Wonderful news! Ignacio Chapela is to be granted tenure at the University of California Berkeley.
See Ignacio’s message below, including an invitation to celebrate the news by involvement in the final day of events of the week long programme he has been leading in Berkeley as part of “Dreams of Reason” – an examination of the biotech dream in the context of the university.
More details of how to be involved, either in person, if that’s possible, or else via the web, can be found below.
While we celebrate this wonderful news, let’s not forget just what an outrageous example of the university-industrial complex out of control, the denial of tenure has been. Tenure was denied to Ignacio despite the fact that:
*32 out of 33 voting members of Ignacio’s department recommended that he should be tenured at Berkeley, based on their observation of his record and his performance;
*17 out of 18 world-wide experts recommended that Ignacio should be tenured based on an analysis of his record and performance;
*and 2 ‘secret’ expert committees independently and unanimously recommended that he should be tenured.
Ignacio was denied tenure due to vested interests and undue influence – and for transparent reasons: above all, because of Ignacio’s courage in protesting UC Berkeley’s prostitution of itself to Novartis – a corporation whose character Ignacio fully comprehended, having worked for Novartis before coming to UC Berkeley.
We also shouldn’t forget that the denial of tenure has been but one part of an orchestrated campaign of threats, reprisal and vilification that this courageous scientist has suffered.
Nor should we forget all the other scientists who have come under attack for standing up to corporate interests and the corruption of academia. In most cases, these victims of corporate retribution never achieve even partial redress – let alone the total vindication that thankfully Ignacio has finally achieved.
Berkeley. Wednesday, 18 May 2005.
Dear friends, dear colleagues,
I. An announcement
I am proud to contact you with extraordinary news. Yesterday afternoon, the Dean of the College of Natural Resources at Berkeley communicated to me the intention of our new Chancellor to grant tenure to my position at Berkeley.
This decision is a clear message of vindication not only of myself, but also of the innumerable individual and collective efforts put into this process by all of you. You have generously added your voices to the many questions raised around my tenure review and demanded a process free of conflict of interest or undue influence, and for this I am thankful. I foresee no official recognition of your presence, but you should know that it was precisely that which in the end achieved this result.
As happened two years ago, when I received an important communication once I had decided to bring my office out into the street in front of California Hall, the tenure decision reached me while in the midst of another street intervention seeking to cast public light upon the newest incarnation of the bioengineering edifice. A small number of us have been using our bicycles all week to circulate messages about the hull of the bioengineering building on the Berkeley campus, which will soon reach completion (see http://www.pulseofscience.org).
The cycling has been difficult at times, not least because of highly unseasonable rain in Berkeley, but this has not stopped us from continuing to be present, in the measure that we can, to represent our positions in the face of the biotech dream. We will continue with this event, now in the light of the news about my tenure. Please come to celebrate and maintain the questioning with us.
II. An invitation
I want to extend my invitation again to any and all who might wish to join us on the last day of our week-long event in Berkeley (see http://www.pulseofscience.org).
On Friday evening (9-10:30 pm), the week’s events will culminate in a gathering outside the bioengineering construction site:
Gray Brechin, brilliant analyst of California’s, the nation’s and the world’s environment will share his deep knowledge of the history inscribed in the buildings, stones and peopled spaces in our midst. Gray is author of “Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin”, and “Farewell, Promised Land: Waking from the California Dream”. He is working on a new project which explores the forgotten public endowment of the New Deal to our country’s landscapes.
We will also hear from Dan Siegel, the attorney representing my case, but also a veteran student activist and tireless challenger of the university’s history of exclusionary practices.
The interventions will be concerted by Iain Boal, hub and spark of intellectual life in the Bay Area and the world, historian of technics, and, most recently, coauthor of Retort’s “Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War”. Iain will share his historical perspective on the bioengineering edifice – in Berkeley and beyond.
I will also make some remarks regarding my situation and the current condition of biology and biotechnology.
For more information, see http://www.pulseofscience.org, where you will find maps and directions, or simply come. We stage the cycling from the platform at the entrance to the Greek Theatre on Gayley Road, across from the bioengineering building. The speeches, slides, and illumination will take place just to the north, in the grassy amphitheatre. Bring blankets, bring food, music, but please also bring light (flashlights, laser pointers, LED lights, etc.).
For those who cannot come, please note that a live webcast is planned for Friday at 9-10:30 p.m. Pacific Time (see details below).
III. Whither my biology
The tenure decision has come in a manner to be expected: during one of the quietest weeks on campus. The significance and implications of this news is only slowly seeping into my consciousness, since I find myself once again in a state of exhaustion while performing in a physically strenuous street intervention.
So it is that I will need some time fully to grasp the new situation, to consider what this decision brings as options, and to restructure my personal and professional life around them. Nevertheless, I must admit to a deep concern that the rare privilege of a tenured position in such a university as UC Berkeley may become a muzzle. I am very aware that becoming a vested member in the club of the tenured could cause me to measure my words and thoughts more carefully. I have seen it happen, as I have also watched the glint in the eye of colleagues dim, as they fitted themselves to the academic cloth. But I have also seen the sharpness undulled in those few among our large number who have maintained a critical and uncompromising engagement with the real, an engagement that is the straw in the shoe reminding them of the privilege granted them through tenure by the generosity of the public, and not by pomp and ritual, nor by autocratic decision, nor by presumed birthright.
I know of no other case where the public’s role in the conferring of tenure has been more evident. There is no doubt in my mind that I owe this tenure to you, as well as to others beyond yourselves who, without knowing, have been prodigal in support of a place to think and speak freely. I trust that you, and those who will come in your wake, will help me bear the burden of responsibility to public service that tenure in this university entails. No doubt I will need your support now more than ever.
Tenure should not stop our questioning – yours and mine – any more than rain has stopped our circulation of meaning around and about the bioengineering edifice this week. Please come to any of the three remaining cycling events, or to the gathering on Friday evening, to celebrate.
IV. If you cannot come, but would like to witness Friday’s events
I have received a generous offer from a technically sophisticated group to arrange for live streaming of the Friday proceedings. This will allow anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world to at least listen and watch. For those of you interested, the details are below.
Dreams of Reason