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Committee to examine SDI

By Andy Fish

The Ad Hoc Committee on Military Involvement, studying the influences of military research on campus, "hopes to make a report by the end of the term," according to committee Chairman Carl Kaysen, director of the program in Science, Technology and Society.

The committee was formed in May, 1985, by Professor Arthur C. Smith, former chairman of the faculty, in response to a letter signed by 40 faculty members. Kaysen said the letter questioned "the impact of a shift in government support for scientific research and education from the civilian to the military sector."

The committee is inspecting the influences of Draper and Lincoln Laboratories, ROTC and military research on the campus, Kaysen said.

"The first goal of the committee is information gathering," he stated. The committee is collecting data from the Office of Sponsored Research and the Comptroller. A questionnaire has also been distributed to faculty members to measure their perceptions of current research conditions.

Kaysen acknowledged that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) influenced the committee's formation. "SDI played a big role, but I wouldn't want to assign a weight to it.

"Quite a few people are very skeptical of SDI," Kaysen added. "This is reinforced by a negative reaction to hype. SDI is unusual by its degree of hype."

Committee member Vera Kistiakowsky, professor of physics, expressed concern about the "mission-oriented" nature of SDI research. She said SDI is "destroying the national research scene." Kistiakowsky termed SDI "a deliberate attempt to focus science and technology on narrow areas."

She warned of "a reduction of freedom of choice" and indicated that scientists and engineers in SDI fields would probably have to take a weapons job. There is potential for competition over non-defense research jobs, she said.

Kistiakowsky said it was ironic that the government was directing scientific research, making the United States' policies similar to the controlled research policies in the Soviet Union.

A pledge not to participate in SDI research is being circulated among students and faculty by the MIT Disarmament Study Group. She said that this pledge was a way for "individuals to say they're not going to do something they think is wrong." She called it "a national statement that science and technology are not solidly behind SDI."

"It is not possible for MIT to forbid [all] the research," Kistiakowsky said, but "there must be a clear statement that there will be no classified research on campus."

She said classified research would limit access to work and require security clearances for principal researchers and graduate students. A graduate student would have to decide between "a classified thesis or ending research" if a project was classified, she added.

Provost John M. Deutch '61 said, "There is no expectation of classified research on campus." If a project were to be classified, "work would be terminated," Deutch said.

"A faculty member should be free to pursue whatever he thinks is worthwhile," Kaysen said. He said that a committee recommendation against SDI would be "unwise and unsuccessful."

Kaysen said the final report would list facts and the questions they raise. "I believe that's the limit of our mandate."

"We don't take a stance on government R&D [research and development] programs," Deutch said. He said the Institute "won't get pushed" from this central position.