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December 3, 2004
Volume 42, No. 5

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Water Proof: Hydraulics experts bring confluence of science and craftsmanship to enviornmental work
In wake of animal rights terrorism, researchers reaffirm human promise of their endeavors
Family Services meets need to care for the caregivers
What were voters thinking? Rainforest, drinking, and Iraq top list of concerns in student exit polls

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The University of Iowa

The University of Iowa

In wake of animal rights terrorism, researchers reaffirm human promise of their endeavors


 

“We have absolute determination that this isn’t going to stop us.”

That’s what Gregg Oden, professor and chair of psychology, says is the core of The University of Iowa’s response to the destructive attacks on offices and labs in Seashore Hall Nov. 14.

By the time this issue of fyi is published, faculty, staff, and students in the affected departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—psychology, journalism and mass communication, and sociology—will have returned to their work in Seashore and Spence Labs.

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), considered an international terrorist group by the FBI, has claimed responsibility for stealing laboratory animals and damaging computer equipment and other University resources.

UI President David J. Skorton has condemned the attack. In a Nov. 19 statement, he said, “At a time like this, when one of our core values is being questioned, it must be said that The University of Iowa is committed to the pursuit and discovery of knowledge that contributes to society’s general welfare. The knowledge gained from biological research involving animals has come to be valued highly by society because it promotes the health and well-being of humans and animals. The majority of Americans endorse the use of animals to advance medicine and science when there are no non-animal alternatives, and when it is done in an ethical and humane way.”

Oden says that the human response to the attack has been both ordinary and extraordinary.

“There are stages of reaction to shocking events and we’ve been through them all,” Oden says. “It was a huge shock when it happened. Like any other personal assault, you never think it’s going to happen to you, or that there’s someone out to do you harm.

“[The attack] provoked anger, anxiety, and a resolution to not let these people stop us from doing what we’re here to be doing.”

Oden says that the damage to the labs and research programs wasn’t as bad as initially thought. Still, the University will be revisiting security measures.

“In addition to protecting the research, we will take all of the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the animals as well as that of our faculty and students,” he says.

Oden notes that some of the animals that remained in labs after the attack died due to support equipment malfunction directly resulting from consequences of the attack.

Contrasting the destruction and violence is the generosity and support the psychology department has received from colleagues across campus.

“Coline Daugherty, Diane Machatka, and Renee Houser gave heroic efforts to find classrooms,” Oden says.

Seashore Hall and Spence Labs were closed for several days following the attack. Students and teachers of classes in psychology, journalism, and sociology had to figure out, on short notice, where to meet elsewhere at various campus locations.

“I’ve heard faculty from other departments say that this is an attack on all of us, not just the psychology department,” Oden says. “There’s been a lot of creative and constructive problem solving.

“People have been creating bonds through facing common adversity. It’s like a natural disaster—we experience it together, which is different than going through individual losses.

“There are people who had to give poster sessions at scientific conferences without their posters and presentations without their slides.”

Oden says that the attack points to the need for continued public education about the roles animals play in research that advances human health. For instance, psychology researchers are examining the relationship between hypertension and cardiovascular disease and using animal research to discover possible psychophysiological mechanisms that can protect against the development of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Many faculty are forthcoming about their use of animals in research because of a desire to educate the public about the necessity of these research techniques. For example, a researcher who has studied psychological adjustment to cochlear implants—which allow severely hearing-impaired individuals to hear—makes sure to mention in public presentations that none of these advances would have been possible without animal research.

“Scientists worked with animals to refine the implants,” Oden says. “Without that research, we never would have taken a chance on putting such an implant in a small child.”

While Oden and other colleagues develop ways to advance those education efforts, Iowa’s psychology staff and faculty are glad to be getting back to their research and teaching.

“Now that we’ve assessed the situation, we know we’ll soon be back to doing our good work for the betterment of human health and society,” Oden says.

by Anne Remington

 

 

Published by University Relations Publications. Copyright the University of Iowa 2003. All rights reserved.
   

 

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