Guest Rants, Ministry of Controversy

Firing Linda Chalker-Scott? Wrong is Wrong

Garden Professor Blog founders Holly Scoggins, Jeff Gillman, Linda Chalker-Scott and Bert Cregg

Garden Professor Blog founders Holly Scoggins, Jeff Gillman, Linda Chalker-Scott and Bert Cregg

Guest Rant by Jeff Gillman (This is the second rant here about the attempted firing of Chalker-Scott. Here’s the first.)

And there it is….Our own Linda Chalker-Scott has been accused of being incompetent and is being investigated by Washington State University. If found incompetent, she will be removed from her academic position – in other words she will be fired.

I have had the opportunity to read the investigative report…. And it’s damning.

I mean, you know, if you call 29 pages of rumors, accusations, and the author repeatedly pointing out that Linda isn’t doing a job that she wasn’t hired to do damning.

You can read the report too – it’s over on Facebook.  It’s a closed group so you need to get there through this link. Just ask to join.

So regarding this letter — I call BS (meaning Bad Stuff).

I have two major problems with it. First, the report is packed with unsubstantiated “facts” intended to create bias against Linda, and second, it’s an attack on you.

That’s right. This attack on Linda is a direct attack on you. At this point in time there is no university-based Extension professional doing a better job of transferring science-based information to the general public.


Linda’s appointment is 100% Extension. That means that 100% of her time should be devoted to transferring research-based information to you, the public. Well, guess how she spends her time? She’s giving you what you, the taxpayer, are paying for. The investigators are saying she should do more experimental work – something she is not paid to do.


Do faculty with 100% research appointments do a lot of work to deliver the work of other researchers to the public like Extension professionals? If you’re hired to do a job, you do that job. To do otherwise would be dereliction of duty.

This is absolutely ridiculous.

But let’s be honest. Linda is a polarizing figure (if I had a dime for every time that was said or implied in the text I’d be a rich man). Yep. You’ve got that right. She’s strong-willed and stubborn and it comes across in her talks and her writings, and that is part of the reason she’s so compelling. And I say if she is faithfully doing the job she was hired to do, who cares?

If she were a researcher bringing in a million dollars a year, no one would care how obstinate she was. The truth is that in her field, Linda is doing better than the researcher who brings in a million. Shoot, there are lots of researchers who bring in a million. Tell me how many Extension people have won the number of writing awards that she has won, talked to the number of people she has spoken to, or had their work read by as many people as she has had her work read by. As an Extension faculty member who targets the home gardener and arborist, Linda is a rock star equivalent to Paul McCartney.

Unfortunately the area that she has chosen to work in, Extension, isn’t seen as sexy and so she is being marginalized.


But that’s just my first problem. And, I dunno, maybe I’m being silly. After all, everyone knows that doing the job we’re hired to do is overrated. Dang, if Linda had had just a tiny bit of foresight and acquired a million-dollar grant working on the cell walls of soybean cortex tissue and then published a couple of papers on it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Linda, you silly goose!

Don’t laugh, it’s true.

How sad is that?

Not as sad as the amazing quantity of unsubstantiated material that appeared to be present simply to create a bias against Dr. Chalker-Scott in this report. For example, on page 18 we had the opportunity to read about how an Extension Director was displeased with how Dr. Chalker-Scott disagreed with a soil scientist and should respect his opinions. No attempt appears to have been made to contact the soil scientist or to be specific about the disagreement to establish whether Dr. Chalker-Scott might have a reason to disagree.

Apparently simply disagreeing with an expert is a sin in and of itself.

Indeed, throughout this entire report hearsay seems to be the order of the day. Repeatedly we hear that Dr. Chalker-Scott gets the facts wrong, but we never hear the facts she is wrong about (except in the most general way).

This is ludicrous.

But let me end with the most inane thing in the report, something that is truly staggering. On page 17 it is reported that an employee who was eavesdropping on Dr. Chalker-Scott through the wall “could not help but notice Dr. Chalker-Scott spent a lot of time complaining about WSU to people on the phone.”


That’s in an official report?

I have no words.

Originally published on the Garden Professors Blog.

Posted by Jeff Gillman on April 21, 2016 at 3:44 pm, in the category Guest Rants, Ministry of Controversy.

4 responses to “Firing Linda Chalker-Scott? Wrong is Wrong”

  1. Emily says:

    What is the latest on what we can do to help Dr. Chalker-Scott? I live in Pennsylvania but she is my number-one, go-to person for real, fact-based information on gardening and has been ever since I discovered her.

  2. Thomas Christopher says:

    As the spouse of a college professor, I know just how petty college administrators can be, so none of the information in this rant is surprising to me, even if it is dispiriting. If Dr. Chalker-Scott is fired, the gardening world will have lost a real champion and an important source of unbiased, scientifically accurate information. I just hope that public pressure, of the sort typified by this rant, will cause Washington State University to rethink its response to one of its great educational resources.

  3. susan harris says:

    I love the way you rant.

  4. Susan says:

    Well, Dr. Chalker-Scott obviously rubbed someone of influence the wrong way. She has my sympathy on that one – I spent a great deal of my working life getting undercut by someone in some workplace who, for reasons known only to themselves (I got along famously with everyone else) took a massive dislike to me and managed to get me in Dutch with my superiors. That she’s not bringing in bucks is another obvious reason for her problems. As you said, if she was, chances are she’d be let alone to do her thing. Of course, there may be another aspect, given the world we’re currently living in – she’s committing the twin sins of transferring science and research-based information to the public. There’s a lot of folks out there in the higher echelons who do not want an informed public.

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