November 17, 1997
As is the case in nearly all research universities and institutions, New York University conducts scientific research involving the use of living animals. We strongly believe that biomedical and scientific research involving animals is indispensable to advances that will save lives and expand human knowledge. Each and every experiment is carefully and extensively evaluated to minimize the number of animals used and any harm that might be done to them. All of our research involving animals is subject to rigorous review and approval by numerous government agencies.
On Monday, November 10, a group of students who disagree with the Universitys policy on the use of animals entered the Presidents office. They indicated they would not leave until certain demands were met. The University did not meet those demands, but agreed to have some of them considered by standing University committees, a process that is regularly available. The students were notified that they faced academic discipline for violation of university rules and that their parents had been notified.
On Thursday, November 13, at a meeting called by the Student Council of the College of Arts and Science and moderated by the Colleges Dean to discuss the Morse Academic Plan (MAP), some of the same students disrupted the proceedings. Despite the clearly stated subject of the meeting, they insisted on talking about animal is sues. Despite being told that the meeting would be extended to permit them to air their views, they instead insisted on continuing to read prepared statements and to monopolize the discussion, while others waited to talk about MAP. They further indicated that to press their views they would disrupt University events. Despite entreaties from other students to desist, this group continued to prevent speech by others and the Dean was forced to dissolve the meeting.
A university is an institution that not only tolerates divergent views, but also respects and encourages them. However, the freedom to hold divergent views comes with the obligation to be responsible in expressing them and to recognize that attempts to prevent free speech by others cannot be tolerated. The events of November 10 and November 13 exceeded the boundaries of free speech in a civil society and on a university campus.
We recognize that there are students and others who oppose scientific research involving animals. We fully support the right of these members of the University community to hold and express these views. The University believes that there should be forums for the discussions of these issues and others, and we will work to provide such forums under circumstances that permit complete and open discourse. The full, free and responsible expression of divergent views is a central freedom that we hold most dear.
When members of this community use tactics that disrupt the University or suppress the voices of others, their behavior is unacceptable. We will not tolerate disruption of University life to put forward one point of view, or the verbal hijacking of discussions and meetings. Those who engage in that conduct will be subject to swift and firm academic discipline.
The University is also committed to the provision of the finest facilities for caring for animals that are used in research. Projects are under way that will further improve our facilities and the care for animals on our campus.
My office (Telephone: 998-2321 or Email: Academic.Development@nyu.edu) is available at any time to answer questions concerning the Universitys policy on the use of animals in research, and the implementation of that policy.
Robert Berne, Senior Vice President for Health, New York University
For additional information about the University’s position on the use of laboratory animals in research, see the Statement to the University Community On the Importance of Animal Research, December 15, 1997, and the Statement to the University Community on Scientific Research and Animal Welfare, November 24, 1997