The College of Natural Resources-Novartis Alliance

The College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and Novartis, the Swiss chemical and biotechnology giant, have created what has been termed a "strategic alliance." We have profound reservations about the appropriateness of such an alliance between a private corporation and a public university and about the blind rush to embrace potentially dangerous biotechnology that such an alliance implies. Furthermore, the process of drafting and implementing the alliance has been deaf to the concerns of most students and faculty, and administrator(s) may be placing personal interests first.

We request that a review be conducted on the long-term academic, fiscal, and ethical implications of university-industry alliances of this magnitude. We believe that the University of California, as a world leader in research and education, has the responsibility to establish comprehensive and conservative standards for including for-profit corporations in the research and teaching components of a public university.

Read the details of the alliance, and the chronology of past events concerning the alliance.

Our concerns with the Novartis agreement are:

Public university - private corporation partnerships: This is an alliance between a public land-grant institution - which is charged with teaching the state’s students, conducting public-good research, and extending information to the people of the state - with a private company, which has as its main goal the creation of profit. We believe that creating such an alliance is in direct conflict with our mission as a public university and that establishing such a precedent, on such a large scale, is dangerous. This may harm the reputation of CNR and its ability to attract top faculty and students interested in sustainable agriculture. The alliance itself will have significant and, we believe, negative impacts on teaching and research in the College of Natural Resources.
The process of developing and implementing the alliance has excluded the concerns of students and faculty numerous times.
Genetic engineering: By creating an alliance with Novartis, the College of Natural Resources implicitly supports the basic goals of Novartis. These include controversial directions such as biotechnology and genetic engineering. In contrast, many faculty and students of CNR believe that the mission of the College - to develop agriculture that is sustainable and is safe for humans and ecosystems - is best achieved through less reliance on industrial agriculture. At the very least, we should proceed cautiously and thoroughly explore the potential negative consequences of genetically engineered crops before rushing headlong into another untested technology.
Dean Rausser: The Dean raised eyebrows a couple years ago when he made millions when the consulting company that he co-founded went public, and again when it was bought in a merger. He continues to consult part time, and his income there is much greater than as Dean. The company, and Mr. Rausser in particular, specialize in corporate mergers, intellectual property, and agribusiness - just the skills that were improved in creating this alliance. We feel there may be a conflict of interests.


From the desk of the Dean:

Below are three pieces written by CNR Dean Gordon Rausser. These are at our web site in order to establish a more open and unbiased forum, at the request of the Dean.

Chronicle of Higher Education response*
California Monthly response
Public / private alliances

*We clearly disagree with Dean Rausser about the implications of the Novartis alliance. However, this piece contains a misstatement. Our two petitions last fall had about 150 and 350 signatures, not the 47 that Dean Rausser asserts. Click here to see 120 of the names that we typed in.