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Protecting America's Secrets While Maintaining Academic Freedom

Keel, Brooks A. PhD

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The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax mail attacks have had a profound impact on our personal and professional lives. These events have shaken our very core and have made us question our safety, and our freedom to go about our daily lives, without fear of personal danger from further terrorist activity. Our country's reaction to the war on terrorism, and the need for national security in support of this effort, has also had a major impact on the ability of our colleges and universities to carry out their missions of promoting research and creativity and educating students. In response to this impact, the Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in Time of Crisis, sponsored by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), met on November 10, 2002, to discuss concerns regarding the impact that September 11 may have on academic freedom. This committee issued a report,1 raising important concerns over potential policies that may restrict the teaching of foreign graduate students, severely limit collaboration with foreign researchers, deny or withdraw access to information important to free inquiry and research, and in general adversely affect the academic freedom of individual faculty and students.

The AAUP report illustrates an active debate in the United States today regarding the delicate balance between the need for national security and pursuit of academic freedom. How can we in academia balance the use of technology for civil purposes versus the use of technology for military purposes; biomedical research to cure disease versus biomedical research to spread disease; academic freedom versus national security; and in general the desire for openness versus the need for security? In this report I will attempt to define academic freedom, illustrate recent events that have had a real or perceived impact on this freedom, and offer some suggestions as to how academia might achieve a proper balance between protecting our national security while promoting and maintaining academic freedom.

How Is Academic Freedom Threatened?

Academic freedom is the foundation upon which most faculty promotion and tenure systems in academic environments are based. Institutions of higher learning usually have definitive statements regarding academic freedom as an underlining part of their faculty policy and procedure handbooks, and it embodies the very culture of most college and university campuses. Although academic freedom can be defined in many ways,2 I submit that there are four primary tenets of freedom in an academic environment: freedom to research, freedom to publish, freedom to teach, and freedom to speak. Each of these tenets has come under attack in the wake of the September 11, 2001.

Freedom to Pursue Research

One of the primary tenets of academic freedom is the ability to generate new knowledge through research, creativity, and inquiry without restriction or constraint. University faculty are motivated to freely choose the area of research in which they engage, and do not wish to have restrictions placed on this activity now or on the direction that the research may take in the future. Such an open environment not only allows researchers to build upon and evaluate each others’ work, but also enables students to be exposed to the most current and up-to-date knowledge.3 This is typically the universal philosophy supported by most universities in this country. There are, however, notable exceptions to this, with the most obvious being the performance of classified research in support of the military and other projects crucial to national security. In this case, severe restrictions are in place regarding what can be researched, how the research is carried out, who is allowed to participate in the research, and who is informed of the findings. Universities choosing to engage in classified research, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology3 and others,4 have usually done so by identifying off-campus facilities to house this research, clearly separating the restricted research from the unrestricted activity, and offering faculty the ultimate in research freedom: participate in restricted research or not.3 Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, the line between unfettered pursuit of knowledge and highly restricted research is clearly drawn, with “classified research” lying on one side and everything else on the other.

However, this line has recently become blurred. In March 2002, agencies of the federal government began to evaluate information available to the public through the Internet. Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Andrew Card issued a memorandum (termed the “Card Memo”) to the executive branch departments and agencies cautioning that information reasonably expected to assist in the development of weapons of mass destruction should not be disclosed.5 Furthermore, the Card Memo reinforced the need to protect what was called “sensitive but unclassified” information related to homeland security. This caused great concern among researchers because the definition of “sensitive information” was not provided. That same month, the Department of Defense (DOD) promulgated new draft regulations for protecting information covering heretofore unclassified DOD intramural and extramural research projects, which included prepublication review of all research results funded by the DOD.5 In August 2002, White House officials met with university leaders to discuss potential guidelines aimed at limiting the publication of some federal research and other government-owned information that would be called “sensitive homeland security information.”6 Two months later, the House of Representatives Committee on Science, chaired by Sherwood Boehlert (R-NJ), convened a hearing to explore how to balance the openness of scientific research with the needs of national security.7,8 Much of the hearing, which included testimony from House Science Advisor John Marburger,9 University of California, Santa Cruz Chancellor M. R. C. Greenwood,10 and MIT Professor Sheila Widnall,11 focused on the issue of “sensitive but unclassified information.” Although at this meeting Marburger assured academic researchers that the Administration was not considering policies that would require prepublication review of federally funded sensitive research,9 the committee hearings failed to adequately define the term “sensitive.”

This ambivalence led the presidents of the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine to release a statement12,13 asserting that it is essential to distinguish between classified and unclassified research. This statement further suggested that introducing vague categories and criteria such as “sensitive but unclassified” generates uncertainties among both scientists and university officials, the result of which could very well weaken, not strengthen, national security.13 As a result of this uncertainty, university administrators have come under increased pressure from government sponsors to restrict research activities that are deemed “sensitive,” or to prepublication review of research findings for the inadvertent release of “sensitive” information, and researchers have found themselves caught in the middle between pursing their chosen lines of research and trying to meet new and vague federal guidelines. University faculty and administrators now must wade through a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms* that attempt to characterize and restrict research as “sensitive,” falling somewhere between classified and unclassified.14

The issue of categorizing research as sensitive but unclassified is, however, not new.5,15–17 During the height of the Cold War, in an attempt to limit access of certain information and technology to the Soviet Bloc, the Pentagon tried to add “sensitive” to categories of information, and blocked the public presentation of 25 unclassified papers, slated for presentation at the April 1985 meeting of the International Society for Optical Engineering.16 This action led to angry protests from scientific organizations, university officials and faculty. In response to these protests, and in an attempt to clarify research categorization attempts, President Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive 189 (NSDD-189)18 on September 21, 1985, which established a “national policy for controlling the flow of science, technology, and engineering information produced in federally-funded fundamental research at colleges, universities, and laboratories.” This directive essentially eliminated any gray areas in categorizing research by stating that the “products of fundamental research remain unrestricted” and that the “mechanism for control of information generated by federally-funded research in science, technology and engineering at colleges, universities and laboratories is classification.” NSDD-189 also succinctly defined fundamental research as “basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research and from industrial development, design, production, and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reasons.”18 NSDD-189 essentially quelled any reference to “sensitive” regarding research categorization, until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, forced the federal government to rethink this position.

Categorization and classification of scientific activity are not the only restrictions faced by university research faculty today. U.S. export control and arms trafficking regulations have also had a significant impact on research freedom. The Export Administration Regulations (EAR),19 administered by the Department of Commerce, and the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR),20 administered by the Department of State, regulates the export of certain items, technology, and technological information. These regulations constrain or prohibit the transmittal of certain technology and technological information from the U.S. to other nations, or to foreign nationals without an export license for that technology.5 In some cases, this provision has caused significant problems with regard to foreign nationals performing research at U.S. universities, including graduate students, or has interfered with the ability of U.S. citizens to collaborate with foreign scientists.

Both EAR and ITAR have exemptions for what is termed “fundamental research,” a provision similar in definition to that described in NSDD-189. The key to the fundamental research exemption, however, is a complete freedom to publish the findings of the research, and university administrators have had to exercise caution in negotiating grant and contract language to ensure that no restrictions on publication exist, and that no prepublication review of research findings for sensitive information occurs.5 Several major universities have recently reported seeing contract language21 proposed by the federal government that attempts to limit foreign-student involvement in research projects22 and require prepublication review of data. Some of these universities have refused to sign such contracts, and some faculty have strongly urged their universities to maintain a policy of not agreeing to any sponsor's contractual language that requires the review of research results for the inadvertent disclosure of “sensitive” information.3

In March 2003, the Association of American Universities14 convened a homeland security workshop to collect campus-based assessments of the impact that post-September 11 federal initiatives, including contract restrictions, have had on research and education. In a letter to AAU presidents and chancellors, which summarized the assessments and recommendations of the workshop, the AAU expressed concern over agency contract officers’ and industry subcontractors’ inserting contract clauses that restrict free publication and require preapproval of research personnel.23 Furthermore, the workshop summary pointed out that a variety of interpretations exist both within and among various agencies about what should be restricted, creating confusion for universities.23 Subsequent to the AAU workshop, the AAU president, along with the presidents of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), sent a letter to the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy expressing deep concern about the proliferation of the use of “sensitive but unclassified” and other similar designations in contracts, and the lack of clarity regarding their coverage and use.24 Such contract terms create, the letter contends, a “gray area” making it difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the research in question is classified or not.24 The letter further encouraged Director Marburger to reaffirm and sustain NSDD-189 as the guiding principal for contract negotiations between universities and federal agencies.

The aftermath of September 11 has had additional restrictive effects on the freedom to research. In response to the anthrax mailings, Congress passed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (PL 107–188),25 which calls for stricter control of laboratories using viruses, bacteria, and toxins that have the potential to be used in a terroristic manner. Laboratories and the researchers that handle, send or receive any of nearly 100 “select agents” (ricin, foot and mouth disease virus, anthrax, Ebola virus, staphylococcal enterotoxins, to name a few) must register with the government, submit detailed physical security and training plans, significantly enhance laboratory facilities, and provide the names of all researchers for background checks.26–29 Failure to comply can result in severe penalties including imprisonment and fines. Complying with the new select agent rules is becoming problematic for researchers and university administrators alike, and has been especially trying for university environmental health and safety officers.27 It has been estimated that as many as 20,000 researchers in nearly 1,000 facilities will require prior screening and government approval before being allowed to even have access to select agent laboratories,26–28 much less carry out the research using these agents. Because the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture have the statutory authority to expand this list of select agents, the number of researchers impacted by this rule could increase considerably.3,29,30 Universities could soon find themselves in a position of restricting access to materials by students, faculty, and staff based on their respective citizenships.3,30

Academic medical centers have been especially hard hit by these new regulations because of the biomedical nature of the research usually performed at these institutions. Considering the high costs and administrative burdens of complying with these new select agent requirements, many researchers and university officials have simply elected not to pursue research in these areas. While restricting research that deals with agents prone to misuse by terrorists might, at first glance, seem prudent, will such restrictions also diminish the development of the very technology that can be used to fight terrorism and eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction? Are we in fact shooting ourselves in the foot?

Freedom to Publish

Publication is the coin of the academic realm, and the freedom to publish is one, if not the most important, tenet of academic freedom. Faculty reputations depend on it, promotion and tenure are often based on it, progress in research and creativity is gauged by it, and scientific theories are verified and extended by it. Recently, however, the ability of researchers to freely publish the findings of their research has been challenged. Several published research papers in the past year have raised public and governmental concern that information provided in these and other publications might aid terrorists in developing weapons of mass destruction.31,32 In May 2002, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) that provide details on how to molecularly engineer a virulent smallpox-like protein by mutating amino acid sequences of a similar protein obtained from a nonvirulent relative of smallpox.33 An editorial published in the same journal noted that, although unlikely, bioterrorists could possibly be tempted to replicate such an experiment, and that publishing “cookbooks” on how to manufacture novel weapons was clearly undesirable.34 The following summer another paper published in Science by SUNY-Stony Brook School of Medicine scientists35 described the de novo biochemical synthesis of infectious poliovirus from basic chemical building blocks, using publicly available genetic sequences as the only instruction for engineering the genome, and obtaining synthesized DNA fragments commercially. The ability to seemingly manufacture active poliovirus by using “mail-order supplies”32 and publicly available information caused great concern among members of Congress. In response to the Science paper, Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL), along with seven other Congressmen, introduced a resolution (H. Res. 514)36 on July 26, 2002, criticizing Science for publishing what Weldon called “a blueprint that could conceivably enable terrorists to inexpensively create human pathogens for release on the people of the United States.”37

The publishing of the PNAS and Science papers has sparked a debate among scientists and journal editors over how to best publish research articles without potentially instructing terrorists on how to construct weapons of mass destruction. Some authors have suggested omitting certain key information from the methods sections of sensitive articles, preventing the duplication of experiments by terrorists.5 However, doing so would prevent independent verification of scientific findings, and inhibit the freedom to publish. This controversy led the American Society for Microbiology to ask the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to help design voluntary guidelines for handling sensitive information. A workshop entitled “Scientific Openness and National Security,” co-sponsored by the NAS and the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS), was held in January 2003 to addresses these issues.38,39 A day later, a group of journal editors, scientific authors, governmental officials, and others held a separate meeting designed to explore possible approaches to the issue of publishing potentially sensitive, peer-reviewed research.40 The meeting identified several guiding principals,41 including:

  • Information published in scientific journals carries special status and confers unique responsibilities on both editors and authors.
  • Scientists and their journals should consider the appropriate level and design of processes to accomplish effective review of papers that may raise security issues.
  • On occasion, an editor may conclude that the potential harm of publication outweighs the potential benefits, and under these circumstances the paper should be modified, or not be published.
  • Journals and scientific societies can play an important role in encouraging investigators to communicate research results in ways that maximize the public benefit while minimizing the risk of misuse.

Although no consensus resulted from the NAS/CSIS workshop, and concern has been raised over the lack of proposed guidelines regarding who will make publication decisions,42 there was a general agreement that a dialogue between scientific and security communities would help to significantly alleviate concerns community members posses.5

Freedom to Teach

The events of September 11, 2001, have not only affected faculty members’ freedom to research and publish, but also have had a significant impact on the freedom of faculty to instruct and mentor certain students, and in some cases teach the topics, of their choice. The legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government have been introducing a number of presidential directives and laws that influence how universities operate regarding the enrollment and employment of foreign nationals.43 As mentioned previously, U.S. export control laws and select agents regulations have severely limited the participation of foreign national students in research areas covered by these laws, and student and research scholar visa applicants, whose proposed areas of study appear on the Department of State's Technology Alert List (see List 1),44 are currently subjected to increased scrutiny.45

List 1 The Department of State's Technology Alert List
List 1 The Department of State's Technology Alert List:
List 1 The Department of State's Technology Alert List

In order to further prevent potential terrorists from receiving training and knowledge in sensitive areas uniquely available in the United States, President Bush issued the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-2 in October 2001,46 which stated that “the Government shall implement measures to … prohibit certain international students from receiving education and training in sensitive areas, including areas of study with direct application to the development and use of weapons of mass destruction.” To fulfill this requirement, the Bush Administration created the Interagency Panel on Advanced Science and Security (IPASS), whose purpose is to implement an enhanced mechanism to review the visa applications of advanced students and visiting scholars, on a case-by-case basis, who wish to receive education and training in sensitive areas.47 The policy has received praise by university administrators not only because it provides a mechanism for objective screening of potential foreign students, but it also takes the review responsibility out of the hands of university officials and places it in control of the State Department or the Immigration and Naturalization Service.47

However, this new policy is not without its problems, not the least of which is an increasing backlog of visa applications by international students. In March 2003, the House Committee on Science held a hearing48 with a panel of academic leaders, including David Ward, president of the American Council of Education and chancellor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison45 and Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University.49 The panelists expressed great concern over the backlog of visa applications, which have hampered currently enrolled university students entry into the United States in time to begin their studies and have inhibited foreign students from traveling overseas to attend professional conferences or visit families.50 Although participants at the House Committee Hearing generally expressed an appreciation of the problem, and vowed support to find ways to remedy the situation, at least one congressman showed little sympathy towards the plight of visa applicants and universities. “Our security is more important than your convenience,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), suggesting that keeping an open door policy to international students should take a back seat to national security.50

Another recent development that may severely affect the efficiency of the visa application process occurred in May 2003 when Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a message51 to American embassies and consular offices instructing them to exercise a greater scrutiny of foreign visitors, a practice that could potentially result in subjecting almost all foreigners seeking visas to personal interviews.52,53 Because of concern over this new policy, the presidents of the AAU, the American Council on Education, the NASULGC, and the COGR forwarded a letter to Secretary Powell54 asking that he postpone the interview requirement, stating that implementation of the new policy without appropriating the necessary resources would cause a substantial increase in the workload resulting in even more delays in visa applications for foreign students, scholars, and researchers.53 In response to the letter from the college advocacy groups, and in an attempt to reduce visa application backlogs, the State Department issued a message to all diplomatic and consular posts indicating that they are to give priority to students and exchange visitors in the professor, student, and research-scholar categories.55 However, the change in policy applies only to foreign scientists who are supported by federal grants, leaving the majority of international researchers in the United States exempt from the waiver and subject to further visa application delays.56

What impact will these new policies have on higher education in America? How many students will this actually involve? The education and training of foreign students has had a significant influence on U.S. institutions of higher learning. Enrollment of foreign students in general into U.S. colleges and universities increased ten-fold from 1955 to 1985,57 and nearly doubled over the past two decades. Furthermore, the percentage of foreign students compared to total enrollment has also continued to rise steeply.

Foreign students have also significantly contributed to graduate training in the United States. Since 1981, temporary residents have accounted for more than 50% of the growth in the number of all doctorates awarded in the United States,58 and non-U.S. citizens received more than 31% of all PhDs awarded in the fields of science and engineering in 2001.59 According to a recent study,58 between the years of 1990–1999, 1,215 doctorates in science and engineering were awarded to students originating from five of the seven countries that the United States has called “sponsors of terrorism” (see Table 1). Even though these doctorates only represent 2% of all PhDs awarded to temporary residents, and only 0.7% of all degrees awarded during this decade,58 faculty may begin to see fewer and fewer foreign nationals in their classrooms and in their laboratories because of restrictions on foreign student enrollment. Although export control laws affect all foreign nationals, those international students engaged in advanced study, especially in potentially sensitive fields of science and engineering (for example, those illustrated in List 1) will be most affected by homeland security concerns and potential scrutiny from the IPASS. Clearly the majority of temporary residents in our colleges and universities do not posses a threat to national security. However, the current motivation in the United States to prevent the training of potential terrorists could have a marked impact on foreign enrollment and provide new challenges and threats to our faculty members’ freedom to teach.

Table 1
Table 1:
Numbers of Foreign Undergraduate Students Enrolled, and Doctorate Degrees Awarded, to Temporary Residents Who Originated from Countries That Support Terrorism

Freedom to Speak

American colleges and universities have long been bastions of free speech and forums for political protest. One of the most important aspects of academic freedom and tenure is, arguably, the ability of a faculty member to voice an opinion without fear of losing a job. However, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, some university administrators have come under increased pressure to suppress vocal opinions of faculty who might speak out against America's war on terrorism.60 The University of South Florida (USF) found itself in the midst of a national controversy when its board of trustees voted in December 2002 to terminate one of its tenured professors for political statements made by the faculty member and for alleged ties to terrorist activities.61 The issue has caused a national debate over the rights of tenured faculty, and numerous fellow faculty members and others, including the AAUP, rallied behind the terminated professor in support. Although Judy Genshaft, president of the USF, has expressed concern regarding the protection of academic freedom, she indicated that her first priority was for the safety of the faculty and students on her campus, and that allowing the faculty member to continue his employment jeopardized campus safety.61 President Genshaft said in a statement that she believes the professor “abused his position at the university and is using academic freedom as a shield to cover improper activities.”61 The faculty member was arrested on February 20, 2003, along with seven other defendants and charged by federal law-enforcement authorities with raising money to support terrorist organizations. He was fired from the University on February 26. Following a year-long investigation by the AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the AAUP issued a report62 stating that the USF violated the professor's academic rights by firing him without an opportunity to respond to the charges against him.63 Stopping just short of censure, the AAUP issued a resolution condemning the USF administration for its “grave departures from association-supported standards that resulted in serious professional injury to the professor.”64,65

Although this might seem as an extreme case of abuse of academic freedom, it serves to illustrate the heightened sensitivity towards vocalizing opinions that appear to be in conflict with national policy. The AAU recently released a statement66 urging institutions to continue their commitment in support of academic freedom and free speech suggesting that “for the university to fulfill its obligation to academic freedom and to intellectual development, it must provide a forum in which individuals and groups can advocate their views.”

Observations and Suggestions

The terrorist attacks of September 2001 have indeed changed our perspectives on openness versus security. However, academic freedom, although challenged by our need for national security, remains as the foundation upon which our system of higher education and scientific inquiry is built. Can we effectively balance the desire for academic freedom with the need for national security? I think we can, and I would like to offer several observations and suggestions as how we can accomplish this goal.

Distinct boundaries are needed.

There is a critical need for distinct lines to be drawn and boundaries defined that clearly indicate where unclassified research ends and classified research begins.30 Our university administrators and faculty must be able to make clear and informed decisions regarding the areas of research that they will pursue and the conditions under which they must perform this activity. We must not be tempted to categorize research as “sensitive,” somewhere between classified and unclassified, and we cannot expect college and university administrators and their faculty to accurately interpret terms such as SUI (sensitive unclassified information), CUI (controlled unclassified information), SBU (sensitive but unclassified), SHSI (sensitive homeland security information), etc. In order to accomplish this goal, the definition of fundamental research, and the unambiguous classification of research as set forth by NSDD-189, should continue to be our guide as it has been for nearly two decades.

Self-regulation is needed.

If academia is to avoid federally mandated regulations regarding what can and cannot be published (outside of classified research), faculty must be willing to exercise some degree of self-regulation and self-censuring. Editors of journals and professional societies can and should provide guidance.41 Journal peer reviewers and colleagues can also help inform authors about what might be of potential value to terrorists, and on rare occasion good judgment might dictate that some limitations be placed on what information should be published.16 However, we must not go down the road of establishing blanket policies, either voluntarily or otherwise, which would require the withholding of information from publications crucial to fully interpreting and duplicating research findings. If allowed to flourish, this practice will severely weaken every aspect of open inquiry, including the validation of research findings, discovery of unintentional errors, identifying misinterpretations of results, and advancing knowledge by freely sharing results with others. Although no one wants to unwittingly aid in the training of future terrorists, the findings of fundamental research, which have been correctly categorized as unclassified, should be allowed free access to the public through the peer-review process.

Foreign students are vital.

Today, our approach to, understanding of, and active participation in society, politics, and the economy are global in nature. It is becoming increasingly important for America's young people to be exposed to the cultural diversity and worldviews that foreign students bring to our colleges and universities.30,45 No one can argue over the extremely important contributions that foreign nationals, educated and trained in the United States, have made to the fields of science and engineering in general, and to our own colleges and universities specifically. For example, it is estimated that more than half of new faculty appointed to U.S. universities are natives of foreign countries,67 and a disproportionate number of individuals who make exceptional contributions to U.S. science and engineering and who have been elected to the NAS and National Academy of Engineering are foreign born.68 Furthermore, foreign students add diversity to our student bodies, provide the first opportunity that many Americans have for interactions with foreigners, fill underenrolled science courses, and provide crucial support for teaching and research.69 Eliminating or severely reducing the scientific, economic, and social contributions made by our foreign students and colleagues will not only doom us to scientific mediocrity67 but may also hinder, rather than enhance, our ability to respond to the threat of terrorism.69

However, our university faculty have a responsibility to be tolerant of the need to limit exposure of our unique talents and expertise to only those foreign nationals who do not wish us harm. Our government also has a responsibility to put into place effective procedures for screening incoming students, ensuring that legitimate foreign nationals are admitted in a timely and efficient manner. It is imperative that objective and expedient mechanisms for screening these applicants and processing their visas (such as the IPASS) be improved, maintained, and implemented to serve this vital need.69

Free speech is important, but safety is vital.

We must continue the long-held tradition of allowing our campuses to serve as platforms for free speech and protest, and our faculty must not fear for their jobs because of exercising their right to voice a difference of opinion. University officials must not cave in to external pressure to censure faculty who are not afraid to vocalize their beliefs. However, we must all realize that there is a difference between speaking freely and inciting a riot, and between exercising ones academic freedom and aiding and abetting illegal activity. Universities must set appropriate guidelines for protest and free speech, and our faculty must support and follow these guidelines. Most important, although we must all strive to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and tenure, we must never allow anyone to use these tenets as a shield to cover activity that threatens the security of our faculty and students or our nation.

Establish an open dialogue.

Without careful consideration of the needs of researchers and faculty, the promulgation of unwieldy restrictions on publishing, handling “select” material, categorizing research, and limiting foreign nationals will severely inhibit scientific productivity in this country. Rather than protecting our security, knee-jerk reactions to restrict this activity could have the opposite effect by squelching the development of the very technology needed to help fight the war on terrorism. Our government, and indeed our university officials, must make “informed policy decisions,” and must adequately weigh the needs for security versus the desires for openness. Seeking input and advice from, and establishing and maintaining an open dialogue with, faculty and researchers can only accomplish this. In some instances, our government has been responsive to our faculty's needs for academic freedom. This open dialogue must be developed and allowed to continue.

Academia has a role to play.

Arguably, the United States has the greatest number of best minds and the best laboratories in the world, and our talented college and university faculty and researchers have a major role to play in defining our national security goals and in the war on terrorism.70 Academic medical centers are uniquely positioned to take the lead in this endeavor because of their research and training emphasis in biomedical, clinical, and allied health fields. Although research performed in U.S. laboratories has already made and will continue to make significant contributions to this effort, there is also a real need for more education and training to improve critical skills in the areas of biomedical science and engineering, aimed at detecting and preventing terrorism and eliminating the threat from the production and use of weapons of mass destruction.

Furthermore, our colleges and universities can also contribute rich expertise in areas of sociology, psychology, philosophy, theology, history, law, ethics, and the like, which will markedly increase our understanding and awareness of, and appreciation for, the cultural, political, and religious basis for terrorism. Therefore, academia has a key role to play in protecting our nation from terrorism, and homeland security does not have to be achieved at the expense of academic freedom.

A Goal to Strive For

Academic faculty and administrators have a responsibility to protect and promote academic freedom. We all also have an obligation to help maintain our nation's security. By continuing to work together, government and academia can achieve the delicate balance between protecting America's secrets and maintaining academic freedom.


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*SIU, sensitive unclassified information; CUI, controlled unclassified information; SBU, sensitive but unclassified; SHSI, sensitive homeland security information; FOUO, for official use only.
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