‘My feelings are very mixed’: Miami professor reacts to reinstatement after drug-related plant controversy

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Miami University Hamilton's compact campus reveals open space and river nearby

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It took Miami University biology professor Daniel Gladish three days to return all the messages of congratulations he received when people learned he will keep his job after a controversy over a plant that is used to make mind-altering drugs in West Africa.

Miami took steps to terminate Gladish and associate professor of anthropology John Cinnamon last year after school officials learned in late 2018 that the facility since about the time it opened in 2005 had a Tabernanthe Iboga plant, whose roots can be converted into a mind-altering substance that is used in cultural coming-of-age ceremonies.

The school also declined to renew the year-to-year contract of Brian Grubb, who had served as manager of The Conservatory on Miami’s Hamilton campus.

Miami University professor Daniel Gladish. PROVIDED
Miami University professor Daniel Gladish. PROVIDED

Although university police and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in November 2018 visited and confiscated an Iboga plant, no criminal charges were filed, and there was no accusation anybody had converted the plant’s roots into a Schedule I drug.

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“My feelings are very mixed,” said Gladish, 70. “It’s great to be back, because all I ever wanted to do was make a positive contribution to the university and help people learn about plants.”

He thanked several for their support, including his wife of 49 1/2 years, Dawni; his lawyers, Marc Mezibov and Danny Treadway; and Miami University’s American Association of University Professors Advocacy Chapter.

His 2019-20 salary is $88,919, and there was no extra pay for being The Conservatory’s director. He had many glowing letters in his personnel file, and among other things, was chosen as the Hamilton campus’ Excellence in Scholarship Award winner in 2008.

The university’s attempt to fire him “was incomprehensible to me, because I spent 24 years with an impeccable record, working for this intuition, and we had no knowledge that there was a problem. I’ll kind of leave it at that. We had no criminal intent, or anything like that. We just had a plant in the collection, on display.”

Gladish signed the agreement with Miami on Jan. 28, agreeing to retire no later than Jan. 2, 2024, to no longer serve as director of The Conservatory and voluntarily accept a written letter of reprimand from the university’s president. After signing the agreement, he visited his university office for the first time in 13 months, after being barred from visiting it or contacting students during that period.

Cinnamon’s termination proceedings have not happened because he is on medical leave.

“This has really kind of taken the wind out of my sails,” Gladish said. “It has been very strange to not go to work every day, day after day, and not know what the outcome’s going to be.”

Gladish said he had no objection from the beginning to accepting the reprimand, “but I was not going to cop to violating the law,” he said.

The seeds were added to The Conservatory’s collection around 2005, when professors were working to build its collection from a variety of sources, including other universities, Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory and colleges in California. Gladish said he himself flew from California with suitcases filled with plant clippings in plastic baggies that had been contributed to Miami’s cause. The seeds were donated at about that time to The Conservatory.

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Gladish said he feels worst for Grubb, another highly-regarded faculty member, because he inherited the plant when he arrived at The Conservatory.

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