UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Opting for advisory role, Academic Senate resolves to back EBI

– At a special meeting called to resolve questions of "scholarly integrity" and transparency hovering over the campus's nascent Energy Biosciences Institute, Berkeley faculty on Thursday gave their tacit blessing to the administration's contract negotiations with corporate partner BP, subject to input on the agreement and its ongoing implementation by a faculty committee comprising four chairs of Academic Senate committees.

The faculty's action, at a packed session of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate in Boalt Hall's Booth Auditorium, took the form of adopting a pair of resolutions offered by Randy Schekman, professor of cell and developmental biology.

By a resounding voice vote, faculty agreed Thursday that "grave issues of academic freedom would be raised" by any deviation from the principle that "no unit of the university … has the authority to prevent a faculty member from accepting external research funding based solely on the source of funds," and that "any intervention on the basis of assumptions about the moral or political standing of the donor is unwarranted."

A second resolution, which also passed easily, calls on the chancellor to establish an advisory panel, to be made up of the chairs of four Academic Senate committees, to provide oversight of EBI "and similar future endeavors."

The resolutions followed a petition, which was signed by some 250 faculty members, warning that efforts to prevent the university from accepting funding from BP — which has offered $500 million over 10 years for the research institute — constituted an infringement on researchers' "freedom of inquiry."

The two approved resolutions were adopted in place of two measures introduced in the original notice of the meeting (PDF file) calling for comprehensive review of the BP contract by the Senate and ongoing involvement of a Senate panel in overseeing the contract and advising the chancellor on issues relating to it and other university-industry alliances.

The full language of the approved resolutions is as follows:

Resolution A. Whereas the public mission of the University of California, Berkeley, mandates the highest standards of scholarly integrity and transparency, particularly in regard to its relationships with sources of private funding, and given the position of the Systemwide Academic Senate on this issue,

Be it resolved, cognizant of the memorial passed and ratified by the Systemwide Academic Senate in 2006, that the Academic Senate instruct the Chair of the Berkeley Division to advise the Chancellor that grave issues of academic freedom would be raised if the campus were to deviate from the principle that no unit of the University, whether by faculty vote or administrative decision, has the authority to prevent a faculty member from accepting external research funding based solely on the source of funds. Policies such as the faculty code of conduct are already in place on our campus to uphold the highest standards and integrity of research. The Academic Senate believes that any intervention on the basis of assumptions about the moral or political standing of the donor is unwarranted.

Resolution B. Whereas the proposed partnership between BP and the University of California, Berkeley raises concerns about appointments and the allocation of resources,

Be it resolved that the Academic Senate instruct the Chair of the Berkeley Division to advise the Chancellor that an adequately supported committee composed of four members of the Academic Senate (the chairs of the Budget Committee, the Committee on Research, the Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation, and the Committee on Academic Freedom) be constituted to serve in an advisory capacity to the chancellor in the initiation and oversight of the Energy Biosciences Institute and similar future endeavors.