I did my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Hippie U. Hippie U is full of a lot of different types of students, not least of which are the 90s version of a hippie: the yippie (part yuppy, part hippie). Yippies are the kids that drive a brand new hybrid (that their parents gave them), live in a commune and grow their own organic weed in the basement.
Living in a town of yippies has its high points... recycling programs were top notch. Composting on campus. Plenty of organic, locally grown produce. A fantastic farmers market. A generally easy going, friendly attitude around town. But the yippies also have a lot of hip causes. There were plenty of Che posters in windows around town, though most of the people who hung them only seemed to vaguely understand who he was. "Free Mumia" was the most frequently seen graffiti in town. Hippie U had a policy of only cutting down trees for new buildings in the summer to avoid students chaining themselves to trees. Animal rights was another very hip cause on campus, and there were occasionally protests or information tables on campus.
I recently heard from my undergraduate adviser that an animal rights group had been passing out "wanted" posters around campus with the pictures, names and home addresses of scientists doing animal research. This included a young faculty member in the department who works with mice.
Later that week, that young researcher's house was firebombed as he, his wife, and two small children slept. The family was forced to escape their burning home through a second story window.
Shortly after that, protesters firebombed the car of another member of the department.
Since the two attacks, Hippie U has raised security in the various lab buildings on campus. But I have a hard time imagining how any of the faculty, postdocs or students can possibly feel safe. How could you possibly work another late night in the lab, how could you feel safe in your own home, knowing that this group was willing to set fire to a home with sleeping children inside?
And what of this poor researcher? He's spent his whole life working to get where he is today, doing research he hopes will help humanity. But with the safety of his family at risk, what will he do? What would I do? What would you do?
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