Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
Dean Radin once believed UNLV to be a paragon of academic freedom. Then he was fired.
Radin's research into psychic phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and the possibility of life after death, generated about $500,000 in research and grant money during his four years at UNLV.
"All my research has been funded through grants -- no public funds, no tenure, no protection," said Radin, who was director of the Consciousness Research Division of the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies.
On Sept. 5, Don Baepler, who oversees the Reid center, presented Radin with two options: sign a letter of "separation," which would allow him 60 days to pack his bags, or refuse to sign it and be terminated immediately.
Radin signed, but he didn't know why he'd received the ultimatum until Monday.
"The area (of research) hasn't proven to be viable," said UNLV Provost Douglas Ferraro.
Ferraro said Radin's research isn't drawing the dollars it needs to thrive and his studies no longer mesh with the mission of the Reid center.
"That's very interesting to hear," Radin said. "I hadn't heard anything up till now, but it seems completely independent of the issue. This is not a money-making proposition."
The fact that his research was paying for itself and the university would still opt to discontinue it is hard to understand, said Radin, who had $100,000 in grants pending this year.
Ferraro, who canceled a class this semester on the history and scientific study of psychic phenomena to be taught by Radin (it would have been his first foray into the classroom at UNLV), countered that the situation is nothing out of the ordinary.
"Dean's work has gone on uninhibited and unfettered for however long he's been here, but this is a matter of priorities in the Harry Reid Center," Ferraro said.
He said the nature of the center's work will be more biologically oriented in the future -- more concerned with energy issues and the Nevada Test Site.
"Dean's work has really been an anomaly in that department over the years," Ferraro said. "We've been a convenient home for him, but in the future we will be pursuing more viable prospects of research."
Baepler, who hired Radin and heads the center, wouldn't discuss Radin's termination, directing all questions to Ferraro.
Radin said it's ironic that less than a week after his termination, he was interviewed by "Good Morning America" as one of three "maverick" scientists daring to confront conventional wisdom and thriving in the face of it.
At the time, he was hopeful that he'd get a reprieve from UNLV. When asked by the interviewer to explain why UNLV had allowed him to research a topic ripe with skeptics, he said, some universities have the courage to pursue all knowledge and UNLV was just such a university.
Now he's rethinking that compliment.
Ferraro calls this portrayal "regrettable," insisting that Radin's dismissal is anything but a castigation of his research.
However, Radin insists that university pressure to leave has been tied to the attention he's received from the media.
Radin was touted by New York magazine as "a mix of curiosity, scholarship, technical expertise and sly wit," on the cover of his recently published book, "The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena."
Charles Tart, UNLV's newly appointed Bigelow Professor of Consciousness Studies, wrote that Radin's book is the one to read for anyone interested in "the strange reasons why otherwise intelligent scientists resist the facts with such prejudice!"
Tart, who has seen his share of controversial treatment over his research into the paranormal, declined to comment on Radin's dismissal other than to express surprise and dismay. Tart is on a one year-appointment to UNLV. After that, another visiting scholar on a one-year appointment will be hired for the post funded by a $3.7 million endowment.
Ferraro said the fact that Tart and Radin share a common research area is coincidence.