Groups question UNC’s defense department ties

Groups question UNC’s defense department ties

By AMY EAGLEBURGER 
Updated: 08/06/09 3:51pm
The newly formed UNC Coalition Against the War and Students for a Democratic Society have launched an investigation into UNC’s ties with the Department of Defense. Clint Johnson, a junior political science major and a member of both groups, said the funding makes the UNC community complicit with the bloodshed in Iraq. “It should make us angry, and it should move us to do something,” he said, adding that the coalition plans to research such links and to mobilize in the fall. In 2007 UNC received $995,857 in sponsored research funding from the Department of Defense and less than $10 million from other defense-related government organizations – total sponsored research funds came to more than $610 million. UNC is also participating in a Homeland Security-sponsored center on crisis recovery that will receive $2.5 million annually for six years. While those projects do bear the funding stamp of defense organizations, they are not war-making, and instead have broader applications, said Jan Prins, chairman of UNC’s Department of Computer Science. “It’s just one of several venues for federal research, and I don’t think anyone would equate it with supporting the war effort.” The Department of Computer Science currently has funding for projects including 3-D imaging for excavations and the development of chip multiprocessors. The organization receiving the most ire of the antiwar coalition is the Institute for Defense & Business. The 10-year-old nonprofit institute is a joint venture between the state and the University and is affiliated with the Kenan-Flagler Business School. “What we do is independent of the war effort,” said Mark Cramer, president of the IDB. “We’re assisting the U.S. government to be more efficient and assisting them in being better stewards of the public dollar.” Their work includes partnering with Army depot managers to help administer centers that maintain trucks, tanks and other machinery. In addition, IDB is involved in economic reconstruction. A significant portion of its work is in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also works on disaster relief in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Kenan-Flagler professors often teach IDB’s executive courses, funded by the Department of Defense. IDB offers an MBA through UNC and Indiana University. The coalition wants UNC to cut ties with the Pentagon and private companies involved in rebuilding, such as Boeing, which sponsored $85,000 in UNC research in 2007. “UNC should say that they will not do business with the Pentagon and with war profiteers,” Johnson said. Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.
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