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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 3, 2005

UH chief will address demands today

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

David McClain, University of Hawai'i interim president, has promised to reply today to a pared-down list of demands from the coalition of students, faculty and community activists occupying his office in opposition to establishing a Navy research center at the university.

The latest demands ask the administration to allow greater public analysis of the issue and delay any decisions until October.

The coalition acknowledged that the more moderate requests came because their demand that McClain stop the University Affiliated Research Center proposal immediately had not given him "sufficient time or maneuverability" to meet it.

At the heart of the opposition is UARC money for some classified research and concerns that it would also finance weapons-development research. UH-Manoa administrators say that no more than 15 percent of the $10 million annually for five years under the UARC could go to classified research.

Protesters said they would abandon their sit-in — entering its sixth day today — and vacate the administration building if McClain agreed to accept the new requests and implement them by May 12.

In a brief statement released at noon yesterday, McClain said he found "much in (the latest demands) with which I can agree."

He said he is consulting with UH legal counsel "for their expeditious review."

What the coalition wants

New demands from the Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition include:

Asking UH President David McClain to rescind his request to the Board of Regents for provisional approval of a Navy University Affiliated Research Center at the university to enable "a fair, full and open public analysis" of the impact.

Suspending further steps toward establishment of the center "until a fair analysis is completed" with assurance that the request for the UARC not go to the Board of Regents before Oct. 1.

Asking for a public meeting with the Board of Regents "to present relevant information" regarding negative effects of a UARC.

"Until now decisions about the UARC have been made in secret," said the statement. To "restore openness," the coalition wants all documents about the UARC made public.

While one protest organizer, associate professor of English Ruth Hsu, said she felt the statement was simply "buying time," another leader, graduate student Ikaika Hussey, said he "looks forward to his (McClain's) full statement."

Nonetheless, Hussey said there was little room for compromise, noting that even if the university agreed not to accept money for classified research or weapons technology, the UARC would still not be acceptable to the coalition.

"Research that facilitates military aims is the same as creation of the weapon itself," said Hussey, a master's degree candidate in political science. "The person who makes the plutonium or pulls the trigger are equally culpable."

Gary Ostrander, vice chancellor for research at the university, said the Manoa administration attempted to consult with the university community in three open forums during March but were shouted down by opponents. As a result, he is having smaller meetings with departments throughout the university to explain the concepts.

"Our efforts to have a seminar and public forums were stopped," Ostrander said. "They were disrupted before they started, and we were never allowed to have high-level discussion and consultation. The opponents have successfully stopped any opportunity for a significant conversation."

Noel Kent, an ethnic studies professor at UH, said he was one of those shouting because he was frustrated that answers weren't forthcoming.

"He was stonewalling us," he said of Manoa chancellor Peter Englert. "It was bogus consultation and an attempt to go full torpedo ahead. ... This whole issue is a lack of voice in legitimate consultations."

Englert has said that a UARC at UH could be looked at "as a center of excellence in science and engineering paid for by the federal government.

"As a university chancellor, I see an opportunity to do research, most of it nonclassified — maybe even all of it nonclassified — that we would like to do anyway, and get money for it from the federal government."

But John Madey, a physics professor at UH and one of the opponents, said he would welcome time to re-examine the proposal.

"Before going any further with negotiations that may not be productive, take a time out," he advised. "Have either a committee or some group of representatives that can make recommendations for how things ought to go from here, and broaden the decision-making process so multiple opinions can be used in a way to move forward.

"If it's an opportunity, we don't want to miss it. But we want to do it in a way that brings benefit to our institution."

Reach Beverly Creamer at 525-8013 or bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.