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ICPJ Letter: A Conference That Almost Happened, March 2, 2007

Mary Hathaway
Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice
Rights Held By
Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice
OCR Text

A Conference that Almost Happened
An unusual series of meetings in 1984 and 1985 brought together leaders oflocal
defense-related laboratories and industries with leaders of the local peace oommunity. It
is unusual for these two groups to speak directly to each other--even more unusual for
them to collaborate. But in this case we did. We came close to jointly sponsoring a public
forum about "Defense-Related Funding for Research and Development in Ann Arbor: Its
Nature, Scope, and Effects."
The imoetus for this unusual collaboration had been a orooosed amendment to the Citv
Charter which would have created a "Nuclear-Free zOne'; in and around Ann Arbor. ·
"Design, research, development, testing, or production of nuclear weapons; delivery
systems .. . communication systems for such weapons" would have been prohibited. The
NFZ amendment was first proposed in the fall of 1983. Petitions were circulated, sides
drawn, and the campaign was hard-fought up to the defeat of the amendment in the
election ofNovember, 1984.
I surprised and offended some members of the peace community by opposing the NFZ. I
wrote my reasons which were published in the newsletter of the Interfaith Council for
Peace in October of 1984 (included in this packet). Perhaps because of my efforts, ICP
did not take a oosition on the NFZ orooosal. although manv of its members mav have
voted for it. · · · - ' •
University researchers and leaders oflocal defense-related industries had been alarmed
by the NFZ proposal and had fought hard to defeat it. The voters r~ected it. But there
was a residue of paiD on both sides. My files do not reveal how or when the idea was
born to reach across this gap and try to understand each other better. Someone, somehow,
called a meeting.
On November 9, twenty-two people came at noon to the First Methodist Church for a
"Planning Meeting for a Conference on Economic Conversion." They included Alan
Price, the University's Vice President for Research, Executive Vice President Marvin
Holter of the Environmental Research Institute ofMichigan (ERIM), Wtlliam Pollard of
KMS Fusion (another local laboratory with contracts from the Department ofDefense),
staff members from our state representative and state senator, former mayor Bob Harris,
Professor Nick Steneck who directed the Collegiate Institute for Values and Science, two
physics professors-Marc Ross and Gordon Kane-who had opposed the NFZ although
they had also participated in meetings to lobby our Congressman against nuclear
weapons. A good number of peace activists also attended. The names of all 22 attendees
are recorded in their own handwriting in this packet.
After we introduced ourselves, my notes show a cautious exchange of thoughts about the
subject of the meeting. People weren't sure how far to trust each other. But several were
impressed by the potential for an unusual dialogue. Bob Harris, law professor, former
Democratic mayor and a member of the Coalition for Arms Control, remarked that we
had an "unusual group here. Let's not blow it. .. Can we mend some fences, succeed as a
group?" Richard Cleaver of the Friends said, "We in peace activities are not expert in
business, economics ... Sharing is rare, and this is an opportunity''
Before the meeting ac!journed, alipresent were requested to submit within 2 weeks what
they thought should be the objectives of a conference, as well as proposals for its
structure and the questions it should address. The next meeting was set for December 1 ",
a Saturday, at 9:30AM.
Several people responded with ideas and/or reservations. After the December meeting, I
and Marc Ross and Gordon Kane (the physicists) prepared the first and second draft for
an Economic Conversion Conference "oflocal scope." Bob Harris and Nick Steneck
prepared the draft of a conference of national scope to be held later.
Larrv Macklem oresided at meetin~~:s. and Kim Groome mailed communications to all
attendees. Both were leaders of the Interfaith Council.
After the January 5th meeting, the conference was re-named "Defense-Related Funding
for R&D in Ann Arbor: Its History, Potential, Effects, and Alternatives." Slightly later it
was shortened after the colon to "Its Nature, Scope, and Effects." This reflected the
counsel of Alan Price and others who pointed out that directors of laboratories and
industries were offended by the assumption that "conversion" of their work was desirable
or necessary.
By late January we were inviting speakers for a "forum" (no longer a conference) to be
held on April B. We sent letters to Alex Glass, president ofKMS Fusion, William
Brown, president ofERIM, James Duderstadt, Dean of the College of Engineering, and
Rodney Benson, president of the Chamber of Commerce. We asked the Chamber to be a
sponsor, along with the Ann Arbor News, the Collegiate Institute for Values and Science,
the Ann Arbor Citizens' Council, the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Student
Assembly, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Michigan Alliance for
Disarmament. Minutes of the ICP Disarmament Working Group reported that "some
sponsors have confirmed ... speakers have been invited.'.
The last-named group promptly turned us down. They had initiated the NFZ ballot
proposal and noted that the proposed forum was ''weighted" with people who had
campaigned against it, ''who, unlike us, are wealthy and influential enough to command
or purchase platforms for their views." Also, Alliance leaders Janis Michael and Justin
Schwartz objected to a lack of symmetry in the treatment of the two "sides" in the plan of
the forum. They complained that the panel from industry were each given 20 minutes to
inform the audience about defense-related R&D that was happening in Ann Arbor,
whereas the panel representing arms-control and peace groups were each given 10
minutes for a statement plus 30 minutes (shared) to question members of the industry
The same objection was raised by Marvin Holter ofERIM. In a letter dated February 15
he criticized the asymmetries in the design of the conference, complaining that "Panel I
is required to describe their business activities" and Panel 2 will then question Panel 1 on
those activities. Not symmetrical. He also disliked the questions to be asked of speakers.
He questioned the whole purpose and value of a conference from the point of view of his
institution. He sent copies of his letter to Benson, Price, Duderstadt, Glass, Pollard.
On March 6 Kim Groome mailed to everyone a revised plan correcting the problems
pointed out by MAD and ERIM. Each panelist would have 15 minutes. All would be
asked to address the same ouestions. such as "What are vou doinll. and 1/f/iry i, ir
im!)ortant?" The assymetries of the earlier pian had oeen intended to n.rrJsi. thl.communitv
with information about DoD contracts in Ann Arbor. which were larllel'{
unknown even after the year-long NFZ catn!)aign.. The equal-time, same-question format
of the revised olan diminished its educational ootential. in the ooinion of some. The new
ouestions tilted more toward the oolitical: ror instance: "What are the
~&vantages/disadvantages of involuntary conversion e;uorced by the law? "
Mv files contain no resoonses after that date from anv of the invited soonsors or sneakers.
The Lealrue ofWomen" Voters announced the forum-to its members~ their Aoril Leaeue
Bulletiil, ~but this was !)remature. The League then had to send a !)ostcard info~g •
members that the forum had been cancelled because "KMS Fusion. ERIM. and U-M
College of Engineering have decided not to participate." As a L WV member, I received
one of those oostcards. I have combed throueb mv files from the ICP and their
newsletters leacting to April, 1985 to see if' they, llke the League, had announced the
forum, but they had not.
A note to me from Alan Price, dated 4/8/85 said,
Dear Mary-
Sorry to get Kim's note-I had talked to all the DoD researchers, but I
fear thev still saw it more "confrontational" than reallv "educational".
especially with the MAD revisions. But at least we talked. Thank you for
your effort.
Whether the researchers would have aereed to soeak under the earlier orooosed format is
an interesting question. Marvin HolterT s letter ~ggests not. • •
Alex Glass,. CEO ofKMS Fusion, accepted an invitation to meet with the Disarmament
Working Group of the ICP on May 14, 1985. This packet contains the questions we
hoped to ask him as well as my note to ICP members suggesting that we make this a
"win-win" event, not a confrontation. Also included are my notes taken at the meeting
with Dr. Glass.
Dr. Glass invited ICP members to tour his plant in January, 1986. A second tour was
offered (for those who missed the first) on April21, 1986. This packet contains the 1984
Annual Report ofKMS Fusion, which I received on the January 1986 tour.
Mary Hathaway
March 2, 2007

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