Corvallis City Council and is a politically active Democrat.
Neither Hamby, Higley nor Reese are nuclear engineers, he noted. They are members of the health physics faculty, while Joshua is studying nuclear engineering.
Art Robinson argues that the apparatus belongs to the public and that, in accordance with professional ethics, his son is entitled to use it until he has completed his Ph.D. work.
“It is outrageous for the public employees of a taxpayer financed institution in Oregon to behave in this way,” he said.
Robinson said he was warned by OSU Nuclear Physics Professor Jack
Higginbotham that faculty administrators at the university were “working to make
certain that Joshua, his sister Bethany and, if possible, his brother
Matthew never receive Ph.D. degrees in nuclear engineering from OSU,
regardless of their examination, academic and research performance.”
who also is president of the OSU Faculty Senate and director of the
Oregon NASA Space Science Consortium, has not made any public
Robinson, an accomplished chemical scientist who
homeschooled his six children after his wife died in 1988, says the
university is now trying to strip Higginbotham of his faculty position
and his research grants.
“His career now potentially in ruins, he
is fighting back in hopes of saving himself and the positions of the
students and staff who depend upon him at OSU and who may also lose
their careers as collateral damage in these astonishing events,”
Asked by WND to respond to Robinson’s latest charges, Todd Simmons, Oregon State’s interim vice president for university relations and marketing, cited privacy laws that prevent him from speaking publicly about the academic work and records of students.
“What I can say, in general terms, about access to our nuclear reactor is that it is managed in accordance with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Simmons said. “We must tightly control access. Anyone working there must have recognized authorization to do so. Faculty supervising graduate students in the reactor allow those students to have access under their supervision. If a graduate student does not have a faculty adviser or major professor with authorization to access the reactor, the student is not allowed to work there or use radioactive materials in his or her research.”
Simmons insisted Art Robinson “does not have all the facts on this matter, nor does he know all of the information we must consider in managing the university and its facilities.”
“Though I can’t discuss specifics,” Simmons said, “I can tell you that the entirety of the facts in this matter do not support Art Robinson’s presentation” on his blog.
Oregon State previously refused to respond in detail to the charges but has issued a statement maintaining it “has found no factual basis for the accusations” against faculty members in its school of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics
In its statement, the university said it could not comment on any matters regarding a student, because federal law requires that it receive the student’s permission. Joshua Robinson, however, issued waivers granting the university permission to release information to WND and other news outlets. But the university’s public affairs office contends it is still bound by federal law to not disclose personal information about students.
OSU also said it “will not comment on other allegations made in the Robinson posts other than to say the claims made therein are baseless and without merit.”
Responding to Simmons, Art Robinson told WND in an email that his son “has given full releases to OSU and several news agencies to discuss his affairs” but the university “continues to issue general falsehoods” and “refuses to discuss the specifics of their reprehensible actions.”
“They want to cover up the truth,” he said. “Besides their treatment of the Robinson students, their unprincipled actions toward Professor Higginbotham are reprehensible. They wish to cover this up. They are trying to manage this day by day — but the truth will eventually prove impossible to conceal.”
Robinson said Simmons’ “statement about the controlled access sounds very high minded, but it, too, obscures the truth.”
“Joshua has had access to his equipment for years,” Robinson said. “Nothing changed about his status during the past week. There are numerous bureaucratic ways in which his access to his equipment can be continued. The truth is that Reese arbitarily took an action that there was no reason for him to take — with the sole intent of preventing Joshua from continuing with his work. He earlier told Joshua and Noah that he was going prevent Joshua from continuing with his work. Other scientists , as well, were told this by OSU functionaries.”
Robinson said he has been battling the university since November but only this month decided to make the conflict public.
“I considered an immediate public exposure of this plot and warned the faculty of this possibility, but instead my family and I decided to try to prevent a scandal at OSU and save the students within the confines of OSU,” he explained. “We fought these unprincipled academics on their own ground and held them off for four months. That effort is, however, now failing, and Joshua and Bethany are both slated for dismissal from the department of nuclear engineering very soon.”
As WND reported, DeFazio ran against his own party in 2010 and characterized Robinson as an extremist, unfit for the geographically large southwest Oregon district that includes the left-leaning state university towns of Eugene and Corvallis along with conservative rural communities.
A tea party favorite, Robinson drew enthusiastic crowds throughout the district, with observers remarking they hadn’t “seen a campaign like this for a generation.”
Robinson believed signs were pointing toward a possible upset in 2010. But he claims a TV and radio “smear campaign”– based on outright lies and fabrications – cast enough doubt about him to cause some independents to reconsider their support.
Robinson said that with experience under his belt, he plans to challenge DeFazio again next year.