Professor fired after expressing climate change skepticism

Stephanie Wang Contributor
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Oregon State University chemistry professor Nicholas Drapela was fired without warning three weeks ago and has still been given no reason for the university’s decision to “not renew his contract.”

Drapela, an outspoken critic of man-made climate change, worked at the university for 10 years.

In the early years of his career, he published a number of textbooks, received a promotion to senior instructor and, in 2004, received a Loyd F. Carter award for outstanding and inspirational teacher.

In 2007, Drapela began giving talks on his own climate change skepticism. He often and openly questioned the science behind man-made global warming.

Drapela told the Daily Caller he was “blindsided” when the department chair called Drapela into his office to fire him on May 29.

“He read a prepared statement and took my key,” Drapela said, adding that he was given no reason in this meeting as to why he was being let go.

The timing of the termination was odd because Oregon State University was still in session, with finals approaching.

Students were impacted, he told TheDC, because “I was unable to hold office hours in my office because I didn’t have a key.”

It was also odd given that teaching decisions are often made on a hiring cycle, which gives professors ample opportunity to apply to other university teaching positions. The timing of OSU’s decision did not allow Drapela this opportunity, as most open positions had already been filled by the time of his firing.

Since he found out he was being let go, Drapela has pressed the university to give a reason for their decision. He has been transferred from person to person and office to office in the university. When he was able to make an appointment with human resources, HR cancelled an hour before the appointment.

Drapela told TheDC that university officials acted surprised that he wanted to know why he was fired. Speculation has abounded that Drapela was fired for being a global warming critic.

Drapela was well-liked by his students. On RateMyProfessor.com, Drapela received mostly positive ratings by OSU students. In 133 ratings, he rated 4.3 out of 5 in overall quality on the site. In a challenging subject like chemistry, such a high rating is unusual. His classes were usually full and — to Drapela’s knowledge — he had not been linked to any scandal or wrong-doing. It is also unlikely that the university had too many chemistry teachers: The OSU Chemistry Department website announces the hiring of four new teachers for the 2012-2013 academic year.

After Drapela was fired, Dr. Gordon Fulks, another anthropogenic global warming critic, began circulating a letter in defense of Drapela. To Fulks, it seemed obvious that Drapela’s global warming skepticism was the reason behind his firing.

“We can only speculate as to how the decision to fire Drapela was made,” Fulks wrote, adding, “I would suspect that Dr. Phil Mote (Director of their Climate Change Research Institute) had a hand in the decision, because he has previously been highly intolerant of those who oppose his ideas and could potentially threaten his business empire.”

OSU officials did not return the Daily Caller’s request for comment.

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