10-30-07 by simpson
The contract covering the $500 million deal for BP to fund the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) at UC Berkeley is about to be signed. Though the project was announced last February, negotiators have taken longer than expected to reach a contract. Signing is expected next week.
According to a report in the Berkeley Daily Planet, UC Berkeley and BP reached an agreement weeks ago, but “the contract was held up by government lawyers concerned about the implications of using public labs and scientists on a contract with a major private industrial firm.”
And they certainly should be concerned. The EBI proposal as announced envisioned 50 BP scientists on campus doing secret propriety research for Bumbling Petroleum.
Even though the Faculty Senate declined to exercise any serious oversight over the proposal, a coalition of students, faculty and community members, known as Stop BP-Berkeley, has spoken out repeatedly about the negative impact the EBI will have on California’s premier public university.
In a commentary Ignacio Chapela, UC Berkeley professor of ecosystems sciences, put it this way:
“At Berkeley, the bare promise of money has dulled the capacity for critical thinking and transformed our public institution into a secretive society manipulated by special interest grouplets. I shudder to think about the further consequences that the arrival of this money, and the BP associates carrying it, will have on our campus.
“Any disagreement continues to be suppressed, dismissed as simply part of the colorful character of our campus, and the signing of the contract will directly fund the mechanisms necessary to entrench this suppression.”
People used to turn to universities as the source of unbiased research where professors protected by academic freedom pursued knowledge wherever their research led them. Now the concept of academic freedom has been turned on its head to justify selling the university’s soul to the highest corporate bidders.
BP – and future corporate funders — will set the research agenda and control the discoveries.
The UC Regents could — and should — step in, but right now it looks like next year’s diplomas will be tainted with oil and carry the logo “UC-BP