Sunday, January 16, 2005

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Some Florida State University professors have been circulating a parody map showing the campus of the future, with a new Bigfoot Institute, a School of Astrology and a Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory.

It’s a not-so-subtle jab in a growing debate over a proposal to build a chiropractic college on this campus — the first such school at a public university in the nation.

More than 500 professors, including the university’s two Nobel laureates, have signed a petition opposing the school. A few have threatened to resign rather than teach alongside what they call “pseudoscience.”

The dispute is heading to a showdown decision later this month, pitting Florida State faculty and doctors against chiropractors and lawmakers who pushed the $9 million proposal through the Legislature. The university system’s Board of Governors is scheduled to decide Jan. 27.

T.K. Wetherell, the normally blunt president of the university, has been reticent about the chiropractic flap, deferring to his provost.

“There’s a small number of faculty who would like it to happen; there is another group of faculty who would like it to die as painful a death as possible; and then there’s another group that has a lot of concerns that they would like answered before anything else happens,” Provost Larry Abele said.

Supporters of the school, which would add 100 faculty members, say the affiliation with a major university would quickly make it the nation’s premier program and a magnet for federal grants in alternative medicine.

But the parody map sums up the views of many faculty and physicians, who say such a program could hurt the university’s academic reputation. Last week, the faculty committee that oversees curriculum voted 22-0 to stop the proposed chiropractic program until the panel at least had a say-so in the decision.

“There’s no demonstrated need. We have more chiropractors than any other state except California and New York,” said Ray Bellamy, a local orthopedic surgeon and associate at the medical school.

For chiropractors, the issue is bigger than the fight at Florida State. It is part of a battle to win respect and credibility in the medical community for their profession.

Chiropractic, which focuses on manipulating the spine to ease back pain and improve overall health, has won wider acceptance over the years. Most health insurance plans now cover it.

But in the 110 years since the profession was created, the established medical community largely has boycotted it — challenging its scientific validity in courts and legislative bodies. In 1990, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the American Medical Association guilty of conspiracy to destroy the profession.

“Chiropractic falls under the same umbrella as any number of therapies, including homeopathy, naturopathy, meditation, prayer,” said Dr. Bill Kinsinger, an Oklahoma anesthesiologist who is working with Florida doctors to block the proposed school. “There’s no more evidence for chiropractic than there is for any of these other therapies.”

The Florida Chiropractic Association says it is unfair for opponents to try to deny them the opportunity to create the school.

“On the one hand, they say there is no science behind what we do,” said John Van Tassel, a Tallahassee chiropractor who tends to Florida State’s football players. “At the same time, they’re trying to prevent the very research [at a university] they say is needed.”

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