UC Berkeley News


Lettter to the Editor

14 September 2005


The Berkeleyan captured the essence of Associate Professor Ignacio Chapela's stance on many issues in your recent coverage ("Tenured si, tethered no," Sept. 1). As a 34-year veteran of battles with the UC bureaucracy, I have learned that that bureaucracy has little heart - likely explaining why Chapela is, in his own words, causing discomfort in another anatomical part.

Sure, Ignacio got tenure, but based on what new evidence? Likely, UC perceived that granting tenure was the easiest fix for its public-relations nightmare. Now tenured, Chapela will face a relentless bureaucracy with a long memory that punishes assumed academic miscreants in its own way.

But sometimes the UC bureaucracy resurrects miscreants after death for its own purposes. A good example is Mario Savio, who at the height of the Free Speech Movement uttered words now found scripted on the walls of the campus Free Speech Café:

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

It is ironic that the FSM Café is situated next to California Hall, and that the steps to Sproul Hall, where the FSM sit-in occurred, are now called the Mario Savio Steps. I opine that Chapela will be similarly embraced in the future for his current criticism of unrestrained development of biotechnology in agriculture and Berkeley's role in the process. It's too bad that bureaucracies are not more forward-looking, rather than being a mechanism for suppressing dissenting views and honest academic debate and findings.

I applaud Ignacio Chapela for his courage, honesty, and commitment to important societal issues infinitely larger than self; he epitomizes what a professor at Berkeley should be. And I applaud the Berkeleyan for keeping the spark of journalistic independence alive.

Andrew Paul Gutierrez
Professor of Ecosystem Science
Environmental Science, Policy, and Management