So if the University of Texas did not find any wrongdoing on Regnerus’ part, why does this matter? It matters because the university has so far failed to specify which assertions it found worthy of inquiry and which it did not. Its report stated that “[s]everal of the allegations were expressly beyond the purview of the inquiry,” but did not publicly specify which of the allegations those were. This is not a subject on which it pays to engage in the usual academic understatement. The University of Texas owes it to its faculty and students to make it clear that their religion and the religion of their collaborators, as well as their political opinions and the opinions of those providing their funding, will never be used to make a prima facie case against them for scientific misconduct. If it does not, the future of any faculty member conducting research into controversial topics can be at risk. Next time, the ox that is gored may be their own.
Robert Shibley is the senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).