Dean selection

 

2000

Novartis spins off ag division, merger: Swiss drug giant Novartis and Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca announced plans Thursday to each spin off their agricultural chemical businesses, then merge them into a company with estimated annual revenue of nearly $8 billion and a market value of about $12 billion. It is unlear what will become of NADI and the research alliance. Read the full article.
Novartis-Monsanto merger? Monsanto and Switzerland's Novartis are in talks that could lead to a full-blown merger of the two pharmaceutical and crop-protection companies, according to a press report Tuesday.  Read the full article.
March: An excellent cover story in the Atlantic Monthly details the corporatization of public universities from both within and without, using the UCB-Novartis alliance as its primary case study. This may be the best summary of the grander issues! Read it here.
PMB Prof. Gruissem resigns: Prof. Wilhelm Gruissem of Berkeley's PMB Dept. and the PI on the Novartis alliance, has announced that he will resign in July in order to take a position with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Read a memo he circulated clarifying rumors.
Nature article on industry influence on science: He who pays the piper calls the tunes? by Sara Abdulla. Yet more evidence has emerged that big business and good science don't necessarily mix. A preliminary study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that, when it comes to assessing the cost-effectiveness of drugs, studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies are nearly eight times less likely to report unfavorable conclusions than studies paid for by non-profit-making concerns. Full text.
New Food First paper: "Ten reasons why biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the environment and reduce poverty in the developing world" by Miguel A. Altieri (University of California, Berkeley) and Peter Rosset (Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy). Summary: Biotechnology companies often claim that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) -- specifically genetically altered seeds -- are essential scientific breakthroughs needed to feed the world, protect the environment, and reduce poverty in developing countries. This view rests on two critical assumptions, both of which we question. The first is that hunger is due to a gap between food production and human population density or growth rate. The second is that genetic engineering is the only or best way to increase agricultural production and thus meet future food needs. We challenge the notion of biotechnology as a magic bullet solution to agriculture's ills, by clarifying misconceptions concerning these underlying assumptions. Click here for full text.

1999

Cal Monthly exchange continues: Former CNR ExCom chair Ignacio Chapela and outgoing CNR Dean Gordon Rausser exchanged potential letters to the editor of California Monthly this summer.  Read them here.
May: SRR turned in our recent petition to alter the CNR-Novartis research alliance, with 215 signatures. We have not heard a response.
May 27: CNR Dean Gordon Rausser sent a memo to all CNR faculty, students and staff calling for "an initial public forum to discuss whether the NADI agreement is consistent with our fundamental principles" and to  "provide an opportunity to explain why the University cannot and should not accommodate some of the petition’s requests." This was inspired by "That [SRR] petition and factually false remarks made at commencement demonstrate that many students still have not read or understood the workings of the recent NADI agreement."  Although we agree that "a discussion about whether the NADI agreement serves to enhance these objectives could be enlightening," it makes little sense to hold such a forum after the alliance has been signed and implemented. Click here for the complete memo. He has not followed through on this.
April 13: After much delay, CNR Executive Committee chair Ignacio Chapela presented the results of the survey at an April 13 meeting. Click here for the full results. The survey indicated much division within the college, and significant opposition to many components of the existing alliance, especially the link between the research funding and capital improvement, the presence of Novartis employees on campus, the fact that the alliance is between a single corporation and CNR instead of with a discrete set of investigators. Furthermore, most faculty expect negative impacts on academic freedom, shared governance, allocation of space, the exchange of ideas in CNR, the public image of CNR, and public good research. Also at the presentation of the survey, faculty discussed but could not agree on whether the alliance was with a select group of faculty, the PMB department, or with CNR. Also, representatives of Academic Senate explained their plans to monitor the alliance through an outside sociological study.
April 12: Martin Kinney, professor of rural sociology and author of Biotechnology: The University-Industrial Complex (1986), spoke on the Novartis alliance at a April 12 talk. He pointed out several ways in which this contract is different from past ones:
UC is responsible for reporting patentable discoveries covered by the contract to Novartis
Novartis picks to attorneys to pursue the patents
Novartis can ex post decide that any information provided (verbal or written) within the last 30 days is proprietary
Any employees, explicitly including graduate students, cannot access any proprietary information without signing on to the agreement
The wording giving Novartis the right to edit papers for publication to remove any references to proprietary information is "strong"
UC is responsible for enforcing the secrecy of proprietary information
Novartis can remove its name from the publication of research funded by the agreement
April 1Daily Cal op-ed piece.
March: At a  meeting of the graduate student council, UC Berkeley Chancellor Berdahl commented on the Novartis alliance. He admitted that he though a poor job was done at informing people earlier in the process about the terms of the alliance.  He said that a review process has been put into place to make sure that the agreement does not have any unintended consequences. (However, it is not in place yet.) Furthermore, he said this review team should include one or more gradute students.
March 13: UC Berkeley hosted a celebratory conference for the 25th anniversary of biotechnology. No voices which question the mad rush toward these potentially dangerous technologies were present. SRR assisted the "Ad Hoc Bay Area Committee for Biotechnology in the Public Interest" in distributing informative fliers.
March: At a meeting of the Student-Dean's Council, Dean Rausser expressed interest in giving SRR a formal role in oversight of future CNR alliances. We will be meeting with him soon to pursue this.
March: Peter Rosset is executive director of Food First, an Oakland based non-profit which studies solutions to world hunger. In a March 1999 interview with the Berkeley Voice, he asserted that "The reason we have hunger is the structure of a food system that puts a priority on profits rather than people." He is "very concerned" about the CNR-Novartis alliance. "That company gets to determine the direction of the research and the results . . . [which] cannot be disclosed, made public, published, or shared without written permission from Novartis. What this does is it takes public sector money that funds a public institution to be captured and used for private profit. It also stops the free flow of information about scientific ideas. . . . How can government agencies, such as the EPA and the FDA, effectively regulate a technology if there is not good, objective, disinterested research about its effects and impacts? That's the kind of research one would expect to come from the leading public sector research institutions like UC Berkley." He suggests that instead UC should be entering into partnerships with community organizations "demonstrating to the state and the community that the university gives something back for the taxes that fund it."
On Feb 8., historian David Noble spoke on the Berkeley campus. He has a record of speaking out against the influence of large businesses, and is critical of university-corporate alliances. He said that the Novartis alliance is the most extreme example of corporate influence on public research. He argued that the alliance violates both the state constitution (because the CNR Dean does not have the authority to essentially sell state property) and the Dole-Bayh amendment (which regulates university-private research collaborations). Furthermore, he asserted that Sandoz came to Berkeley seeking a partnership after its proposed alliance with Scripps (UCSD) fell apart. (Sandoz later merged with Ciba-Geigy to form Novartis.)
Read an article on the talk in The Berkeleyan (published by University Relations).
February: California Monthly is the publication of the Alumni office. The February issue contains an article by Law Prof. Robert Berring which questions the Novartis-CNR alliance, and the appropriateness of Dean Rausser's LECG consulting firm. "We must ask at what point does the university bargain away so much of itself that it ceases to be the university and becomes a partner of the private sector? If the private sector begins to play a role in setting research priorities, if it gets built into the budget, something very fundamental has changed." Photocopies of the article should be in the SRR news archives in the Mulford Hall lounge.
Feb. 1: The research program of the alliance became effective.
Jan. 25 Global Issues in Agriculture article

1998

Dec. 10 The Chronicle of Higher Education. Dean Rausser responded to his article, and in that he falsely claims that SRR has submitted only 47 signatures. The true number is over 400.
On Dec. 8, CNR Dean Rausser announced a Christmas gift from Monsanto. We feel this is yet another unnecessary link between CNR and biotech corporations that the Dean is pursuing without consensus in the College. We question the benefits of such strong ties between a public University and a private company whose products are of questionable public benefit and who has a notorious record of protecting the public good. The Dean states "I am pleased to announce another exciting development for the College. Monsanto, the life sciences giant, has signed a memorandum of understanding to donate to UC Berkeley an exclusive license, with the right to sub-license, rights that may flow from Monsanto's pending U.S. patent applications for the agrobacterium method for corn seed transformation. Following directives from the U.S. Department of Justice to divest of some of the joint technology owned by Monsanto and DeKalb Genetics, Monsanto chose UC Berkeley as the recipient of the agrobacterium technology. . . This gift confirms that the College of Natural Resources is a major institution advancing the scientific foundations for agricultural discovery. The Department of Justice approved UC Berkeley as the recipient of this technology because of the College's leadership in agricultural biotechnology and its role as a pro-competitive force in the industry. " You can read the full text of his announcement.
Dec. 4 Washington Times
Dec. 3: The Graduate Student Council adopted a "resolution placing reservations on industry-university cooperative research programs" that resolved "Graduate students as a population affected by agreements such as the Novartis agreement should be consulted in a timely fashion about the advisability of forming any private and government industrial partnerships which may effect the atmosphere of academic research at this campus and in their department. A knowledgeable graduate student without ties to the College of Natural Resources or Novartis should be included in the Advisory Committee as a voting member of the Novartis Agreement."
Dec. 2 The Berkeleyan
Nov. 26: We wrote another letter to the editor at the SF Chronicle
Nov. 24 news: SF Chronicle, Associated Press , Daily Cal
The full details of the contract became available Nov. 24, the day after the alliance was signed.
Nov. 23 news: Associated Press , Sacramento Bee
On Monday, November 23 the first of two parts of the CNR - Novartis alliance was signed by CNR Dean Rausser, UCB Chancellor Berdahl, UCB Vice Chancellor for Research Cerny, President and CEO of Novartis Corporation Douglas Watson, and President of Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute Steven Briggs. This first part is a $25 million research agreement with the Dept. of Plant and Molecular Biology (In CNR). Following the CNR- Novartis press conference, SRR held an alternative press conference. The second part of the alliance is a $25 million capital improvement fund for CNR. This will be used to build / remodel buildings for research, including the research funded by Novartis. This second contract is in negotiations.
The UC Berkeley Academic Senate, partly inspired by our letter, sent a letter of concerns to Dean Rausser. Although he claimed these concerns had been addressed, on the day of the signing of the first contract, Academic Senate issued a statement stating that their concerns had not been adequately addressed and thus they could not endorse the agreement.
On Thurs. Nov. 19, the press spokesman of the pending alliance offered us a meeting with Novartis officials on Monday Nov. 23, the day of the signing. The following day, Friday Nov. 20, he could not confirm the meeting, and said that he would tell us Monday morning (the day of the meeting and signing) if it was still available. We would not have time to organize on such short notice. 
Nov. 19 news: Daily Cal , East Bay Express
A student spoke to the press, described the proposed alliance in negative terms, and was latter harassed by college administrators.
After much delay, the Dean finally sent out a non-binding survey. The faculty received it on Thursday Nov. 19. Yet the alliance was signed on Monday Nov. 23. The surveys were originally to be collected by the faculty, and the results to be made public. But then the surveys were to be sent to the Dean's office instead. Finally, due to a "clerical error," the surveys were declared invalid, and the process has began anew.
Nov. 13: The Dean used the "bully pulpit" of Breakthroughs, the glossy color publication of the Office of College Relations sent to donors and alumni of the College. In the issue sent Friday Nov. 13, he announced the Novartis deal as wholly beneficial for CNR, without opposition, and nearly complete. "We have held several College-wide forums on the proposed alliance to receive input from faculty, staff, and students and to provide updates on the evolving discussions. This is simply false!
We drafted a letter to the Dean, the Chancellor, the President of the Academic Senate and the President of the University of California requesting that they NOT support the alliance. We received no feedback from any of the administrators.
Oct. 23 SF Chronicle op-ed
Oct. 19 Daily Cal
SRR gathered over 400 signatures on a petition to the UC Board of Regents and presented the Regents with the petition during the October Board meeting. We were later chastised by the Dean for going outside of the College.
The Dean sent a memo to all CNR faculty, instructing them to not talk to the press, and to instead refer the press to the new press representative for the CNR-Novartis alliance.
Oct. 15 Salon Magazine
Oct. 14: We wrote a letter to the editor at the SF Chronicle
Repeated attempts to see the alliance documents failed. In one case a student examining documents he was handed by the Dean's secretary in the Dean's office had his notes confiscated.
Oct. 9 SF Chronicle
Oct. 6 Daily Cal
Oct. 5 Daily Cal
The general CNR community discovered of the proposed alliance in October from an Oct. 9 SF Chronicle newspaper articles.