“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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
by Anne Remington