Opponents fill UH faculty meeting on Navy research
Critics argue that a proposed military facility would create an atmosphere of secrecy
Opponents of a proposed Navy research center at the University of Hawaii far outnumbered supporters at a meeting of more than 120 faculty members yesterday.
Professors, researchers and specialists in the sciences and social sciences alike came out against the proposal during the two-hour discussion in the School of Architecture's auditorium.
They argued that the Navy's proposed University-Affiliated Research Center would jeopardize academic freedom, put arbitrary restraints on publication and engender an atmosphere of secrecy.
English professor Peter Britos, who worked at a NASA-affiliated UARC while a fellow at the University of Southern California, told his colleagues it would be a "travesty" if UH went ahead with the proposal.
"The university needs its intellectual autonomy," he said.
But some said attendance at the meeting was skewed and that there are more faculty members, especially in the sciences, who favor the center.
"I asked my faculty where they stood ... and the majority of them" supported the plan, business professor David Bangert, who is also a member of the Faculty Senate, said after the meeting. "The people who are opposed came out."
After the meeting, one attendee said he had not heard anything from the center's opponents to diminish his support for the plan.
"It's silly. We've had military research in Hawaii for a long time," said the professor in the John A. Burns School of Medicine, who asked not to be identified.
The meeting was aimed at helping the Faculty Senate decide what stand it should take on the plan.
The senate plans to vote Wednesday on whether to recommend that the university's flagship campus in Manoa proceed with or scrap a proposal to create a so-called University-Affiliated Research Center with the Navy, which opponents say will foster classified research.
The senate's vote is only a recommendation to the administration, which is expected to discuss the proposal at the UH Board of Regents' Nov. 17 meeting.
Denise Konan, who became UH-Manoa's interim chancellor in August, told faculty members yesterday that she is withholding judgment on the Navy center until she hears from the Faculty Senate. Some senators have said it is unlikely Konan would go against the senate's recommendation.
University administrators have been working for more than two years to establish the Navy center, which they say will bring in as much as $50 million over five years and enhance the university's prestige.
There are four similar centers in the United States: at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the University of Texas at Austin, and Pennsylvania State University.
The gathering yesterday was the first biannual meeting of Manoa's Congress, which is made up of all faculty members. They have no voting power, but could push for a referendum to be able to vote on whether the plan should proceed. Some say that appears likely to happen.
Medical school professor Milton Diamond told the gathering that he neither opposed nor favored the center.
But he added, "I think the basic issue is academic freedom. If somebody wants to do the work, let them do the work."