Yesterday, at a meeting of 100 members of the Virginia Commonwealth University community, Dr. Francis Macrina admitted that his school was wrong for the secrecy agreements it has entered into with Philip Morris USA.

Other speakers among the 100 or so attending the meeting of a task force tasked with exploring corporate research addressed a variety of concerns related to the propriety of the tobacco contracts and whether VCU should be doing tobacco-funded research at all.

Since I have been writing against the contracts for Bacons Rebellion and have researched the issue extensively on, all I can say is “Bravo!”

The meeting is restoring my faith in VCU although I am disappointed they still believe they need to take baby steps in dealing with issues that plenty of other schools would have absolutely no problem in addressing. VCU administrators, for example, refused to allow news cameras to film any of the meeting. A small step backwards.

A few other points. This meeting and Macrina’s honesty shoots down some folks on this blog. One is a Virginia State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist who saw absolutely no problem with the tobacco contracts. Well, fella, VCU sees a problem with those contracts so maybe you ought to enter the 21st Century.

And, our beloved Blogmeister, Jim Bacon, needs to wake up and smell the coffee, too. After all this, he doesn’t need to step back, all-knowing, and complain that he can’t find enough to “condemn” VCU about. Well, Jimbo, mark Macrina’s words. Next time, no knee jerk defense of the “Richmond” you so proclaim to love. Think it over, first. Okay?

The danger, however, is that this issue may die ove the summer. VCU President Eugene Trani seems to be recovering part of his and his school’s reputation by holding these public meetings and encouraging debate. Funny that there’s still an element of fear.

Unfortunately, Trani, 68, has been ill with heart troubles and has undergone a bypass. This and his age raise the question about his succession. One wonders if VCU has started looking.

Peter Galuszka

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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Just for the record, I covered the VCU task force forum yesterday and made Macrina’s remarks the headline of my story for R’Biz.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Of course you did, Jim.

    Peter Galuszka

  3. Groveton Avatar

    Two steps forward by Virginia colleges in the same quarter? Wow! First, UVA decides to use some of their gazillion dollar endowment to help hold down tuition increases next year. And now VCU admits that their secret deal with a cigarette maker to study cancer is suspect.

    In a state like Virginia with glacial progress on everything – that’s an avalanche of action.

    What next? Start giving out no interest educational loans to medical school students if they agree to spend 4 years in family medicine in rural areas of the state?

  4. Actually, Kudos and “Vindication” to both of you! If it were up to the Times Dispatch, this story would have been buried a long time ago…Their (lack of) coverage of this story was almost criminal (calling it a non-story on day one after an “investigation” by their best reporter)…Thank God for alternative media in this town.

  5. eraserhead Avatar

    Mr. Gooze,

    Kudos do go to you for being on this story first, recognizing its importance immediately, and following its trail.

    Unfortunately, you can’t resist jabbing anyone who dared challenge you and … gloating. It’s not becoming of a supposed “professional journalist.” You put those words in your profile–live up to them or change them to reflect membership in the amateur blogging hoi polloi.

    Keep up the good investigative work–lose the attitude.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Commentary is commentary and reporting is reporting.
    Sorry you don’t like my “attitude” but it is my right as a blogger and commentator. Some of these folks make all kind sof comments on my views and work. The beauty of the blog is that you get to strike back, especially when some of the people making those comments are lobbyists who fail to so identify themselves.
    Think I’ll keep that “attitude.” You don’t like it, too bad.

    Peter Galuszka

  7. eraserhead Avatar

    Ah, so blogging is all about getting to “strike back.” That’s tells us everything we need to know about you and your work.

    Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Blogging is a marketplace of ideas, of argument, of give and take. I have my view and you have yours. I am not going to be intimidated in giving my view because you might consider that i have an “attitude.” If that discounts my work in your view, too damned bad.
    Where’d you get the name “eraserhead,” anyway? From an Arnold movie?
    Peter Galuszka

  9. Tyler Craddock Avatar
    Tyler Craddock

    In Baconesque fashion, just for the record, my comments are my own and not on behalf of anyone else. Some folks seem to want to gloss over that point.

  10. eraserhead Avatar

    Just so there’s no misunderstanding–I welcome your viewpoint. I wish you wrote more on this blog. Heck, I just praised your work, but you’d rather fight about implied advice.

    What bugs me is your antipathy to the viewpoint of others. Just once, I’d like to see you write, “Jim, you have a point. I think there might be some gray area.” Instead, anyone who doesn’t salute your strong opinions from top to bottom is a misguided conservative wingnut and you take out after them like a pit bull.

    I know, I know … you like who you are: embittered, chip on the shoulder, partisan streetfighter with an attitude.

    Where’d you “Gooze Views” from? What’s in a name?

    I’ll refrain now and evermore from criticizing what I see as your straying from the intent of this blog–an elevated discussion of the issues with a modicum of respect afforded commenters who present a different point of view.

    In that spirit, I’ll note that I found the timing of President Trani’s recent surgery interesting. Walls seemed to be closing in on him with the Philip Morris and Police Chief Monroe “scandals,” in addition to reporting on some of his other financial arrangements. Did Trani’s failing health affect his judgement, or is his health a convenient, if painful, way out?

    I’ve always heard that Governor Kaine could have the presidency of VCU for the asking. He might not want to work full-time in an Obama Admistration, especially if he couldn’t be there at the start. The Trani timing could be perfect now. The Governor would be a good choice and the job would keep him close to politics.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    You have a point. Actually, I do on occasion praise the views of others, but I guess not enough.
    The name “Gooz” was bestowed upon me by my college roomate freshman year. He ended up being a Republican congressman from New Hampshire but was swept out of office in 06 by the antiBush, anti-war wave.
    Peter Galuszka

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Eraserhead, Interesting speculation about Trani and Kaine. As a matter of fact, “Gooze” and I were chatting about that ourselves this very morning.

    When Trani turned 65, as I recall, he wanted to retire, but he was prevailed upon by the board of trustees to stick around a few more years because they couldn’t imagine anyone filling his shoes. Now that he’s recovering from quintiple bypass surgery, he may have other things on his mind than completing another three or so grueling years as head of VCU.

    Meanwhile, Tim Kaine steps down as governor in a year and a half… I wonder if the powers behind the throne are thinking in terms of persuading Trani to stick with the job through the end of the Kaine administration — long enough to turn the position over him to him when he vacates office.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Doesn’t anyone else think it is strange that VCU is coming clean at the outset of work by the task force? Shouldn’t that happen at the end of its work, after facts have been collected and analyzed and recommendations have been made? It goes to show just how egregious the agreement was in the first place.

    That said, I hope the aforementioned journalists don’t quit paying attention to the real issues in the case (as I’m sure VCU would prefer). Remember, Macrina is stil on the task force. I can’t help but think that if he were not, one of the task force recommendations might be to discipline or fire him for making such a lousy deal.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    You'll be vindicated when Macrina, the sole remaining authorized agent who can act on behalf of the University with regard to this agreement, says he is canceling the remaining years of the master agreement as well as the task orders, about which we still know nothing factual (just what Macrina & Solana claim – what exactly this work involves as well as any additional restrictions – and the unnamed but highly protected "third parties" – remain secret & based on heresay rather than openly disclosed documents thus far).

    You'll be vindicated when Macrina explains why and under what authority he appointed his secretary to the Task Force, never mind why he is still chairing the Task Force charged with investigating this agreement & others like it also signed under his authority.

    You'll be vindicated when the Task Force members actually review all 9 research services agreements on the books at VCU (no indication they are or plan to do this).

    Macrina admitted the clause that "appeared to offer secrecy" (appeared?????) was a mistake because he was about to be publicly challenged on something for which he had absolutely no defense. He did not distribute the VCU-PM agreement to the Task Force (why was he hiding it from them, of all people?), but FOIA-released copies were eventually circulated among the faculty, so he couldn't avoid addressing the secrecy clause any longer or claim that it was there just to prevent unauthorized use of names (which is how he initially justified the clause).

    Let's see him & the rest of the Task Force show some proactive accountability & transparency, clean up their act (& composition), and give us a reason to feel confident that their findings and recommendations are valid.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    The Town Hall meeting summary posted on the Task Force Website makes no mention of Macrina’s admission of a mistake with the secrecy clause or his promise not to sign another agreement with it. Further, unlike his full denial in the RTD, the Task Force summary does indicate Macrina knew of “conversations” between Philip Morris and the VCU Foundation about a $20M center project raised at the Town Hall meeting. Involvement of the VCU Foundation is reminiscent of the sort of money laundering that occurred at Cornell medical college and the Liggett Group funding of CT lung cancer screening research there.

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