UH faculty vote to oppose Navy research center
It is unclear whether the $50 million project will go to the regents
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII faculty leaders voted yesterday to oppose a $50 million Navy research center planned for the school's main campus.
After two hours of debate, the Faculty Senate voted 31-18 for a resolution asking school administrators to reject what would have been the first such military research center on a campus in more than 50 years.
Who: UH Faculty Senate
The issue: Whether to allow the Navy to set up a $50 million research center on campus
The vote: 31-18 in favor of advising to reject the center
The faculty's opposition to the center puts the future of the project in doubt because administrators were waiting for the vote before deciding if the deal should proceed.
The 10-campus system's interim president, David McClain, and the Manoa campus interim chancellor, Denise Konan, would have to approve the center in order for it to go to the Board of Regents, possibly by early next year.
Konan, who has said she would keep an open mind on the issue, declined comment after the vote.
Proponents say the center would bring millions of dollars in research grants to the school. Opponents said the center could disrupt existing programs, set up publication restrictions on research and allow for weapons development on campus.
The faculty group considered voting by secret ballot but then agreed to a show of hands as about a dozen protesters wearing green shirts and holding signs stood in the back of the classroom where they met.
Last spring, university students, faculty members and others protested the proposed University Affiliated Research Center with a peaceful week-long sit-in at McClain's office.
The protesters argued the research center would further militarize the state, which is already home to several military bases.
At yesterday's meeting, university researcher John Madey, who has worked with the Defense Department on laser technology, urged faculty not to vote for the center. He said it would take away researchers' rights to refuse Navy directives.
"How many of you are prepared to accept an environment in which those are the rules of the game?" he asked.
David Bangert, a professor at the university's business school, said after the vote that he felt the decision was centered on animosity toward the center's attachment to a branch of the military.
"It was not unexpected," said Bangert, because "there's a lot of discomfort with the military right now." He, however, voted for the center, citing overwhelming support from business school professors.
Defense Department funding at the university reached $52.3 million last year, up from $10.3 million in 2000, according to the school's Office of Research Services. Overall research contracts and grants at the university totaled almost $350 million in the last fiscal year.
If established, the center would require $3 million in startup funds and bring in about $50 million in grants during its first five years of operation, UH officials have said. It would be expected to become self-supportive in three years.
The Navy has four other centers, at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas at Austin. A Hawaii center was first proposed in 2004.