Yale denies knowledge of FBI-sponsored interview research

School of Medicine Psychiatry Professor Charles Morgan has allegedly been conducting private research involving interview techniques with local immigrants using funding from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a Friday article in the New Haven Independent.

In a Friday statement, the University said Yale was unaware of Morgan’s private work until the Independent published the findings. Recently, Morgan has been at the center of a controversy involving a military training center he had planned to propose to the School of Medicine using a $1.8 million grant from the United States Special Operations Command, but both the Department of Defense and Yale said on Feb. 22 that the center would not move forward.

The Independent article reported that Morgan has been paying local Colombians, as well as other immigrants, $150 to answer a set of questions on camera truthfully and then again untruthfully. Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern told the News that as a voluntary faculty member, Morgan is not required to disclose research he is not conducting on Yale’s behalf.

“I think the point is [Morgan’s research is] not done through Yale,” Alpern said. “[Morgan is] what we call a volunteer faculty member, which means he’s not employed by us and he’s free to do whatever he wants to do outside of Yale.”

Representatives of Yale’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications, University President Richard Levin and Morgan could not be reached for comment Sunday night. Alpern said that the University released the Friday statement to clarify that the FBI-sponsored study was not conducted within the University so it would not seem like the School of Medicine was concealing a study it never reported.

Morgan conducted the research through the “Center for Research and Development,” the Independent reported. The center is run by School of Medicine Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Vladimir Coric, according to a number of business records and directories.

Alpern said it is “hard to tell” from the Independent article whether Morgan’s study dependent on FBI funding complies with Yale research standards. The Independent reported that the informed consent form that participants sign states that the FBI is the sponsor for the study, titled “Efficacy of Interviewing to Detect Lies about Beliefs.” The article did not say how the newspaper obtained the form, but one study participant was interviewed. The Independent also reported that FBI Special Agent Ann Todd said she did not have any information immediately available about Morgan’s study.

Like the FBI study, the University also first learned about the potential Department of Defense-sponsored center through outside media coverage.

“We’re tired of being surprised,” Alpern added. “Right now we’re mostly trying to build up credibility with the community.”

Confusion over the USSOCOM center followed conflicting stories from news outlets in January regarding its alleged involvement of the city’s immigrant residents.

Some members of the Yale and New Haven communities protested the University’s involvement with the military and the center’s reliance on disenfranchised immigrants, but Yale initially maintained that while Morgan had not yet formally proposed the program to the University, the interviewing techniques envisioned were central to the psychiatry discipline and part of medical student and resident education. Yale also said that interviewees would be volunteers from diverse ethnic groups protected by oversight from Yale’s Human Research Protection Program.

After initially stating that the USSOCOM had provided the University with money for the center, Ken McGraw, deputy public affairs officer of USSOCOM, told the News on Feb. 24 that the USSOCOM had decided not to fund a center based on Morgan’s research roughly a year ago. Yale confirmed the center would not be opened the same day.

Morgan has conducted his research study out of his third-floor office in the Gold Building on 234 Church Street near Timothy Dwight College, the Independent reported.

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