Speaking to nearly 60 candle-holding protesters in front of Smith Hall Monday night, Robert Smith, the spokesperson for the Brandywine Peace Community, condemned the University's plan to build what he called a "weapons lab" on the site of Smith Hall. The protesters denounced the University's proposal to raze Smith Hall and replace it with a new Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, which, they claim, will be used to develop weapons. Criticism of this project began with a campaign by students and faculty over the past year to save Smith Hall, a historic teaching laboratory building. Recently, criticism has spread from Smith Hall to the IAST itself, which will replace it. Opponents of the IAST claim that it is being partially funded by Department of Defense money and that much of its research will be weapons-related. Monday's protest was co-sponsored by the Brandywine Peace Community and the Penn Coalition for Science in the Public Interest, and it was originally only a protest against General Electric's weapons development. "Initially, we had only planned to go to G.E.," Smith said. "Because of the work of [University student] Julie Johnson, we have decided to stop by Smith Hall to make a statement against the construction of this weapons lab." Johnson is a graduate student in the department of history and sociology of science, which is based in Smith Hall. Many students and faculty in the department have actively opposed the University's decision throughout the past year. "The Department of Defense will control scientific research at Penn if we don't stop them," she told the crowd. "This lab is about making death and making money, and nothing else." As she walked with the other protestors from Smith Hall to the G.E. building, Johnson said that she hoped that this demonstration would bring attention to the IAST's connection to the DOD, which, she said she thinks, has not been emphasized enough in the debate over Smith Hall. She defended herself against a common perception that the recent focus on the IAST's DOD connections is an issue that was cooked up as ammunition for saving Smith Hall. Johnson said that some administrators see the department's efforts as a selfish attempt to avoid moving out of the building. "[The present criticism of IAST] looks like one more tactic to save Smith," she said, but added that the goal of the efforts was "altruistic." She said that H & SS students are particularly well prepared to recognize not only the architectural importance of Smith Hall as an early research facility, but also the ethical problems with the proposed institute. "This is what we know about. We study the impact of different sources of funding on scientific research," she said. "When we hear the administration say there are no strings attached to funding, we know that is wrong." Insisting that taking DOD funds would force the University to perform defense research, Smith called the proposed IAST "undoubtedly a weapons lab." "I have looked at the documentation. They can call it whatever they wish, but it's still a weapons lab," he said. "Whether it does other research too is quite frankly irrelevant. The fact that it would produce weapons overwhelms everything else it might do." After concluding their protest at the G.E. building, Smith addressed the demonstrators.Comments powered by Disqus
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