The Consequences of “Civility”: A Torch Reader’s Take on Hopkins
December 18, 2006
Although the particulars of the current case at Johns Hopkins University seem far afield from the issues of concern to Health Care Renewal, Dr Brody did not limit the application of his argument to party invitations posted by undergraduates to the internet. His ability to punish any speech not deemed to be sufficiently “substantive and serious” should thus give pause to anyone at JHU who might publish clinical research that could offend vested interests, blow the whistle on health care quality issues, or question hospital or university administrators. Dr Brody's ability to punish such speech also seems to contradict the University’s mission statement, which aims to “foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.”Finally, I should note that Dr Brody’s writings may also give insight into how little leaders of commercial health care organizations respect free speech, free expression, and academic freedom. Note that Dr Brody leads not only Johns Hopkins University, but also, as a Director, Medtronic Inc, “the global leader in medical technology.” According to Medtronic’s 2006 proxy filing, Dr Brody’s yearly compensation as Director is $80,000 in cash, and $70,000 in stock options. Dr Brody currently owns more than 72,000 shares or the equivalent in the company’s stock (worth more than $3,900,000 at the stock price of $54.28 /share today). Yet, I wonder if he would regard any questions about whether this part-time job, entailing fiduciary responsibility to a company which has “research and/or business relationships” with JHU, and which “periodically makes donations and/or grants” to JHU, constituted an important conflict of interest as not “substantive and serious,” but mere “common name-calling?” I doubt anyone at JHU will try to find that out.