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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Professor Says Brown U Has a Lot of Nerve

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) - An associate professor sued Brown University for prohibiting her from publishing research from her 3-year study of the education and socialization of Chinese immigrant children, because she paid the poor people who participated more than she paid the families who were financially stable - $600, rather than $300.

Associate Professor of Education Jin Li obtained private funding for her work, "European American and Chinese Immigrant Children's Learning Beliefs and Related Socialization at Home."

Brown's Office of Sponsored Projects required her to obtain approval from the school's Institutional Review Board, which was established to maintain the "Protection of Human Subjects."

Li says she sought approval even though the study fell outside of the board's jurisdiction, which is typically limited to research conducted by federal employees or agencies.

The board approved Li to pay $600 to each family that agreed to participate in the study, which involved educational testing of Chinese-American children and interviews with their parents beginning on Nov. 1, 2007 and ending by Oct. 31, 2011.

But Li says, "It became clear to the plaintiff that the lower-income families were consuming considerably more time for completion of surveys and interviews than middle or upper-middle income families. Plaintiff decided, therefore, that it would be more equitable to compensate the lower income families at the rate of $600 for three years and the upper and middle income families at the rate of $300, and that this differential more accurately reflected the families' time spent in the investigation. All families signed consent forms reflecting the amount they were to be paid."

Li says the Institutional Review Board approved her budget and she proceeded with the study, testing her subjects, interviewing the families and collecting research and data until February 2010. At that point, the board denied her request for the modified payment plan, and told her she could not use data collected from the families who were paid $300 unless she kicked in another $300 to bring their total to $600.

"Given the current funds available to the plaintiff through the grant, it would not be possible to make retroactive payments to middle and upper middle class families (all of whom had agreed to accept the lower amount)," Li says. "Should the IRB ruling stand, plaintiff would be deprived of the fruits of years of research and the education community would be deprived of the results of the same."

Li seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. She says her investigation is exempt from the Institutional Review Board's ruling.

She also wants $200,000 to compensate her for Brown's interference with the timely completion of her study.

She is represented in Federal Court by Kathleen Hagerty of Warwick, R.I., and Thomas More Dickinson of Johnston.

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