Mayo Clinic Suspends A Doctor Who Commented in NYTimes About Testosterone's impact when Trans-athletes compete in Women's sports
Mayo clinic violates academic freedom
FIRE— an organization devoted to championing free speech on university campuses— has broken the story of Mike Joyner, a Mayo Clinic Professor suspended for comments he made to the news media. They even published his disciplinary letter.
It appears Mike Joyner is in part being punished for comments he made about fairness when trans-athletes compete in women’s sports. Allow me to outline the details of this action, and build my case that Mayo clinic is in complete and egregious violation of Academic Freedom.
As a bit of background. Mike Joyner is an anesthesiologist and expert in sports physiology. Pre-pandemic we were allies. We agreed that the genome has been massively overhyped and Francis Collins specialized in that hype. We exchanged hundreds of emails on genomic oncology, and I have published extensively on it.
During the pandemic, we drifted apart because I was opposed to giving convalescent plasma outside of randomized studies, and Mike gave a ton of it, outside randomized studies. As readers know, my philosophy is RCT or STFU— especially for experimental agents that may have negative side effects. But here are the rules of academics. It Mike’s job to say what he thinks, and my job to say why he is wrong.
Now let’s turn to what happened.
Exhibit A: on FIRE website is the disciplinary letter. It specifically cites “idiomatic language” in a NYTimes article as part of Mikes problematic behavor. What— What did Mike say?
In an article on whether it is fair for Lia Thomas to compete with women, Mike Joyner— an expert in exercise physiology— is repeatedly quoted in a way that would imply he thinks it is unfair. Here is the relevant section. (Note the article is from May 29, 2022— not June, but I can’t find anything in June that fits the disciplinary notes description).
This sentence highlighted in blue is the only one that makes sense to me that Mayo could be talking about. The role of testosterone in sports. The only idiomatic expression I see is the “800-pound gorilla.”
I am not an expert on the topic of sports and fairness, and readers will know I have not weighed in, but Mike is an expert on the topic. He is well within his rights to give that quote to the NYTimes. If you don’t like it— do some research and give your own quote. Yet, we can all imagine that many readers did not like his quote and put pressure on Mayo to censor him.
Now, under the pretext of a more recent interview to CNN, where Mike says things about convalescent plasma, Mayo has suspended him without pay. I cannot say how much I disagree with Mike about plasma. It has only showed weak evidence of efficacy in a tiny subgroup of COVID patients, and had he run an RCT instead of giving it out liberally we could have learned sooner. I think Mike made a HUGE mistake in giving convalescent plasma outside RCT.
Having said that, Mayo is making a bigger and more dangerous mistake by punishing Mike Joyner.
He needs to make his case, and we need to make ours.
Mayo clinic has dishonored their reputation as a place that accommodates individuals who think for themselves and hold a diversity of views. Their actions are entirely unjustified. They have capitulated to a mob, it appears to me, a great act of cowardice.
Ultimately, a university has no business policing faculty speaking to media. They must be free to do so, as much as possible. Media policies are all bullshit. They are in violation of academic freedom. Restrictions on any form of communication are a threat. Professors must be able to talk to reporters as often as they desire. If you don’t like that— don’t quote them, or rebut them.
Recently Robert Zimmer of University of Chicago died. Unlike the leadership at Mayo, he understand that this issue is far bigger than any specific debate. He had courage. I encourage you to read his obituary.
To me the most telling aspect of the letter was the discussion of Mayo’s “brand”. Hospital non-profits are spending massive energy trying to get the business of global billionarres from the middle east and Asia, as we showed. They appear to be primarily motivated by seeking capital, via their brand. That is in conflict with the deep meaning of a university to seek truth. Truth or money, sometimes you have to choose. If Mayo wishes to choose money, their nonprofit status needs to be revoked.
Your brand should be the free exchange of ideas. First and foremost.