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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, April 3, 2005

UH-Manoa generating key research for state


Proposed deal with Navy would boost campus capabilities

By Peter Englert

The establishment of the first Morrill Act of 1862 provided the opportunity to create what later became our system of excellent land-grant universities. Little did our forefathers know how complex and important these institutions would become to the advancement of the regions in which they were established, as well as in leading the world in advancing science and technology. Our universities are critical to maintaining U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering and math, now challenged by university development in Europe and Asia.

The University of Hawai'i at Manoa is one of the great land-grant universities in the United States. The university provides for almost all the basic research done in Hawai'i and it educates almost all graduate students and the largest group of undergraduate students in the state.

UH Manoa is on its way to joining the ranks of the leading public universities in the nation. Consider these indicators of our growth:

• Research income has increased significantly over the past few years to more than a quarter-billion dollars in 2003 and 2004;

• Our enrollment has increased substantially in the same period;

• And our faculty are turning out more and better publications about their research and scholarship than ever before.

Another significant indicator of advancement is the new opportunity for the University of Hawai'i at Manoa to enhance and build on its excellence in science and engineering through a federally funded University Affiliated Research Center.

When we responded to a request for proposals from the Navy to establish a UARC about two years ago, it was not clear whether we would be competitive. After all, Navy UARCs are

at very prestigious universities such as Johns Hopkins, Penn State, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington. And, this was to be the first new Navy UARC in more than 50 years.

Of the six core competencies we submitted for consideration, four withstood the rigorous review and now form the basis for a proposed Manoa UARC. These competencies are: fundamental and applied oceanographic research, astronomical research and the development of optics sensors, advanced electro-optical systems, and fundamental research and applied engineering for communication.

Of particular relevance to Hawai'i are areas of research related to oceanography and atmospheric science, environmental remediation and echolocation in marine mammals. Our ongoing work in these areas at Manoa could be significantly enhanced with UARC funding.

From the point of view of a university administrator and faculty member, the proposed UARC would bring many advantages to our campus:

I Institutions that are designated UARCs have strengthened their graduate programs, particularly in areas such as oceanography, atmospheric science and engineering.

• There is considerable revenue potential from this type of research that can be used to benefit the undergraduate and graduate missions.

• The ease of the funding mechanism would allow faculty to accept projects they would normally have to expend significant time and resources trying to procure.

• The prestige of UARC status for our areas of core competency brings great honor to these already outstanding units and facilitates collaboration with other outstanding institutions.

• Additional core competencies could be established in the future, and might include UH's outstanding language training, cultural and psychology programs.

Notwithstanding the advantages of the proposed UARC, some concerns have been raised among faculty, students and the general public about the proposed center.

One issue is classified research, in which the university has been engaged for more than 40 years. As pointed out in a recent Ka Leo article, the University of Hawai'i does significantly less classified research than is done on average at universities of our kind, and the proposed UARC would not change this. In fact, with the UARC in place, classified research is expected to be only 1.5 percent of our entire research portfolio. The university system administration is refining its classified research policy, and the proposed UARC will have to conform to that policy.

Another significant issue is the association of the proposed UARC with the Navy, and the deep feelings of Native Hawaiians and others about the role of the Navy in the history of the islands. These are very weighty issues that deserve our careful and reasoned consideration.

These issues have been raised and discussed within and outside of the ongoing consultation processes which began in September 2004 and which are continuing. To expand and complement the many discussions on these and other issues concerning the proposed UARC, I have scheduled three public sessions this month for those interested. The sessions will be held in the Architecture Auditorium on Wednesday at 2 p.m., Thursday at 3 p.m., and April 21 at 3 p.m.

The first Morrill Act provided a land endowment for the "support, and maintenance of at least one college per state where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to lead such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts." These days, of course, we are doing much more at our university. But we still adhere to the land-grant principles that have guided us so well for almost a century. We are looking for community support to advance the University of Hawai'i at Manoa into the ranks of the best public universities, to provide the best outcomes for all citizens of the state, and to maintain the leadership of American universities in science and technology.

You may learn more about the University of Hawai'i's proposal to establish a University Affiliated Research Center by visiting manoa.hawaii.edu/mco/initiatives_issues/uarc.

Peter Englert is chancellor of the University of Hawai'i's Manoa campus. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.


Military secrecy would clash with university ideals

By Ruth Dawson, Kathy E. Ferguson and Phyllis Turnbull

In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans of the dangers military research posed to universities. Government contracts, he feared, would become "a substitute for intellectual curiosity." A "scientific-technological elite" could hold public policy hostage and military research could gobble up federal funds.

With the proposed establishment of a University Affiliated Research Center in league with the Navy, the University of Hawai'i at Manoa plans to ignore Eisenhower's long-ago warning.

Why is the UARC controversial? After all, the University of Hawai'i at Manoa boasts of the millions of dollars its bids for federal research projects bring to the state. How is the UARC different? When it was officially presented to the Manoa Faculty Senate last September, Chancellor Peter Englert's representative asserted that approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of the center's research would be classified. When asked if we could have a UARC without the classified component, the vice president for research firmly said no.

"Classified" research is a special creature. It is about a kind of knowledge deemed in some way dangerous by a branch of the federal government. Because the knowledge is dangerous, it must be kept secret, classified. Every person who works on it or has access to it must have a security clearance; at the proposed UARC, the clearance would have to come from the Navy.

Such secrecy makes classified research hard to reconcile with the distinctive academic life of a university. Why?

A key mission of the university is to create and disseminate new knowledge. A center for classified military research violates that mission. It prevents discoveries from being open to the public and thereby insulates research from peer review, which is at the heart of all legitimate science and is the gold standard of academic excellence.

A second mission of the university is to educate students. Faculty doing classified research cannot use their findings to update what they teach — unless they have a class full of students with security clearances (a highly unlikely event). While the UARC planners boast of a program of scholarships, few

students would be given clearance to participate. Those who did participate would be severely limited: They would be unable to talk about their work or present it to potential employers. The University of Texas student newspaper calls UARC researchers indentured servants, forced to do projects chosen not by themselves but by the government — and with no good exit.

A third crucial mission of the university is to serve local communities. Chillingly, a secret research facility unaccountable to public oversight and only partially accountable to any local oversight would be a potential threat to our island life. While the UARC promoters give only innocuous examples of the proposed research, an internal memo from the Navy provided to the UH Board of Regents

indicates that the project in-volves "basic and applied ocean science and astronomical technology (to) improve system performance of DoD weapon systems." Since the University of Hawai'i has a frightening record of mishandling toxic substances from Agent Orange on Kaua'i to chemistry lab wastes at Manoa, local communities have every reason to be worried. According to a story in the Dec. 3, 2004, Boston Globe, even the distinguished Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds it cannot obtain permission from the Missile Defense Agency to investigate a fraud charge at its own research laboratory.

UARC proponents attempt to address some of the secrecy concerns by promising that the classified research will be conducted off campus. Chancellor Englert's most recent written account of the UARC for the UHM community predicts that the classified work will happen on military bases or on the mainland! This simply increases the danger that problems will be hidden and lessens the already weak control that overworked university officials would be able to exercise. Conducting research on the Mainland is hardly a way for the UARC to fulfill another of the proponents' promises: that it will be an economic engine for the state.

In fact, the economic benefits are dubious. Faculty working for the UARC would have insider information and thusbe precluded from applyingfor many kinds of federal grants. Even the estimated startup costs for the UARC will be substantial for cash-strapped UHM.

Last fall, the Board of Regents was informed that the UARC would require an estimated $4.5 million to $6 million from UH before any of the expected grant money arrived. Now that resistance to the UARC has grown, the chancellor's office has without explanation reduced that figure to $1.5 million. The UARC's economic benefits, which its advocates set at approximately $50 million over 5 years (adding about 3 percent to the current annual UHM grants funding) are in fact unclear because the $50 million does not account for all actual and potential costs.

UH's commitments to open inquiry, critical thinking, ethical reflection, and "a Hawaiian sense of place," as enumerated in Manoa's strategic plan, are mocked by the proposed UARC. UARC planning has been largely kept secret from the faculty and the public. The ethical implications of putting the pursuit of knowledge at the service of the war-making apparatus have not been explored. The environmental and social costs to Hawaiian land and communities of further militarization of the islands, already expanding through the new Stryker brigade and proposed carrier group, alarm us.

The University of Hawai'i is at a crossroads. We need to remember what is special here, including the needs of our fragile ecosystem and the values of local and indigenous people. We would do well to heed the warning given over 40 years ago by a former general. Looking at the militarization of education and the economy, President Eisenhower saw a society expending not just money but also "the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

Ruth Dawson is a professor of women's studies at UH-Manoa. Kathy E. Ferguson is a professor of political science and women's studies at UH-Manoa. Phyllis Turnbull is a retired professor of political science at UH-Manoa. They wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.