Brave UH minority votes to support UARC -- and academic freedom
DENIED the right to a secret ballot, casting their votes in a room lined with green-shirted protesters, 18 University of Hawaii-Manoa faculty members stood up last Wednesday to what one of them calls "intimidation" to support establishment of a Navy-affiliated University Allied Research Center at UH-Manoa. That 37 percent of the Faculty Senate (the vote was 31-18) are willing to take a stand is a hopeful sign for the UH-Manoa faculty.
Opposition to UARC is not about the specifics of the UARC proposal; it is based on opposition to the military and opposition to America. The UARC protesters are the same folks who welcomed University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill to speak at UH-Manoa in February so he could explain why our 9/11 dead got what they deserved. They are the same folks who did everything they could to disrupt the appearance of academic freedom advocate David Horowitz in April -- an event that I chaired.
Their anti-democratic views are typified by UARC protest leader and faculty senator Mimi Sharma, who penned an April 23 column in Ka Leo O Hawaii responding to Horowitz's appearance. Sharma wrote, "Some views and interpretations are just wrong and there is no reason to include them."
The UARC protesters are the same folks who welcomed University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill to speak at UH-Manoa in February so he could explain why our 9/11 dead got what they deserved.
Perhaps her ideal speaker is Churchill. According to Sharma, "Churchill laid out a coherent argument and a set of positions that one could understand." About the Faculty Senate's vote under duress, Sharma says, "This sends a good, strong message to the students."
Sharma still refuses to respond to my Oct. 15 public challenge to debate UARC. The debate topic? "Resolved: UH-Manoa upholds the motto 'Above all nations is humanity,' and upholds the values of malama aina, aloha and academic freedom by agreeing to host UARC." Let the entire university community see if she is willing to back up her call to openly confront these issues by accepting this challenge.
The Navy has four other UARC centers: at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas at Austin. The UH-Manoa proposal is the first new UARC in 50 years. Is UH-Manoa going to seize the day? Will UH defend the academic freedom of professors in the sciences to pursue their research choices -- including classified military research -- without politically motivated interference from self-proclaimed anti-Americans in the social sciences and liberal arts?
If the stop-UARC forces can determine which views are "simply inappropriate," the denial of academic freedom will cause further deterioration of academic standards at UH-Manoa and throughout the UH system. More local families will have to send their kids to the mainland or pay for expensive private colleges.
The UH Board of Regents must reject the UARC protesters' stated goal of making the university a monolithic anti-American institution and instead cast its lot with solid scientific research, academic freedom and ideological diversity by approving the UARC proposal.
Andrew Walden lives in Hilo.