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Big bucks on campus

March 29, 2007

Re "Big Oil buys Berkeley," Opinion, March 24

Jennifer Washburn rightly points out that UC Berkeley is selling its services on the cheap but missed that it is California taxpayers and Cal students who are subsidizing British Petroleum as part of the deal. With 50 BP scientists in control of unnumbered studies, we can assume that a great number of students would in essence be paying to work for BP.

State dollars funding the university would similarly be helping BP fill its corporate coffers.

The goal of the research is ostensibly to find new fuels, a much-needed endeavor.

It is horribly wrong, however, to use public institutions to complete private research without that institution sharing that research with all interested companies. Giving BP proprietary ownership and control of the findings smacks of a sellout of the peoples' interests.

RICH HALL

Valencia

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Washburn's rarefied yet narrow view of universities' role betrays her lack of firsthand experience in academia. Students and scholars benefit from deals like this not only monetarily but also through the opportunities of applying theories to the real world.

After all, what are education and research for, if not to advance humanity?

I for one benefited from a project like this, although smaller in scale, through the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, without which my doctoral degree from Berkeley might not have been possible.

With dwindling funds and subsequent degradation of quality in recent years, Berkeley needs "reinventing" at any cost -- be that academic independence or tradition.

KEE KIM

La Habra

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