Editor’s Note: This article appeared as part of our April’s Fools issue.
Researchers at the Biological Sciences Dept. may soon appease animal rights activists by discontinuing the use of rats in laboratory studies.
Professors of biology Richard Star and Art Shandobil announced the unanimous results from an ethics meeting in which every invited UCSB professor declared future use of lab rats totally unsatisfactory. The Tuesday meeting lasted only 15 minutes but also yielded an alternative to the rats that all the attendees found acceptable – communication majors.
Star said many experiments utilize rats because they are biologically similar to humans and are despised by most people. Fortunately, the comm majors also fit the bill.
“We felt the rats have been getting a raw deal,” Prof. Shandobil said. “After all these years of experimentation, we thought it was time to move on.”
Plans to start recruiting the comm majors are being put into effect immediately, as rats are set free from their cages, Prof. Shandobil said.
“Isn’t it nice to see those poor little bastards finally run free?” Prof. Shandobil said. “Look at them go!”
Originally, Prof. Star and other professors thought getting the comm majors to volunteer for the same experiments the rats had been forced to perform would be difficult. He soon found that he was clearly mistaken.
“Well, surprisingly, we’ve had the comms lining up,” Prof. Star said. “Those old rats sometimes put up a terrible fight when we tried to put them in the cages – hissing, biting, clawing. But the comm majors just stepped right in when they saw the half-used bottle of body glitter we left in there.”
Many professors voiced concern that the comm majors would not work for some experiments – especially those involving the nervous system. Professor of biopsychology Ian Sart-Teller said his carefully planned paradigms require animals that can react to changing stimuli.
“I am not just measuring simple reactions here,” Prof. Sart-Teller said. “The rats were marginal for some of my maze experiments. I wanted chimpanzees, but comm majors? I just don’t know if that will work.”
Chancellor Henry Yang noted that the rat replacement proposal would also provide another opportunity for the university to integrate contributions from different departments.
“We like to give all students an opportunity to excel to their fullest potential,” Chancellor Yang said. “Some students choose engineering and succeed there; others choose a pure science and do well, and then we have the comms.”
Usually the collaboration between departments is constrained within the sciences or within the arts, Chancellor Yang said. This time, the biologists and comm majors get to work together on cutting-edge projects.
“Interdisciplinary research has always been a hallmark of UCSB’s academic excellence,” Chancellor Yang said. “I think other universities might be jealous of our slick way of fixing the rat dilemma while bolstering our research diversity and interdisciplinarianism.”
Opponents to the rat replacement, such as communication Professor Frank Sideling, are not pleased with the Biology Dept.
“What are all those liberated lab rats going to do?” Prof. Sideling said. “They can’t survive in the wild.”
Comm major Candi Joylove said she thinks the rat replacement program is a great opportunity.
“This is such a totally cool idea,” Ms. Joylove said. “It’s, like, totally communicable. I love seeing how communication can help people communicate ideas about really diverse topics. I am going to sign up tomorrow. I am sure it will be the time of my life.”