Chapter Reports

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email

Chapter Reports

by Multiple Authors

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 4, No. 5, September 1972, pp. 40 – 46


At long last there is some news to report from Northwestern. During the student strike this past spring, several of us at N.U. with help from the Chicago Science for Viet Nam collective held a teach-in on war research and new weapons being used in the war. About 80 people (mostly undergraduates) came to the teach-in, and about 12 people from this group formed the nucleus of a SESPA chapter here. We began work on Science for Viet Nam projects, initially concentrating on collecting information on the biology of bamboo, which is of economic importance to the Vietnamese. We also hope to expand our activities when classes begin next fall to include activities around the domestic science scene. We are particularly interested in establishing contacts with people in the large laboratories north of Chicago, such as Abbott. Please send any suggestions of names of people we might contact. The copies of the magazine you sent are very helpful in our organizing efforts. Enclosed is a check to cover part of their cost. We realize we have only made a start here, but at least we have something to build from now.



SESPA members at Stony Brook have been active both individually and in an organized way in several projects during the past few weeks. We have a small group that meets frequently to plan and discuss activities and many others who join with us for particular projects or actions. Our campus bookstore now sells Science for the People and efforts are underway to convince our science libraries to subscribe to it.


For the second time in two years the Stony Brook Faculty Senate has voted to prohibit new applications for any Department of Defense research grants or contracts. SESPA took a very active role in this campaign. Considerable student and staff support has been generated.

As described in the accompanying leaflet and Science article reprint, we have reason to expect the Stony Brook Administration to support those faculty members who choose to violate the DOD ban. SESPA is involved in the effort to educate and mobilize the university community with the goal of enforcing the ban without administration support if necessary. We hope that other SESPA chapters will join in the battle to get university research funding out of the hands of imperialist war-makers.


Two Stony Brook SESPA members organized a weekly seminar in our Experimental College with the above title. Readings and lively discussions took place on such topics as: U.S. and International Science Movements, Sctentitie; Decision-making, Research Support, Environmental Science and Politics, National Priorities. We also visited Brookhaven National Laboratories and engaged in a revealing debate with several top-level scientists (including two NAS members) on the U.S. science establishment.


A Stony Brook study group has been holding weekly educational meetings since the end of March in preparation for the proposed SESPA sponsored trip to China. Even if the trip does not materialize we believe that this activity has been very worthwhile.


Stony Brook was well-represented at the National Science Teacher’s Association meeting in New York City in April. We participated in the general SESPA activities which will be described in a forthcoming issue of SFP.


President Nixon’s recent bombing and mining adventures in Vietnam resulted in a moderately successful week-long series of demonstrations at Stony Brook. Several SESPA members were involved in the following activities in connection with the “strike”: repeated showings of the NARMIC slide show, both on campus and in a nearby shopping mall; discussions and debates on the DOD research issue and other ways in which the university is a tool of U.S. imperialism; distribution of a leaflet cosponsored by SESPA and the Physics Graduate Student Council on the political and social responsibility of scientists; a demonstration at the university Computer Center (which was locked for the occasion and resulted in some window breaking) against University complicity with the war-makers.

Due to lack of space, we are not printing the pamphlet which was mentioned in this article. Anyone who wishes to read it can write to SESPA in Stony Brook; the address is in the back of this magazine.


On 25 April the faculty senate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook voted to end Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored research at the university. Stony Brook president John S. Toll responded by declaring that before he comments publicly on the matter some procedural issues have to be clarified and, at least until then, there will be no change in university policy on research.

The amount of DOD-sponsored research has declined at Stony Brook in recent years; DOD research grants and contracts now amount to about $200,000 of a total of about $17 million in  federally sponsored research at the university. Wording of the motion passed at the meeting was as follows: “We demand an end to university complicity, both explicit and implicit, with the military: specifically, we call for the prohibition of any applications for new or renewed DOD grants and contracts.” The motion carried 70 to 31.

A procedural question arose because the motion was proposed from the floor as an amendment to a resolution urging immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Southeast Asia. The objection was that the motion on DOD-sponsored research was not included in the agenda circulated before the meeting, as required by faculty senate rules. Partisans of the motion argued that the meeting was called to discuss issues raised by a student strike
in protest against the war and that the motion was therefore within the boundaries set for the meeting.

Some faculty members have noted that only about 100 of the approximately 850 faculty members eligible to vote in the faculty senate actually did vote on the question, and they express doubt that so important an issue should be decided by such a small vote. Those backing the motion reply that senate rules require a quorum of 75 and that, until such time as the rules are altered, actions of the senate should stand. Under the rules that govern the state university system in New York, the president of the individual university campus wields ultimate authority over matters such as research policy.

The motion to phase out military-sponsored research at Stony Brook has a history going back to the spring of 1970. The U.S. incursion into Laos and Cambodia occasioned a faculty senate vote to discontinue DOD research. That summer, when the question of renewal of DOD work arose, Toll consulted the graduate council, a subgroup of the senate, and was advised to proceed as usual. That
autumn, the ban on DOD-sponsored research was rejected in a mail vote by 270 to 188.

This time proponents of the ban appear to be better organized to bring pressure on Toll to implement the ban. A letter was sent asking him to make public his decision by 4 May. When he declined to do so, a petition backing the ban was circulated and is now said to have some 225 faculty signatures.

Toll at this point has indicated that he will consult university groups, including the Stony Brook council, which acts as a local board of trustees, on the matter. But it is clear that at issue at Stony Brook is not only the future of DOD-sponsored research there, but the thorny question of the power of the faculty to influence operating policy.

from Science 


A Chairde (Friends!)

14 December. With effect from yesterday, we now have one copy of the September issue, also of extraterritorial origin. My mail comes through from the Continent all right, but from the U.S. it is very erratic…

I met a man from St. Louis tnis summer wno … was working with LNS. Anyway he said I should send you a poem that I’ve been handing around…..

If you want a Chapter Report: we have a core group of four to six in science (a bacteriologist, a zoologist, a UCD [?) science undergraduate, myself, and in other parts of the country an engineering graduate now teaching, and a medical student, I hope—I haven’t seen him for some
time) and a multitude of friends of diverse political persuasions in different science and arts subjects, teaching, media, law, manual work…. The group as such has not been functioning for the last few months, but this does not matter too much as we run on the basis of individual initiative, and the development of that in ourselves and others. I’m not an organisation man, “later for that,” and besides I haven’t the time what with teaching and the Diploma course. I go around stirring up argument and discussion in lectures and coffeehouses and staffroom and even (to some people’s horros) in class, and spreading information about school democracy (horrors!) and education and science and … and often at the end of an argument there goes another copy of Beckwith’s concerns, or SFP, or my research paper. Mostly I don’t sell things, I give them away, but sometimes people pay anyway. I don’t mind because I have enough to go on with and the duplicated stuff is very cheap to produce, though I would prefer something of higher quality. S y n t a x ? I have some (bread) for you, in return for the bread you are forever casting on the waters.

The enclosed you may use in any way you wish if you wish.

24 December. Further developments: one of us is to speak at a Biology congress on January 3, on the social responsibility of scientists, and the s.r.s. group will be meeting publicly on or about January 17. The base for
that seems to be shifting from TCD [?] students to TCD staff, and they are hoping to involve some social scientists (?). Fourth year biochemists in UCD are holding two seminars on the role of the biochemist in society. There was a question on that in last year’s final exam, and they pointed out that there were no lectures on that subject, and the answers would tend to be very subjective—”What do you suppose the examiner wants me to say?”—so after some argument it was decided that they themselves should do a little investigation, find out what openings there are for them, what these involve, and what they mean in social terms. It is of course a comment on our educational system that one can set out to be a Biochemist and at the end of one’s time in the university still not know what that means.

In the absence of further SFP’s, I’m doing trade in photocopies which would be expensive, except that at the moment we get them done free (having friends among the manual workers). I hear our medical student has joined the Provisional IRA (rumor only, from Jesuit sources).

20 March. January SFP arrived safely a few weeks ago, thanks. I still haven’t finished it. Time (so many things cry out to be done and always urgently-seize the day!)! We have a study group going on religion/morals/ethics, etc., and I have to read a paper on Fascism…. If you do have an issue on science teaching, please send at lease twice thennumber of copies …. The BSSRS have published the text of all the papers and the discussions arising (SFP, III, 2), a Dublin bookshop imported two copies of the book, which I just happened to see, “There’s not much market for that sort of thing,”—”Oh, really!” . . . . All is not well with the s.r.s. group, but the congress went well enough, so perhaps things are happening in other places. Come summer I might find out …. As for the core, our bacteriologist is moving out into education in the rather critical area of Science Curriculum Development. I hope we will maintain contact with the department (TCD Bacteriology), as there are other good people there, as also in Chemistry and elsewhere.


The soul of man cries out to see
The brutal hand of tyranny
And so his overthrow we plan
Since we by action judge the man

It is not wrong for us to strive
To right our wrongs, and to survive
But through the ages up to now
The question stands unanswered: How?

Answers we seek as, tentative,
We change the world in which we live
But all-too-often pass our days
Imprisoned in our former ways

And all the time we know within
Unreasoned guilty weight of sin
The tyrant’s hand upon our head
Is heavy, so we wish him dead

And so in time we play his game,
Meet steel with steel, and act the same
Can anyone , in either rank,
Tell man from man or tank from tank?

If we resent brute force’s sway
Then we must seek another way

And make our fundamental plan
To kill the action, not the man

The murdering of murder I
Have taken on myself to try
— So Hardial said the other day
But has he somehow lost his way?

And “War on war” our Lenin said;
Perhaps his tribe has lost its head
And “Ballots, Bullets, Or … “said Jim
Are Connolly’s “successors” dim?

This people’s war of which we talk
Learn from the sparrows and the hawk
The talons fierce, the beak so grim
They do not need to learn from him

From being often overflown
They know they cannot stand alone
And so as one united wing
They drive him off; and still can sing

We treat the symptoms; sometimes though,
The more we treat the worse they grow
And leave us — as the doctor said —
The sickness cured, the patient dead

Disease is an analogy;
Resistance and immunity
Are all that we can hope to build
Unless each floating spore is killed


The cause — outside — just cannot win
Without the enemy within
When he is gone, the cause must die
Though lasting long in earth and sky

We build our strenghth through finding out
What the disease is all about
The serum that we take from one
May save the world before we’re done

And yet there is a risk, I know
“Live-virus vaccines” still may grow
We live and learn, or try to live
Embittered by the pain we give

Yet softened by the things we share
We have to think, we have to care
We try to help, we help to try
We search the earth, we search the sky,

We search ourselves in hope to find
The remedy for all mankind
And if we do, how shall we know
Unless our practice prove it so?

Perhaps in doing so we find
Our selfishnesses undermined
For other people, it is true,
Have problems just like me and you

And other people plainly see
The wretchedness and misery
The bloody brutalising force,
The inner cancer of remorse

The blindness which assumes that I
Remain unchanging till I die
Or else, mechanical, adapt,
Behaviouristically trapped

The awful worship of success
The absolute — the hopelessness
Inevitable failure brings
Which binds us to the little things

That we achieved along the way…
A word, a look has warmed my day
Yet you might think it nothing worth
—That’s us! “We only want the earth.”

So hitch your wagon to a star
No longer looking where you are
Or where you’re going, travel on
Nor wonder where the world has gone

Forget your friends, and Earths delights;
Alone you’ll set the world to rights
But no; alone you just can’t win
Another tyrant lies within.

— H.N. Dobbs


In September 1969 some fifty Federal employees got themselves together to form a group on a government reservation in order to dissent from what was then the war in Vietnam. We gathered several hundred signatures on a petition calling for the right of Dr. Benjamin Spock to address Federal workers at the NIH. The administration denied the petition, and so we went to court. Our ACLU counsel succeeded in convincing the court to grant our petition, as well as our right to exist as a group on the NIH campus. This birth under fire, as it were, is stressed because it concerns some of what follows and describes the existence of the committee now.

At first we conceived our role as principally an educational one to inform our constituents at NIH (in cooperation with other groups in the Federal establishment) about the facts of the war in the hope that the enlightened would then somehow act to end the war. These efforts consisted of a number of lectures by “names” such as Robert Jay Lifton, Howard Levy, and I.F. Stone. Some of us were concerned, at this time, about “how to get the blacks in.” There began to emerge, with much mostly proux mscussion, the idea that what we would have to deal with was the existence of an exceedingly unresponsive and repressive social structure, not just the war. At any rate, local black leaders such as Marion Barry and Sterling Tucker were invited, drew good audiences with many black workers, and the moratorium put out much effort in a requiem for Dr. Martin Luther King. Significantly, no blacks joined our group, nor are there any today. We were and are composed of middle class white, mostly suburban “liberal” professionals and office workers in health services. This should have been the tip-off, but our consciousness was just emerging, and we occasionally expressed regrets about the situation.

About this time, in the winter of 1969 to 1970, when we had considerable support, had large attendance at planning sessions, as well as endless debate, a rather critical development occurred. A number of people felt that the VNMC was a real power on “campus” and that we ought to try to influence the Director of NIH “directly”. It was  proposed that we establish a sub-committee that would meet with the Director at regular intervals, carefully prepare for these meetings in order not to waste the official’s time, be in a position to transmit valuable information to the Director exclusively, and in general impress the Administration with the excellence and importance of the VNMC. Also these advocates felt that we should do nothing that might get the Director fired. An actual meeting was set up under these conditions, but the results were, as described by a participant, “murky”. Opponents of this proposal were a bit slow in getting started, but their position was something to the effect that the VNMC was created by court order over the official resistance of NIH; that the latter in their bureaucratic roles would prefer not to have us exist, regardless of covert expressions of support; that we were a dissent group of a maverick character; that this was our strength and that we would lose our credibility with our supporters if we treated with the chief officials in a special elitist manner; that our principal obligation was to “level” with all fellow employees, not to get co-opted. This view won out, and we lost some people. A bit chastened and less concerned with luring this or that group, we continued our activities in educational efforts such as an irregularly published newsletter, the Rainbow Sign. The group operated in a loose fashion ideologically and functionally: whoever advocated a project received committee support by majority and was responsible for carrying it out. The items in the newsletter reflected only the author’s opinion, not necessarily those of the rest of the members. As an example, the VNMC lent its resources to and aided a group of black custodial employees who were threatened with a decrease of salary increments and, in some cases, actual reduction of pay grades as a result of a bureaucratic steam roller put in action by a “directive” to equalize wage rates throughout the government. The moribund union local here was unresponsive to the situation until the workers themselves organized. Some ferment was cropping up in the entire Federal establishment by this time, and in April 1970 a Federal employees’ coalition held a series of workshops on the war, racism, conditions of employment, and the uses to which health and scientific research were put. The VNMC participated, as did Nader’s Center for Responsive Law. During this period the committee revealed that the NIH had supported research on the birth-producing defects of defoliants used in Indochina and that public knowledge of the results had been suppressed. The workshops drew about 250 people and was acclaimed by Marcus Raskin as a start on changing the entire Federal Structure. The follow-through was a bit less impressive. Our attention was rapidly turned to the war itself when Cambodia. Jackson State, Kent State, and Augusta became news. We had speakers from both campuses, Dave Dellinger, Rallies on “campus”. and we organized lobbying of members of Congress from Maryland. The domestic aspects of the war—repression. killing of protesters—created an awareness that Tom Hayden was one of the first white radicals to express: that the war was the result of behavior patterns of Americans concerning the treatment of the powerless by the powerful—a fact known by the oppressed groups for an indecent length of time. The mythology of this nation’s leaders with such reflexes was carried into practice in south-east Asia, as was explained by Col. W.R. Corson in a talk to us on delusions in Vietnam.

After the Laos “incursion” we lost members and audience. The war was being “wound down” and our scientific researchers returned to “productive” work. There were some incidents to keep us on our toes. An issue of the Rainbow Sign with a mock civil service rating questionnaire for Nixon as well as an “obscene” photograph of a peace demonstrator drew angry responses from a few Congressmen and a reproving letter from the director of NIH. Such a letter was placed in the personnel files of some members of the VNMC. It was removed after we met with the director, and later an official reprimand to one of our members was expunged. Much effort was spent in useless matters—not that we had to move to correct injustice, but that the “correction” never really took place. The committee is still harassed. Our program material is occasionally disapproved as “inappropriate” in the initial negotiations. We win out with a threat to go to court but we can do nothing about delaying tactics.

In February 1971, the group joined with other organizations in Maryland to campaign for the passage by the Maryland assembly of an undeclared war bill, similar to that passed by Massachusetts. John Wells, coauthor of  the Mass. bill, assisted us. The coaliation collected 11,000 signatures, the endorsement of the Democratic Central Committee and Precinct Chairmen of the local county, and conducted intense lobbying of state assemblymen, distributed publicity, and gathered an “imposing array” of witnesses to testify for the bill. The measure did not pass, but some VNMC members did learn that sometimes the minds of the state representatives, who were more accessible than Congressmen, could be changed. So we worked through the “system”.

We sponsored two rock concerts at the NIH in order to present the employees with an alternative life style, oriented toward peace and living-freedom from the corporate state existence for an hour at noon. The group also published a study of neglected health needs for the nation; supported the recognition of a black and women’s organization at NIH; joined with the Assembly of Scientists, a “respectable”, non-dissenting organization, to sue for the abolition of elitist practices in the assignment of parking spaces; and is co-operating with the black organization in the formulation of a prisoner-work release program at the NIH. As a result of the women’s group’s agitation a day care program is being organized at the NIH. Lately, the wider war in Indochina has raised some opportunities for further collaboration between us and the other employee groups.

What has all this to do with “Science for the People”? I believe, that for the first time it can be said that the Federal structure has been made a bit internally responsive. We do have some power. We can make demands about adequate health care, environmental protection, programs for oppressed groups, and perhaps even about orientation of research which will receive a hearing, as it affects the welfare of the employees at HEW. The effects of this experience may be quite gratifying on an individual basis. One of our members has had to do some hard thinking on pure science vs. applied science, in relation to the newly created cancer authority at the NIH.

Some conclusions about the role of the Moratorium Committee in a government institution may be useful. The long war in part reflects the operation of the unrepresentative government and unresponsive society. We have had to react to this by forming vehicles for the amplification of
our dissent. Our position as Federal workers places us a bit uniquely. We wish to discharge our national service obligations proudly, yet we do not want to be associated with the devastating policies of the President; we cannot allow silence to be interpreted as assent or acquiescence to this course. Furthermore, since we are concerned with health and welfare, it is especially obvious to us that the war is a major public health problem, the effects of which are only beginning to occur. Attention to this last matter can lead to some profound changes in the direction that our society may take.

— Elliott Schiffman


The Berkeley chapter has been participating in ARC (Anti-Racist Coalition) meetings to combat “scientific” racism as expounded by Jensen, Herrnstein, et al. A detailed summary of their work, including reprints of Jensen’s arguments and selected rebuttals and a discussion of how these issues affect public policy is being published by the group and can be purchased through Berkeley SESPA


>> Back to Vol. 4, No. 5 <<