STATEMENT OF DISAPPROVAL
OF THE RESEARCH AND TEACHER EDUCATION COMMUNITIES
IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
OF THE APPOINTMENT OF DOUGLAS BIKLEN AS
DEAN OF EDUCATION AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY

29 October 2005

We, the undersigned, are fully aware that Syracuse University and its School of Education do not depend on our approval for making administrative decisions. However, we also recognize the responsibilities of academic institutions in making leadership appointments in their departments, colleges, and schools of education. Now, as never before, research and training in education are being scrutinized and typically found culpable for the poor learning outcomes of many students. Selection of a dean, therefore, constitutes an important and very public signal of how seriously a university views its responsibilities towards public education. By selecting someone whose record constitutes an argument against rigorous science in research involving individuals with disabilities, Syracuse University has sent a public message of disregard for education that undermines not only its own standing among academic institutions but also, by negative example, threatens the credibility of all educators engaged in rigorous research addressing critical problems in teaching and learning.

In our opinion, it is essential that both individuals and institutions adhere to the highest standards of scientific rigor in their professional conduct. We therefore express our strong disapproval of the appointment of Douglas Biklen as Dean of Education at Syracuse University for reasons that we explain.

Since the early 1990s, Professor Biklen has persistently and, in our view inadvisably, promoted training in and the use of facilitated communication (FC), an ostensible means of communication that has been resoundingly and thoroughly discredited by many scientific studies. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Association on Mental Retardation, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavior Analysis, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the New York State Department of Health have all gone on record advising against the use of FC. Furthermore, the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health has expressed its criticism of Professor Biklen’s appointment, with which we concur.

As researchers and members of the teacher education communities in special education, we are deeply concerned by the harm to individuals with disabilities, their families, therapists, and teachers resulting from the use of FC. The harm to which we refer includes the false hopes, false accusations of abuse, wasted learning opportunities, and miseducation of teachers fostered by FC and training in its use.

Many controlled investigations by scientists who study communication, education, and mental health have led to a consensus that FC is, if not a hoax, an unreliable and discredited means of communication. We find it disturbing that Professor Biklen has ignored this evidence and continued to insist that the scientific studies revealing the illegitimacy of FC are themselves unreliable. Professor Biklen may have good intentions, but his unrelenting advocacy of FC in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that it typically results in counterfeit messages (produced unwittingly by the “facilitator”) does not serve the cause of science or of social justice or of individuals with disabilities. We wish to disassociate ourselves from the fraudulent claims of FC and the non-scientific methods used by Professor Biklen and his colleagues in their attempts to validate the technique.

Our statement is not based on ad hominem toward Professor Biklen. In our opinion, the decision of Syracuse University to appoint Professor Biklen as Dean of its School of Education brings discredit to the university precisely and solely because it reflects disrespect for educational and psychological research as well as teacher preparation, given Professor Biklen’s disregard for scientific evidence. Certainly, Professor Biklen is free to believe and teach whatever he wants. However, we believe that university administrators have a larger commitment to select as leaders of academic units, including education, those individuals who demonstrate a clear commitment to the principles of scientific research.

Admin note: To indicate your support for this statement, please leave a comment (prior registration required; once registerd, click link labeled “comment” and scroll to the bottom of the statement). In your comment, please give your full name and affiliation.

60 Comments

  1. JohnL says:

    I endorse this statement.
    John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.
    Professor, U.Va. Curry School of Education

  2. jimk says:

    I fully agree with the statement.
    James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
    Professor Emeritus
    Curry School of Education
    University of Virginia

  3. mgerb50 says:

    I fully agree with the statement.
    Michael M. Gerber, Ph.D.
    Professor & Emphasis Leader
    Special Education, Disabilities, & Risk Studies
    Gevirtz Graduate School of Education
    University of California, Santa Barbara

  4. markmos says:

    I fully and unreservedly agree with the statement.
    Mark P. Mostert, Ph.D.
    Professor
    School of Education
    Regent University

  5. kal4h says:

    I endorse this statement.
    Kristin Sayeski, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

  6. susan osborne says:

    I fully agree with this statement.
    Susan Osborne
    Associate Profesor &
    Coordinator, Graduate Program in Special Education
    College of Education
    North Carolina State University

  7. NMamlin says:

    I agree with this statement.
    Nancy Mamlin, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor, Special Education
    Reich College of Education
    Appalachian State University
    Boone, NC

  8. AndrewW says:

    I strongly agree with this statement
    Andrew Wiley
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    Boston, MA

  9. Rick Brigham says:

    I agree with this statement.

    Rick Brigham
    George Mason University
    Fairfax, VA

  10. gms says:

    As a professional field of research and practice, we need to challenge an administrative appointment that so clearly misrepresents the premise and promise of education.

    I fully endorese the above statement.

  11. JaneC. says:

    I strongly agree with this statement.
    Jane E. Cole
    University of Virginia
    Charlottesville, VA

  12. jumbreit says:

    I endorse this statement.

    John Umbreit
    University of Arizona
    Tucson, AZ

  13. tincanim says:

    I agree with this statement.
    Matt Tincani, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Special Education
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas

  14. hmcgrady says:

    As a former special education administrator who dealt with many parents of severely disabled yongsters who were tragically misled by some of the research mentioned in this letter; and as a professor at leading research institutions in the US, where we attempted to model excellence in ecucational research, I concur with the concerns stated in this letter to Syracuse University.

  15. cjonesva says:

    I endorse this statement.
    Christopher D. Jones Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Special Education
    Longwood University

  16. chrisd says:

    I endorse this statement.
    Christopher B. Denning
    University of Virginia
    Charlottesville, VA

  17. gms says:

    I strongly endorse this statement and urge Syracuse to seriously consider their decision.

    Gary M. Sasso
    Professor of Special Education
    Chairperson, Department of Teaching and Learning
    University of Iowa

  18. Janine Stichter says:

    I strongly endorse this statement.
    Janine P. Stichter
    Associate Professor
    Department of Special Education
    University of Missouri

  19. tgumpel says:

    I strongly endorse this statement and urge Syracuse to seriously consider their decision.

    Thomas P. Gumpel, PhD
    Chair, Department of Special Education
    School of Education
    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Jerusalem, 91905
    Israel

    and

    Department of Special Education and Disability Policy
    Virginia Commonwealth University
    School of Education
    Oliver Hall
    P.O. Box 842020
    Richmond, VA 23284-2020

  20. Melody says:

    I fully agree with this statement.

    Melody Tankersley, PhD
    Professor, Special Education
    Kent State University

  21. jfkirk says:

    I strongly agree with this statement.
    James Kirk
    Doctoral Student in Special Education
    University of Iowa

  22. DanH says:

    I endorse this statement.

    Daniel P. Hallahan, Ph.D.
    Charles S. Robb Professor of Education
    Chair, Curr., Inst., and Spec. Ed.
    University of Virginia

  23. sbyrd says:

    I endorse this statement.
    E. Stephen Byrd
    Assistant Professor – Special Education
    Department of Education
    Elon University

  24. watsonts says:

    I am baffled by the selection of Dr. Bicklen as Dean of the College of Education at Syracuse. This is an anti-science appointment. I wholeheartedly endorse the opposition statement.

    T. Steuart Watson
    Professor and Chair
    Educational Psychology
    Miami University

  25. Maureen Conroy says:

    I fully endorse this statement.
    Maureen Conroy
    Associate Professor
    Departmetn of Special Education
    University of Florida

  26. jmittler says:

    I endorse this statement.
    Joel Mittler, Ed. D.
    Professor of Special Education
    C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University

  27. bgcook says:

    I endorse this statement.

    Bryan G. Cook
    Associate Professor
    Department of Special Education
    University of Hawaii

  28. Jeong-il Cho says:

    I endorse this statement.
    Jeong-il Cho
    Doctoral Candidate in Special Education
    Department of Teaching and Learning
    University of Iowa

  29. phdviking says:

    I agree completely with this statement.
    Morten Haugland Ph.D, BCBA
    Educational Consultant
    Columbus, OH

  30. lhcook says:

    I endorse this statement.

    Lysandra Cook
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Special Education
    University of Hawaii

  31. Nancy Mundschenk says:

    I strongly endorse this statement and encourage Syracuse University to reconsider their decision.
    Nancy A. Mundschenk
    Associate Professor
    Educational Psychology & Special Education
    Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

  32. DavidBicard says:

    I strongly endorse this statement

    David F. Bicard, Ph.D.
    Research and Staff Development Coordinator
    The Hawthorn Country Day School

  33. LDblog » Syracuse dean says:

    […] Over on spedpro.org there are dozens of special educators signing a statement protesting the appointment of D. Biklen to the deanship of the Syracuse University School of Education. […]

  34. Jim Gardner says:

    I strongly endorse this statment.
    Jim Gardner, Ph.D.
    Professor, Special Education Program
    Department of Educational Psychology
    The University of Oklahoma

  35. Sara Bicard says:

    As a teacher educator in New York, I am very disturbed by this appointment. I support this statement and encourage Syracuse University to reconsider Douglas Biklen’s appointment.
    Sara Ernsbarger Bicard, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Education
    Mercy College
    Dobbs Ferry, NY

  36. davidlee says:

    I strongly endorse this statement.
    David Lee, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor, Special Education
    Penn State University

  37. Jean Crockett says:

    I endorse this statement.

    Jean B. Crockett
    Associate Professor
    University of Florida
    Department of Special Education

  38. specled says:

    I completely endorse this statement.
    Edward J. Sabornie, Ph.D.
    Professor
    Graduate Program in Special Education
    College of Education
    North Carolina State University

  39. Schatschneider says:

    I endorse this statement.

    Chris Schatschneider, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor
    Department of Psychology
    Florida Center for Reading Research
    Florida State University

  40. bgaudiano says:

    I fully endorse this statement.

    For more information on FC see:
    http://www.srmhp.org/0101/autism.html

    Brandon Gaudiano, Ph.D.
    NIH-Funded Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior,
    Brown Medical School and
    Psychosocial Research Program,
    Butler Hospital

  41. Skeptyk says:

    I agree with this statement. As a parent, a nurse, an activist for disability rights and against quackery and pseudoscience, I am dismayed at Douglas Biklen’s willful ignorance of the evidence against FC. Earnest belief and wishful thinking are no excuse for shoddy research and dangerous advocacy.

    JeanneE Hand-Boniakowski, RN
    Wells, Vermont

  42. James.Herbert says:

    I fully endorse this statement.

    James D. Herbert, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor & Dir. of Clinical Training
    Associate Dean for Graduate Education
    Drexel University
    Mail Stop 988
    245 N. 15th Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192

  43. polsgrov says:

    I fully agree with this statement.

    Lewis Polgrove, EdD.
    Professor Emeritus
    Indiana University

  44. Bill Berdine says:

    I agree with the comments regarding Douglas Biklen’s research integrity.

  45. specled says:

    I fully endorse the statement concerning the mistake Syracuse University made in choosing Biklen as its Dean of the School of Education.

    Edward J. Sabornie, Ph.D.
    Professor of Special Education
    NC State University

  46. kstephens says:

    I endorse this statement. An advocate for pseudoscience should not be appointed Dean of a major university.

    Ken Stephens, Ph.D.

  47. Gina says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse this statement.

    Gina Green, PhD, BCBA
    Lecturer, Public Health and Special Education, San Diego State University
    Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Behavior Analysis, University of North Texas
    Autism researcher and consultant
    San Diego, CA

  48. hschling says:

    I strongly concur with this statement.

    Henry Schlinger, Ph.D.
    Lecturer
    Departments of Psychology
    California State University, Los Angeles and Northridge

  49. jimtemu says:

    I fully support the statement expressing disapproval of Douglas Biklen’s appointment to the post of Dean of the College of Education at Syracuse University.

    The appointment of Biklen to the post of Dean, along with the public statements supporting his work on facilitated communication and related issues by the Syracuse Chancellor and Provost, indicate an endorsement by Syracuse University of pseudoscience, superstition, and the exploitation of persons with developmental disabilities.

    James T. Todd, Ph.D.
    Professor of Psychology
    Eastern Michigan University

  50. randi says:

    I am pleased to see that so many academics have troubled to state their concerns over the Biklen incident. This is a serious threat to the integrity of the educational system, not only at Syracuse, but in the USA as well.
    James Randi
    James Randi Educational Foundation
    Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

  51. Bahearn says:

    I strongly support this statement. Syracuse University should reconsider their appointment of Biklen as Dean. Furthermore, their support of the popularizer of a technique that has been repeatedly proven as bogus, in sound scientific studies, positions Syracuse University as a champion of pseudoscience.

    Bill Ahearn, Ph.D., BCBA
    Director of Research
    The New England Center for Children
    33 Turnpike Rd
    Southborough, MA 01772

  52. seg189 says:

    I strongly agree with this statement.
    Shannon Gormley, PhD
    Asst. Professor of Exceptional Education
    Buffalo State College
    Buffalo, NY

  53. anajdowski says:

    I agree with this statement.
    Adel Najdowski, PhD, BCBA
    Research and Development Manager
    Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.
    Tarzana, CA

  54. Anthony Cammilleri says:

    I support this statement without reservation.

    Anthony Cammilleri, Ph.D.
    Director of Education
    Child Study Center
    Fort Worth, TX
    76102

  55. dra says:

    I strongly endorse this statement.
    Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson
    Professor of Special Education
    University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

  56. Rachel Tarbox says:

    I strongly support this statement.

    Rachel S. F. Tarbox, PhD
    Co-Director, Research & Development
    Center for Autism & Related Disorders, Inc.

  57. will says:

    I completely agree with this statement.
    I am glad to see this initiative against some of these archaic practices.
    Richard Weavers, Ph.D.
    Visiting Professor
    University of Cheongju
    Republic of Korea

  58. dougfraser says:

    I am in full agreement with this statement. Douglas Bilken is nothing less than an exceptional example of an irrational and dogmatic individual in a position of authority whose rejection of thoroughly validated evidence undermines the very intent of the position to which he has been appointed. The result is a disgrace to your university. I am appalled.

  59. bgorman says:

    I concur with this statement.
    Brian J. Gorman, M.Sc., J.D.
    Assistant Professor
    Towson University

  60. hn.vijay86 says:

    I agree with this statement completely.