Um, what were they expecting from an Army contract?

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From Department WTF: last week the Stanford faculty Senate concluded that the university’s AHPCRC contract, awarded to a consortium led by Stanford last year, is “ok.” They guess. But don’t try it again.

Professor Steve Monismith, the chair of the committee, told the Senate on May 1 that the complex agreement negotiated with the Army addresses the openness concerns raised by 60 faculty members in a letter they signed in the spring quarter of 2007 questioning the appropriateness of the contract.

Specifically, Monismith said, no classified research will be conducted on the Stanford campus or by Stanford faculty; Stanford researchers will not be required to obtain security clearances; and there will be no restrictions on academic publishing of research results.

Ah, openness. But not everyone is happy…what about ethics?

The research committee did not address the ethical questions of military research raised by the faculty letter. “We had this debate last year in the context of tobacco funding,” Monismith said. “We hope that we all remember that each of us is free, subject to our own ethics and conscience, to seek support from anyone that we choose that’s legal, and to form our own findings and conclusions.”

Or “recruiting” for the researchers who might work — not in uniform — but on research in the military-industrial complex? (Shudder)

Bernard Roth, the mechanical engineering professor who led the opposition to the Army contract, said he was still not satisfied with the details of the contract. He said he worried, for example, that the center’s summer programs for high-school science students would serve as a recruitment tool, “so they would get into the pipeline to work at Army research labs.”

Defense research labs have created some of the fundamental technology we use every single day. Right, let’s not encourage that.

So they let it pass this time, but not without a passing slap

If the Army were to attempt to classify university research, Stanford would find the move unacceptable, the research committee reported, “and would likely make it necessary for Stanford to terminate the agreement, despite financial and other hardships to researchers that could result.”

Here’s a thought: this we have a (mostly) free market and a (mostly) free society. If you don’t like the terms, don’t do the business.


  1. grammarnazi says

    OK, you just lost a reader for your website…

    Are you kidding? Don’t mistake me: I LOVE (for example) the NNSA labs for reasons both selfish and intellectual. But, the faculty of any university have the right and the responsibility to express their opinion on things like this.

    Outsiders to academe always fail to realize that faculty are not the employees of a university, or even a ‘constituency’ within the university: They ARE THE UNIVERSITY.

  2. John Leidel says

    grammarnazi, let me clarify what I believe is John’s [West] point on the article. AHPCRC, formerly of Minnesota, became “The Stanford Consortium” when moved to Mountain View. It was an effort that was very much spear-headed by the university and its faculty members. The center director is also a Stanford faculty member [also of the ME department]. What strikes many of us as odd is that Stanford willingly accepted the charter of the center and has, as of late, come back in protest.

  3. That was, indeed, exactly my point. I’m a Libertarian at heart, and I’m all about the free choice and free expression of the will of any legitimate constituency. My point is if the faculty didn’t want the business with the Army, they shouldn’t have gone after it. Complaining about it after the fact is the wrong approach.