Problem with Biklen
Tammy S. Schlafer
In response to your recent letter, I regret that although I have given several thousand dollars over the years to the Fund for Syracuse, there will be no contribution this year.
This is in response to the University's appointment of Dr. Douglas Biklen as the Dean of the School of Education. Dr. Biklen's educational credentials may qualify him for the post, but unfortunately he continues to promote the practice of Facilitated Communication, ignoring the evidence that it doesn't work.
I first became aware of FC through a public television documentary [transcript, video] twelve years ago. Afterwards, I described what I saw in a letter to a friend, a medical doctor whose younger brother had been autistic:
The documentary completely debunked FC, and I naïvely thought that this idea would not be heard from again. But there are parents and others who desperately want to believe in it. Dr. Biklen is willing to take their money. He continues to promote FC, and now I find that he even runs a Facilitated Communication Institute under the auspices of Syracuse University.
When he was appointed Dean this summer, the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health reacted "with disappointment and dismay." It called FC "a thoroughly discredited technique that purportedly allows mute and otherwise linguistically impaired children and adults with autism to communicate," listing eight other professional organizations that "have all issued policy statements advising against the use of FC for autism."
The CSMMH continued, in part, "By first raising and then dashing the hopes of thousands of parents of children with autism, Dr. Biklen and other proponents of FC may have done grave harm to mental health clients and to the reputation of clinical practitioners. Along with academic freedom comes the responsibility for scientific rigor. Syracuse University is sending a clear signal that it is not firmly committed to embracing evidence-based approaches to understanding and treating cognitive and emotional disorders. Their appointment of Dr. Biklen as Dean is a major step backward."
You claim to be a "College with a Conscience." But, according to a 2001 article by Martin Gardner, "Through high-priced seminars and sales of videotapes and literature, it is estimated that Biklen is bringing millions of dollars annually to his university" under false pretenses. As long as this continues, you don't need any money from me.
Thomas B. Thomas (M.S. 1970)