A Stanford University medicine professor says “academic freedom is dead” after his life was turned into a “living hell” for defying coronavirus lockdown orders and “scientific clergy” during the pandemic.
“The basic premise is that if you don’t have protection and academic freedom in the tough cases, when a faculty member has an idea that’s unpopular with some faculty members, powerful colleges, or even the administration… If they don’t protect it in that case, then you have no academic freedom at all,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya told Fox News Digital in a telephone interview.
Bhattacharya is a tenured professor of medicine at Stanford University and also an economist who serves as director of Stanford’s Center for Demographics and the Economics of Health and Aging.
He came under fire during the pandemic after co-authoring the Great Barrington Declaration, which was an open letter signed by thousands of doctors and scientists in 2020 denouncing lockdowns as harmful. Bhattacharya was joined by Harvard Medical Professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Oxford Professor Dr. Sunetra Gupta in co-authoring the paper.
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The statement was quickly denounced by other health leaders, including the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who criticized the call for herd immunity in the document as “silly and very dangerous.”
Speaking at the Academic Freedom Conference at the Stanford Graduate School of Business earlier this month, Bhattacharya said that in today’s era, “we have a high clergy who declare from on high what is true and what is not true. “.
“When you take a position that is at odds with the scientific clergy, your life becomes hell,” he told the conference. “You are dealing with a deeply hostile work environment.”
Bhattacharya said that shortly after the Great Barrington Statement gained widespread attention, he received death threats, hate mail and questions about where he gets the funding, noting that “most of my money came from the NIH during most of my life.”
“The purpose of the one-page document was to tell the public that there was no scientific consensus in favor of lockdown, that in fact many epidemiologists, many doctors, many other people, prominent people, disagreed with the consensus,” Bhattacharya. he said during his 10-minute talk at the conference.
And on campus, a “chill” ensued in the debate and he was not invited to give a campus talk and an effort to host a debate on COVID policies stalled, College Fix reported his comments at the conference. .
“If Stanford were really really committed to academic freedom, they would have… worked to make sure that there were debates and discussions, seminars, where these ideas were discussed among faculty,” regardless of whether the academics agreed or disagreed, he told Fox News Digital. after his speech at the conference.
Bhattacharya argued in his comments to Fox News that in many scientific circles during the pandemic, “power has replaced the idea of truth as the guiding light.”
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“So you have someone like Tony Fauci saying without irony that if you question me, you’re not just questioning a man, you’re questioning science itself. That is an exercise of pure power, where he effectively positions himself as the Pope. of science rather than a genuine desire to learn the truth.
“They systematically tried to make it sound like everyone agreed with their ideas on COVID policy, when in reality there was deep disagreement among scientists and epidemiologists about the right strategy. That’s why we wrote the Great Barrington Statement to tell you to the public that this disagreement existed. There was an alternative policy available,” he said.
Bhattacharya denounced at the conference that “academic freedom is dead” and that he was left without the support of Stanford leaders.
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“The policy of the university, when it comes to pushing, is to allow this type of hostile work environment,” he said. “What if there had been an open scientific debate on campus, sponsored by the university about this? So that people would know that there are legitimate alternative views?”
He argued that if the Stanford president had pushed for a debate when the Great Barrington Declaration was written, “there would have been tremendous controversy about it.”
“But at the same time, the hostile work environment would have dissipated because what he would have said is, ‘Look, there’s a debate, it’s legitimate to have this debate, a place like Stanford is where this debate should take place.”
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Neither Stanford’s media team nor the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases immediately responded to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment on Bhattacharya’s comments.