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Sunday, June 23, 2024

A UF official is calling for a review of the College of Medicine's dean's decision to admit a student over the objections of the selections committee and after he reportedly had not taken the standardized medical admissions examination.

The Gainesville Sun reported Thursday the student in question, Benjamin Mendelsohn, had not taken the Medical College Admissions Test.

In an interview with the Alligator on April 3, the college's dean, Dr. Bruce Kone, said he couldn't say whether Mendelsohn had taken the MCAT because admissions records are kept private. But Kone said in any incoming class in his college, nearly 10 percent of the students have not taken the exam.

Dr. Lewis Baxter, a UF psychiatry and neuroscience professor, said an independent panel should investigate Kone's actions in admitting Mendelsohn.

Baxter wrote an e-mail to UF President Bernie Machen on Tuesday asking him to initiate a review by UF's Faculty Senate.

In a phone interview Thursday, Machen said he wouldn't consider such a move. Machen said he's satisfied with the student's qualifications as described to him by Kone.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said an independent review of a student's admission has never been done, and both Sikes and Kone saidthe student is qualified.

However, an e-mail from Kone to members of Machen's staff - including Sikes - sent after an April 4 meeting to discuss the admission, indicates Kone might feel he doesn't have administrative support.

In his e-mail, Kone wrote that no one at the meeting "had the courtesy or guts to even look me in the eye."

"I don't know if it was cowardice, a lack of compassion, or what, but it is symptomatic of why this University is stuck in mediocrity," he wrote.

Machen said he didn't attend the meeting, and those who did described it differently.

"I think the e-mail he sent doesn't represent what really happened there, to tell you the truth," Machen said. He said Kone has never complained to him about his administration.

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Kone may have issues with Machen's office, but his decisions aren't faring well in others' eyes either.

Kone chose not to rehire Dr. Robert Watson, the medical school's former senior associate dean for educational affairs, who was set to retire Dec. 31, 2007 after serving 17 years in his dean position.

Watson was enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, which allows state employees to gather retirement benefits up to five years before they officially leave.

Watson said Friday that he had an agreement with former medical school Dean Dr. Craig Tisher that he would be rehired one month after his retirement. Tisher verified on Friday that this agreement was reached.

However, Kone did not honor the agreement after he previously asked Watson to stay on through June 30, according to a reappointment letter in Watson's personnel file.

Kyle Cavanaugh, UF vice president of human resources, said Kone had the right to not rehire Watson because an employee separates from the university once he completes the Deferred Retirement Option Program. A retired employee should have to go through the normal application process to be rehired, Cavanaugh said.

Tisher said Watson was supposed to remain the Jules B. Chapman professor, a $4 million professorship created by Annie Lou Chapman, a 94-year-old medical school donor.

Sikes said UF couldn't release documents relating to the professorship due to confidentiality agreements. Chapman and her lawyer declined to comment.

The Sun reported Thursday that a Jan. 30 letter from Chapman's lawyer to Machen and Paul Robell, head of the UF Foundation, which handles UF's endowments, expresses Chapman's unhappiness with Kone's decision to not rehire Watson.

Shortly after Watson left, Dr. Lynn Romrell, former associate dean of UF's Office of Medical Education and a close colleague of Watson's, resigned. Romrell, who was also an anatomy professor and had been at UF for 33 years, is now an associate dean in FSU's medical school.

In a Monday interview, he said he resigned as UF's associate dean in January after he learned that his office would be restructured and because he felt disrespected by members of Kone's staff.

A January e-mail from Kone to College of Medicine faculty announces a series of administrative changes, including "the formation of a new Office of Medical Education."

"I just didn't see how I personally fit into that structure," Romrell said.

Sikes said UF had no comment.

Romrell said he thinks his resignation speaks for itself.

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