The 24 students in the 9 a.m. section of Biology 102 seem to want every minute of their $22,000 education. At least yesterday morning they did. After their dissection of live rats was disrupted by animal rights activist Elizabeth Whitney, students voted to ask the College junior to leave. Whitney complied with the request. Whitney, who urged the biology students earlier in the week not to participate in the dissection, returned yesterday to protest the killing of the rats. "As much as people don't like rats, they are individuals and have rights, too," Whitney said. According to Whitney, the rats are given chloroform and phenobarbital to knock them unconscious and are then pinned, cut open and examined. Eventually, the rats are killed by cutting their diaphragm, so they cannot breathe. Associate Biology Professor Peter Petraitis, who taught the class, said he believes the rats currently used in the laboratory are killed just as humanely as the normally used preserved rats. Petraitis said further that dissecting live animals is an important part of a Biology major's education. "To have a Biology major graduate without having dissected a live animal seems ludicrous to me," Petraitis said. "Students cannot see the lungs [of the rat[ inflate if the animal is not alive." Although Whitney said she originally planned to handcuff herself to a table leg, she eventually handcuffed herself to a drawer handle because the handcuffs were too small for the table leg. College sophomore Liz Knapp protested the activist's presence in the laboratory after Whitney commented that the rats had a right to live. "I feel that she is interfering with our right to learn," Knapp complained. "Right now she has taken a half-hour away from our dissection time." At Petraitis' request, the students then voted and asked Whitney to leave, after the handcuffs were removed by the professor. Before leaving, Whitney apologized and asked the class to think about their dissection of the animals. "I'm sorry for interrupting your class, but I hope you go home and think about this, about what you're doing," Whitney told the class. Students say they are thinking about the issues already. "I hate to kill them, but how else are we going to learn?" asked College freshman Andrea Cancelliere. Teaching Assistant Bill Schew, who regained control of the class after Whitney left, told his students that they did not have to participate in the dissection if they were squeamish. "But you are responsible for all the material covered," he quickly added.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.