Navy plan fails to sway critics
A draft contract for a UH research center is not specific enough, opponents contend
A draft contract for a proposed Navy research center at the University of Hawaii was released yesterday, but opponents say it does not address their concerns about the project.
The University Affiliated Research Center could bring as much as $50 million in Defense Department grants over five years, officials have said. But the proposed center has sparked numerous protests by students, professors and the community, some of whom took over interim President David McClain's office last spring for a week.
The draft contract offers no specifics on what type of Navy research projects would be handled by UH scientists. Instead, much of the proposed contract deals with the delivery of services and payment of fees.
"I think people will probably be disappointed in the document," said Gary Ostrander, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for research and graduate education, "because this is basically a contract about how you do this, how you set up task orders, how contracts work."
Ostrander, who has led negotiations with the Navy for the past four months, said a few points in the contract still need to be worked out but that it is complete enough to be reviewed.
For people opposed to the UARC, the proposed contract added more fuel to their fire.
"What the contract did for me was that it reaffirmed the secrecy and the insincerity of this UH administration to seriously sit down with all constituents involved with this UARC," said Kelii Collier, a political science graduate student at UH.
Collier said the administration refuses to have serious discussions about how a UARC is going to fundamentally change the university and the state. Collier is a member of Save UH/Stop UARC, a coalition of students, faculty and community members that believes a close relationship with the Navy will add to the militarization of Hawaii and involve UH in weapons development.
The contract does not say whether the university can reject task orders from the Navy, but Ostrander said UH and its researchers do not have to do any projects they do not want to do.
While the university could potentially receive $50 million in research grants from the Navy during the five years of the proposed contract, it would receive nothing if it does not do any research.
A UH Faculty Senate ad hoc committee has been formed to examine the deal and will be looking into whether it makes financial sense for the university, said committee Chairwoman Sara Rutter.
The university has set aside $3.5 million to set up the UARC, but Ostrander said the cost is probably going to be well below $500,000.
Rutter said her committee is also examining the contract language regarding the ability of faculty members to publish their research findings and use equipment for other research.
It plans to report its findings to the Faculty Senate next month for the Senate to vote on a recommendation to either support or reject the UARC. If the Senate votes to support the UARC, the UH administration will conduct a public hearing on the proposal before taking it before the Board of Regents for its approval, Ostrander said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.