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Laurentian students fear hours of research are lost after being barred from labs twice.
courtesy Quoc Hao Mach/LU

Laurentian students still locked out of labs

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If Simon and Garfunkel were to build a bridge over the troubled waters at Laurentian University, it would have to be a sizeable one.

On Nov. 9 a group of students attending LU in Sudbury were locked out of their labs during an argument with university administration concerning standards in its animal testing facility. Following a brief spell of calm where most of the students were allowed to continue their research, the Canadian Council on Animal Care deemed LU non-compliant to its guidelines, and the administration once again closed the doors of its facility.

The administration declined all questions and would comment only in a written statement outlining its position.

"On January 13, 2006, the Canadian Council on Animal Care assigned Laurentian University the status of Non-Compliance for what it concluded were breaches of its guidelines and policies," stated the document. "On February 14 the Animal Care Committee [at LU] met to con- sider... research under the supervision of Dr. Michael Persinger. The university veterinarian, Dr. Rodney Jouppri, reported several breaches of LU rules and regulations. These findings, when combined with the decision of the CCAC to assign LU with Non-Compliance... resulted in the decision to suspend Dr. Persinger's Research Protocols."

For the students, this means they are once again locked out of the animal care facility.

The university's funding for animal research was dependant on the CCAC, and a 'non-compliance' status will result in the withdrawal of funding from LU. The university has reacted by locking out the students until all research projects are determined to be compliant.

The students do not see things in the same light. Further aggravating the situation is the allegation that the student representative on LU's Animal Care Committee was unfairly removed from her position for speaking out about the conflict.

Deborah Meades, former member of the Animal Care Committee highlighted the circumstances of her recent exclusion.

"On Feb. 14 the ACC voted to remove me from my position, citing conflict of interest," said Meades. "Prior to this I received an email from Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, chair of the committee, warning me that he would put forward a motion I be removed for speaking specifically to the Gauntlet about the situation at LU."

The email from Schulte-Hostedde read: "I have found some statements attributed to you on the University of Calgary student newspaper website re: the recent lockout of the neuroscience group. Given the nature of the statements [see story here] I must ask you to justify them in the context of being a member of the Animal Care Committee (not "sort of" a member). If these comments cannot be justified, I will ask that a motion be put forward to remove you from the ACC."

Schulte-Hostedde had no comment.

Students further claim that members of faculty have personally harassed them. LU student Vivian Hoang highlighted this in a letter she also sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Two female students have filed harassment complaints against Dr. Rodney Jouppri, who interrogated them and demanded their personal journals," said Hoang. "What concerns me is that when informed of this Dr. Jouppri immediately contacted the Ministry of Agriculture and filed a complaint against us. Dr. Schulte-Hostedde also circulated an email, warning staff members to be vigilant against the possibility of a 'Concordia situation,' citing the incident in which a faculty member shot a number of colleagues."

Currently, the animal care facility remains closed and various suits and complaints are ongoing. The administration acknowledged complaints have been made, but denied any personal loss or harassment to Persinger or his students.

"The university has been informed that Dr. Persinger has alleged that the decision by the ACC has caused him and his research team personal financial losses," said the statement issued by university administration.

The statement continued: "The university denies that either Dr. Persinger or members of his research team have suffered the losses alleged or that any member of its faculty, staff or agents has at any time invaded the privacy or harassed either Dr. Persinger or any member of his research team."

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To further clarify: LU was put into non-compliance for two reasons a) renovations were not completed as per CCAC recommendations and b) we had issues with the veterinarian's authority. The issue with the veterinarian's authority stems from several incidences including the two harassment complaints and then having the vet contact the Ministry after he knew about the harassment complaints. We had concerns that his move was retaliatory. We have concerns that a situation which allows the veterinarian to do whatever he pleases withour fear of being held accountable is a dangerous situation, especially when he has shown professional misconduct to student researchers.

Also, the "breaches" reported by Dr Jouppi - they were vague, unsubstantiated and in fact, one of his "breaches" had been satisfactorily dealth with at an ACC meeting in Dec. 2005 when they passed our protocols. We even had and encouraged the Ministry inspector to come by and do an investigation.

Wow, Dr. Persinger does a lot of cool research. Just ISI web-of-science him up. Paranormal psychology, the effects of weak external magnetic fields on consciousness, perception, etc.

eg:
Koren SA, Persinger MA
Possible disruption of remote viewing by complex weak magnetic fields around the stimulus site and the possibility of accessing real phase space: A pilot study
PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS 95 (3): 989-998 Part 1 DEC 2002

Persinger MA, Koren SA, Tsang EW
Enhanced power within a specific band of theta activity in one person while another receives circumcerebral pulsed magnetic fields: A mechanism for cognitive influence at a distance?
PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS 97 (3): 877-894 Part 1 DEC 2003

Animal research is pretty controversial stuff though. I guess you guys inject rats with seizure-inducing drugs and then look at how these animals react to various treatments. Fine, I'm not passing judgement there, it's valid research. But it's controversial, and obviously should be regulated.

Persinger MA
Rats' preferences for an analgesic compared to water: An alternative to "killing the rat so it does not suffer"
PERCEPTUAL AND MOTOR SKILLS 96 (2): 674-680 APR 2003

St-Pierre LS, Persinger MA
Extreme obesity in female rats following prepuberal induction of lithium-pilocarpine seizures and a single injection of acepromazine
EPILEPSY & BEHAVIOR 7 (3): 411-418 NOV 2005
Times Cited: 0

Persinger MA, Dupont MJ
Emergence of spontaneous seizures during the year following lithium/pilocarpine-induced epilepsy and neuronal loss within the right temporal cortices
EPILEPSY & BEHAVIOR 5 (4): 440-445 AUG 2004

But listen up. You got into a field that involves animal research. You know the controversy, the risks. You cite little bureaucratic sounding examples, but how can we believe you're not hand picking what you report? It is interesting research, and it's a shame your graduate and research programs are interrupted, but damn it, you should have taken the ethical guidelines very seriously. Meticulously so. You should have known what the consequences would be.