4-4-07 by Court
The management at UC Berkeley is now allowing faculty critical of the partnership with BP to negotiate the terms.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that:
Journalism Professor Bill Drummond, chairman of the campus Academic Senate, said the administration will allow four professors who chair Senate committees — Calvin Moore, Patrick Kirch, Christopher Kutz and J. Miguel Villas-Boas — to participate in the negotiations. Different groups are writing different portions of the contract, and their work is expected to continue through June.
"That’s a big breakthrough," Drummond said. "That to me is a big concession on their part. A lot of people are thinking this defuses the controversy by a substantial amount."
Robert Dudley, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and a member of the Academic Senate’s academic freedom committee, said the lack of disclosure of the BP deal’s details is "potentially suspicious."
He cited a 1998-2003 research deal under which the Swiss biotech firm Novartis provided $25 million in funding to the university’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Faculty members were upset that a funding deal that large wasn’t discussed universitywide before it was implemented.
"To me, it looks as if they were so seduced by the money flow to research that they felt it could be fast-tracked and these conflicts sorted out later," Dudley said.
Giving faculty members a say in the details may be a step in the right direction for academic freedom, but the 800 pound gorilla in the closet is the inside track BP gets from its huge investment in a public institution and what the limits on the marketing of the UC name will be to prevent greenwashing.
Faculty members should use their influence to 1) guarantee the results of the BP-Berkeley research are available to all researchers 2) BP’s marketing of the University of California name are limited.
It’s good that the faculty will have a say, but the public that owns the university should be represented too.