Stryker research hinders academic freedom

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Counter-Stryker debates academic freedom,” & “In defence of Western’s right to research”
Mar. 14, 2007

To the Editor:
I was pleased with Cigdem Iltan’s article on the Counter-Stryker discussion panel on military research. Her article was well-written, concise and balanced. Then I read The Gazette’s editorial stance. It seemed there was incoherence between the editorial and the article. Because The Gazette doesn’t identify the authors of its editorials, I cannot assess who missed the mark on this one.

I believe The Gazette has misidentified the central issue at stake. As Dr. D’Arcy states, the military research conducted at Western is “not being motivated by patriotic fervour or to pitch into the war effort.” Instead, the university’s basis for accepting military contracts has to do with the renting of the university’s facilities, faculty and students to the highest private bidder.

The editorial frames those concerned with the General Dynamics research partnership as opposed to Western’s “right to research,” playing directly into neoliberal ideology promoted by the university and its VP-research and international relations, Ted Hewitt. In fact, Counter-Stryker and other concerned groups want to see our university function as an incubator for ideas and research.

What’s at issue is whether academic research should be conducted for the advancement of human welfare or in the interests of private profit. It can be argued Western’s corporate motivations undermine rather than promote the academic freedom of its faculty and students, since the availability or lack of research funding serves to set the research agenda of the university community. The introduction of private funding into public universities sets constraints on the scope of acceptable research in such a way as to undermine research conducted for the good of the community.

The editorial also misrepresents many of the facts surrounding the case involving General Dynamics. The article claims, “light-armour military vehicles can just as easily be used for civilian rescue missions as they can for violence.” I suppose they could be used for that reason. But they aren’t. The only situations where you would require armoured vehicles are ones in which people are shooting at you. This typically only happens when you’re undertaking imperialist warfare.

It’s precisely because the university shouldn’t place unwarranted restrictions on research that we should be shocked at the extent that research priorities of this university are set by corporate CEO’s and neoliberal ideologues.
"Devin Johnston
Philosophy IV

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