The following article originally stated that 19 UC research projects receive tobacco company grants. The correct number is 23. The Daily Nexus regrets this error.
Scientists representing 23 independent projects will continue their ongoing studies today after the University of California Board of Regents agreed to postpone a decision regarding proposed restrictions to tobacco-funded research once more.
During the second session of its three-day meeting at UCSB, the Board elected to defer action until September, claiming that more time was needed to reach a conclusion on the tobacco-related topic also discussed at a May conference. Meanwhile, several union workers and students marched into Corwin Pavilion to protest the UC’s method of pension management as well as its lack of ethnic and social diversity. The regents were also forced to hold off on approving the 2007-08 UC system budget, pending the reconciliation of the state legislature and governor’s budgets.
At today’s morning session, Sharon Eubanks, the lead trial lawyer in the Justice Dept.’s successful racketeering case against the tobacco industry, urged the regents to ban research funding from such companies due to fraudulent conduct. In particular, she responded to critics of the RE89 proposal who charged that it would slow scientific research.
“Nothing [in RE89] impedes researchers from studying and publishing their work,” Eubanks said. “Academic freedom must coexist with academic responsibility.”
While several regents said they identified with Eubanks’ position, others, including UC President Robert C. Dynes, argued that passing RE89 would undermine the UC Academic Senate, which voted to reject the proposal earlier this year.
“I am driven by the belief that the faculty are the best judges of quality and integrity and whether there is misuse of any research [for the purposes of advancing tobacco companies’ interests,]” Dynes said.
Previously, the Board had asked the Academic Senate, the UC’s faculty advisory body, to issue a recommendation on the matter. During its deliberations, the Academic Senate determined that restrictions of tobacco grants could set a precedent to future revocations of funding from other industries accused of misconduct, such as oil.
Unable to reach a conclusion, the Board postponed any further discussion of the agenda item until its September meeting.
Also present at today’s meeting were UC students and members from the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees union who marched before Corwin Pavilion during the Board’s morning session to protest a myriad of issues. The rallies also saw members from the University of California Students Association who were on campus for their annual conference.
Ten UC Police Dept. officers monitored the crowd of about 80 protesters for any signs of violence. Some demonstrators entered the regents’ meeting while chanting slogans during the Board’s public comment period. According to UCPD Public Information Officer Matthew Bowman, the protesters were not disruptive enough to merit removal from the meeting.
“If [the regents] feel people are being disruptive, they will let us know,” Bowman said. “Our whole purpose here is to protect everybody’s rights, including free speech and assembly, but it has to fall under the guidelines of California law.”
As protesters blared a loud bullhorn siren and marched outside Corwin Pavilion, Bowman said UCPD had additional officers on hand from UC San Diego, Riverside, Irvine and Los Angeles.
“We have to plan for the worst case and hope for the best case,” Bowman said.
At the protest, AFSCME demanded joint governance of the UC pension fund for its members. Currently, the funds are under the jurisdiction of the regents, the Academic Senate and two elected members. The union alleged that the UC’s management of the funds was lax and ineffective.
“Workers don’t have joint governance of their pensions,” AFSCME Organizer Nicole Moore said. “The regents want to implement a system that would be bad for the workers.”
Yet, UC Spokesperson Nicole Savickas stated the UC Retirement System’s advisory board offers a voice for UC workers via two elected positions. Though these representatives are not currently union members, the position is open to anyone who belongs to a collective action group, she said.
Meanwhile, UCSA members demanded reforms for UC eligibility requirements to increase minority enrollment. The group also urged the UC to decrease its emphasis on SAT scores and increase its funding for academic preparation programs to $33 million in order to assist economically disadvantaged students who wish to attend the University.
The regents, however, did not discuss these issues at its open meeting today, as the items were not on their agenda.
Tomorrow’s session will include a proposal to increase University professor wages and a debate regarding the UC’s management of federal facilities such as Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which conduct nuclear weapons research.