Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hippie U

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?


Sherri said...

I am currently a PhD student at this Hippie U, and when I first heard about these attacks I was fearful for all of the researchers on our campus. I don't personally conduct research on animals, and I definitely have mixed feelings about the ethical implications of doing so, but these attacks are outrageous and beyond reprehensible. If I were a young faculty member here I would seriously consider going on the job market again if my car was firebombed. (Of course actually leaving might not be possible for many reasons.) Other things I would seriously consider but also might not be feasible would include moving, getting a security system and/or gate, and getting a large dog. (I already happen to have a large 118 lb dog no one is going to f**k with.) As a PhD student, if I felt I was at risk, I would be finishing my degree that much faster. Which is a shame. This is a great place to learn and live for so many reasons, but there are right and wrong ways to protest. These people who hate researchers for what they site as torture to animals are themselves torturing, except they are torturing a human and his/her family. I don't get it. Write your congressman, march on campus, pass out flyers -- don't resort to acts of aggressive violence people.

Jennie said...

Sounds like we went to the same Hippie U (unless this happened recently at another) and I am back living in this town. The town was in uproar about the incident. Although I am for animal rights (and may disagree with some of the research you conduct) that in no way gives me the right to threaten another human. In essence this group is a terrorist group and I can't understand how they can value the unknown animals lives above this human and his family. I am also disappointed that more security wasn't in place as the fliers with the researchers names was publicly displaced shortly before the attack-one which happened on campus.

ScienceWoman said...

I completely fail to grasp the thought processes of those who put people's lives at risk in the name of animal rights. People are animals too!

ScienceMama said...

Man, Sherri, I don't envy you. Even though I worked in a yeast lab on campus, I wouldn't feel safe being in the same building as the mouse labs. But I'm kinda paranoid like that.

I hope the department can rally together and support each other. I hope that Hippie U can keep everyone safe.

Good luck and be well, Sherri!

Candid Engineer said...

My Ph.D. advisor canceled all of our animal protocols. He never said he was afraid, but what else besides fear for your wife and small children would make you abandon your animal program? Terrorists indeed.

mama of the valley said...

As a fellow alumni of Hippie U I am both outraged and concerned.

PhizzleDizzle said...

wow....that's...incredible. please keep us posted on whether these crazy people are caught and apprehended. i cannot imagine what sorts of people would actually firebomb a home, in the name of any cause whatsoever.

good luck to you.

Julie R said...

The thought that someone can justify attacking a person's family, home or car because you don't like his chosen profession is appalling. I hope the people responsible are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Becca said...

It's interesting to see different reactions.
I had a generally positive impression of Hippie U (I know other students there). I don't know if these attacks would make me less likely to go there (assuming I was still doing animal research). I think if it was only me, then I would probably be ok. But if I had young kids I'd stear clear.

As a totally tangential point, I realize "hippie+yuppie = yippie" makes sense, but real hippies know "yippie= Youth International Party member" (
I'm pretty pro-Yippe (mostly for the sake of Phil Orchs

Cheri said...

Well said.