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Proposed U-m Research Guidelines Draw Fire

Proposed U-m Research Guidelines Draw Fire image Proposed U-m Research Guidelines Draw Fire image
Parent Issue
Month
April
Year
1987
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Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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ANN ARBOR- In the spring of 1985, Professor Raymond Tanter's project entitled "Altemative Approaches to Arms Control" was rejected under the current guidelines for classifíed research at the University of Michigan. The project was rejected because it did not meet specifíc conditions regarding publication. This rejection prompted the University Board of Regents to request that President Shapiro appoint an ad hoc committee to review the present guidelines. These guidelines have existed for nearly 15 years and are the product of community concern over the University's involvement in weapons research during the war in Vietnam. A significant provisión in the current guidelines is the "end use" (kill-maim) clause, which states that the University will not enter into any contract for research where the " clearly forseeable result or purpose of that research is destructive to human Ufe. The Committee Reporte President Shapiro appointed the ad hoc committee as requested by the Regents. This committee produced two separate reports, a majority and a minority report. The minority report proposes the virtual elimination of guidelines for research. Proponents of this report argue that to place any guidelines on research done at the University is to limit academie freedom. The majority report focuses on openness: it specifies that the University should not enter into any research contract the results of which cannot be published within a time period of up to five years. Writers of the report argue that with this provisión, classiñed research would be virtually eliminated. Under this assumption, the report calis for changes which radically differ 6om current policy. The kill-maim clause One of the most disturbing aspects of both the committee reports is their recommendation ihat the kill-maim clause be eliminated. This clause is an essential part of the current guidelines, a provisión that has made the University of Michigan accountable to community concerns rather than to the Department of Defense. To assume that extending openness provisions will eliminate weapons research is risky; not all weapons research is classified, and projects can be divided in order to avoid publication restrictions. In addition, loopholes exist in the wording of the proposed guidelines, for example, publication restrictions may be extended under extreme circumstances. Thus the kill-maim clause is a crucial regulating element that must be maintained. Furthermore, to eliminate such a clause would constitute a significant reactionary statement that could have severe implications for the future of the University and its involvement in the Arms Race. Research Forums From the beginning of the review, many community members have feit that the University has tried to avoid confrontation on the issue of military research. For example, at three recent forums for open debate on the proposed guidelines, sponsored by the Vice President for Research Linda Wilson, Wilson refused to allow the words "military research" or "weapons research" to be used in the publicity for the event, opting instead for the words "classified and proprietary." Each night, opponents of the reports were under-represented. (see RESEARCH, page xx) RESEARCH (Continuad from page 9) For example, al the third forum, no faculty who were against bolh the majority and minority report proposals were originally scheduled to speak. A student gave up her spot at the forum, so that there would be at least one faculty member speaking from this perspective. However, despite the Wilson whitewash, the third forum was a victory for opponents of the repons. Almost everyone who participated in the public debate supported retention of the killmaim clause. The sizeable tumout of opponents of the report was due to a successful advertising campaign put togethcr by a coalition of MSA Peace and Justice Committee Researchers and Womens Action for Nuclear Disarmamenl (WAND). Before the third forum, this coalition organized a vigil on the steps of Rackham, where approximately one hundred concemed students, faculty, and community residents joined to protest the possible elimination of the kill-maim clause. The Research Policies Committee Thé Research Policies Committee (RPC) and the Classificd Review Panel are the two committees which review research contracts under the present guidelines. Participation in the committees is the only opportunity for faculty and students to have input in judging the approphateness of research projects. The majority report recommends that the Classified Review Panel be disbandcd and the Research Policy Committee cease to be responsible for reviewing weapons research contracts. The four student members of the Research Policy Committee resigned on November 17, 1986 because they feit that the guideline review process was fundamentally flawed. According to their statement of resignation, "While we believe it is of paramount importance to relain and extend the kill-maim clause to all research, we can make this statement only by resigning. Relevant issues have not been adequately discussed; voting has been unnecessarily rushed . . . Given the importance of the weapons research issue, we refuse to be pawns in the University's charade." Frcedom of Information Act Essenlially, the proposed guidelines cali for administrative review only, under the office of the Vice President for Research. Concemed individuals outside of the research adminislration will be forced to ulilize the Freedom of Information Acts to find out about specifie weapons research contracts. In an attempt to do so, the Michigan Student Assembly was informed by the División of Research and Development Administration (DRDA) that it will cost over $600 to simply view past classified research contracts, without obtaining copies. MSA has also been informed that il has a debt to pay for copies of undassified projects obtained by student researchers in the past six years. Clearly, the DRDA is using arbitrary fees to prevent students and community members from obtaining informaüon on specifie weapons projects. The DRDA's present policy contradicts the majority report's claim that the Freedom of Information Act will be sufficient for concemed individuals to have access to informaüon on University research projects. Community Response Response to the majority report has been mixed. The Michigan Student Assembly has condemned the proposed guidelines change and stated its support for retention of the kill-maim clause and its extensión to all research. The Faculty Senate Assembly has passed an in-house statement of principie that no research destructive to human life should be perfonned at Ihe University. Contrary to this principie, however, the Senate Assembly voted in favor of the majority report. In a more powerful, positive, and consistent statement, 66 local religious leaders from a wide variety of congregations have signed a letter to Vice President Linda Wilson which states their conviction that to elimínate the kill-maim clause would be, in the words of the Rev. Harvey H. Guthrie Jr., "not consonant with the humane postions the University has taken on matters such as investments in South África and sexual harassment, both of which involve equally complicatcd issues . . . and that dropping the present provisión . . . would make a statement that is shocking indeed." The Regents will be making a final decisión on University research policy at their April 16-17 meeting. Campus and community peace organizations need help in working to retain, and ultimately extend the present guidelines in order to elimínate all weapons research on campus. Cali Támara at MSA at 763-3241 if you are concerned and would like to help.

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