THE SEARCH FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE AT HARVARD
by Alex Beam
The Boston Globe, April 12, 1995
E.T., phone Harvard. Your friend Dr. Mack is in trouble.
Dr. John Mack is surely one of the more curious apparitions in the Harvard pantheon. A Pulitzer Prize winner (for a biography of T.E. Lawrence) and a tenured professor of psychiatry at the World's Greatest University, he also happens to be the World's Best Credentialed Champion of UFO abduction tales. He has written a best-selling book, "Abduction," and has co-conjured many a tabloid TV tall tale. Mack first achieved national renown when he cosponsored a five-day conference on "true" UFO abduction tales at MIT three years ago.
Since then, Mack...has cobbled together an industrial-strength UFO-logy promotion machine.
It seemed inevitable that Mack's antics would run afoul of WGU's power elite; now they have. Dean Daniel Tosteson of the medical school has appointed a special faculty committee, chaired by professor emeritus (and former New England Journal of Medicine editor) Arnold Relman, and including members from the Harvard counsel's office, two med-school docs and an associate dean, to investigate Mack. The committee has already drafted a preliminary report that criticizes Mack's research, and finds him "in violation of the standards of conduct expected of a member of the faculty of Harvard University."
The stakes are high. Friends say that Mack initially accepted the medical school's assurances that the inquiry was collegial in nature. He appeared alone before the group, and willingly turned over tapes of his interviews with purported UFO abductees. More recently, however, Mack has appealed to two lawyers -- Eric MacLeish and Daniel Sheehan -- for help during the investigation. Mack, MacLeish and Sheehan all decline comment.
However, in a letter to one of Mack's supporters, Sheehan points out that Harvard may refer the committee report to the state medical licensing board, of which Dr. Relman is a newly appointed member. Worse still, he writes, the "Report...could also be used by Dean Tosteson as a formal faculty complaint calling for the removal of John from the Harvard University faculty and for the dissolution of his tenure."
One of the few major-league academics publicly defending Mack is David Pritchard, a physics professor and UFO abduction researcher at MIT.
"It seems to me an infringement of the doctrine of freedom of inquiry that John is subject to an investigation that, as far as I can tell, has not been initiated by the faculty and does not have clear rules of procedure or rules for the dissemination of the report the committee writes," Pritchard says. A spokeswoman for the medical school refuses to comment on the investigation.
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