Office of the Chair
February 4, 1996
To: Members of the Academic Council
From: Academic Council Appointees to the President's Council on the National LaboratoriesArnold Leiman, Chair of the Academic Council
Re: Council Review: UC Management of the DOE Laboratories
The Academic Council will begin deliberations regarding a possible renegotiation of the DOE Laboratory contract at its next meeting (Wednesday, February 14). As part of the information to consider during these initial discussions, you will receive with your agenda packet copies of both the UCORP final report (January 29, 1996) on UC relations with the Laboratories (this originating from the Council's charge last year to provide it with an evaluation of the management relationship) and a recent report (February S, 1996) from the President's Council on the National Laboratories. (Recall that the Academic Council agreed in 1992, as an implementation of President Gardner's recommendations following the Jendreson Committee report, to participate in an expanded Lab oversight committee That group then became the President's Council.
We are concerned that the process in which the Academic Council is now engaged be seen clearly both as worthy of the seriousness of the underlying question and as representing the diversity of faculty opinion. Thus we hope that neither of these reports will be read as the "final word." If there is such, it will be provided by mail ballots on the question of continuance (certainly to be conducted on some campuses) and from recommendations that come out of the Council's discussions. These ultimately will be reported to the Regents by the Council chair.
Attached to this memo is a set of statements discussing the UC/Laboratory question. We particularly wanted to emphasize the importance of having the original charge to UCORP from last year's Council form the basis for analysis by this year's Council. UCORP's recommendation -- to phase out the UC/Lab management arrangement -- was, without any question, the committee's to make. Whatever its own final recommendation(s), we hope that the Academic Council will take a much broader look at the issues than did its committee. A broader analytical approach could lead both to a better reflection of the diversity of faculty views on this subject and, of significant pragmatic importance, a coherent foundation from which Council leadership can attempt to influence the eventual outcome of administration and regental discussions.
The single recommendation provided by UCORP does not provide such a basis. Neither, for obvious reasons, does that of the President's Council.
First, it is necessary to recognize that multiple communication channels exist:
These include the one that faculty focus on almost exclusively, i.e., direct reporting in a formal sense from the Council leadership to the regents at Board meetings. This mode is actually the least important By the time these formal discussions are held, controversial issues are almost always settled.
More important is communication through the President's Council on the Laboratories--the Academic Council maintains four appointed or ex-officio representatives on that group. The President's Council exerts a strong influence, both in advising the president and in influencing regents concerning lab issues.
Most important are the informal contacts between Academic Council members and top members of the administration, particularly the Provost. It is in that arena that the next management contract can be significantly influenced. However, these discussions will be critically altered if the Council leaders' hands are tied -- for example, by substituting a single, simple statement of intent for a more realistic expression of the complexity of faculty views that we know exists.
We feel that the Academic Council's charge should have been broken down into several questions. Among these are the ones listed in the table below.
It is important that we, as academics, attempt to separate out those elements of the overall question that are amenable to measurement and to objective analysis and deal with them independently of those that are substantially rooted in personal value systems.
On the other hand, in the development of arguments some elements will depend primarily on individuals' value systems. For example, consider the morality question, i.e., should the University be involved with nuclear weapons in any manner? In a contrasting vein, is it better to have a university indirectly manage nuclear weapons rather than a profit-oriented industrial organization that may even be the "dreaded low bidder" for the contract? These issues are important, perhaps most important. They deserve to be considered and weighted independently of the strictly objective issues.
Thus, in this scheme, whether managing the Laboratories does or does not represent appropriate public service is subsumed in Question (6). Unfortunately, UCORP chose to deal primarily with that question. To the extent that the committee did deal with other questions, it was almost exclusively in a values context. Thus it is difficult for a reader to decouple objective facts from subjective values in order to analyze and to weight them independently. Further, although the DOE laboratories' mission substantially involves science, at least some of which is not classified (i.e., the human genome project), there is almost no mention of science in the UCORP report. Nor of changes brought about by the end of the cold war. Nor of the laboratories' asserted change of mission to "science-based stockpile stewardship," i.e., to disassembling weapons and seeking to ensure the safety and reliability of the remaining ones rather than to design and test new weapons, as has been a primary mission in the past. Finally, much of UCORP's report deals with the time period before the present contract, in contrast with the Council's charge to concentrate on the effectiveness of the present arrangement.
To summarize our concerns, the present world is complex and imperfect. The nuclear genie long ago was let out of the bottle and only with difficulty will be put back. An important concept at stake here is whether the University presently is assisting in that endeavor. The degree to which it is or is not certainly has some bearing on whether its public service in the weapons area is appropriate. Faculty may make up their minds on either side of this issue but those who attempt to oversimplify the questions, eventually reducing them to a single binary (yes/no) choice, are limited to establishing a principle. Perhaps the task of establishing a moral context is the highest and best objective of the faculty at large. However, to the extent that the Council chooses to search only for absolutes, it will limit itself severely from serving as an active participant in venues where the pragmatic yet ultimately consequential decisions are likely to be made.
Note that no particular weights are attached to each of these questions and no summary recommendation is required. Individual members of the Academic Council will wish to weight each issue quite differently in coming to their own conclusions.