security and academic freedom
June 19, 2006
By Graham B. Spanier
few months after Sept. 11, 2001, a few visitors stopped
by my office in the heart of Penn State's University
Park campus. My administrative assistant was a bit
nervous when she told me, with raised eyebrows, that
two gentlemen from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
wanted to see me.
special agents of the FBI pop in for a visit, you
can be pretty sure they aren't there to congratulate
you on your stellar class of incoming students. Needless
to say, they were there on official business.
fact, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, communications
with federal security agencies have become more common
for college and university administrators as we collectively
deal with issues such as terrorism, cyber-security
intrusions, immigration policy and visa regulations,
deemed exports, handling of chemical and biological
agents and classified or sensitive research.
our country struggles to strengthen homeland security,
we in academe are especially attuned to the matter
of balance: the balance between our government's duty
to provide for the security of our nation and higher
education's historical commitment to academic freedom
and openness, our long-standing open door policy with
scholars from around the world and our strong inclination
toward civil rights.
and universities in particular have fostered a climate
of free inquiry and discovery. As a core ingredient
of American higher education, the free marketplace
of ideas has led to vast technological breakthroughs
and new discoveries that have translated into tremendous
progress for our nation.
fact, the research conducted at American universities
has played a significant role in ensuring our nation's
there has been a certain level of distrust between
universities and the nation's defense, law enforcement
and intelligence establishment. New regulations have
intensified those feelings as many academics fear
that an overly restrictive atmosphere will lead to
cultural isolation and the loss of our worldwide pre-eminence
in critical areas of science and innovation.
are reasonable concerns. That is why a new advisory
board was formed last year to open the doors of communication
between higher education and the nation's national
security, law enforcement and intelligence communities.
an unprecedented move, the FBI has taken the lead
on behalf of other partner government agencies to
establish The National Security Higher Education Advisory
Board. Consisting of presidents and chancellors of
17 prominent U.S. universities, the board is expected
to foster outreach and promote understanding, as well
as develop opportunities through research, education
and public-service collaboration to further aid our
nation's security interests.
chair of this advisory board, I have seen a remarkable
and productive dialogue begin to flourish in the first
year of our work.
the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board,
we are generating meaningful discussion on a broad
range of issues including the importance of international
students and scholars; immigration policy; implications
of the Patriot Act; the dissemination of research
data; export policy; security of information networks;
our leadership in science and technology; and the
best use of the extraordinary talent found in our
universities to mitigate any new security threats.
advisory board is creating a cross-fertilization of
ideas that can only come from informed and ongoing
the proper balance between national security mandates
and the fundamental values underlying higher education
is critical to U.S. leadership, economic strength
and productivity, as well as the potential of our
education has a critical role to play in the national
security of a free society. In fact, we were part
of an exciting announcement with the launch of a new
International Center for the Study of Terrorism dedicated
to reducing the global threat of terrorism and minimizing
its impact on society by an international alliance
of leading universities. Led by Penn State, researchers
from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and
People's Republic of China will investigate the root
causes of this worldwide phenomenon, understand its
long-term effects on society and identify new ways
of safeguarding individuals, organizations and communities.
National Security Higher Education Advisory Board
promises to help universities and government work
toward a balanced and rational approach that will
allow science and education to progress and our nation
to remain safe.
B. Spanier is president of Penn State and chairman
of the National Security Higher Education Advisory
article was originally published by the Centre
Daily in State College, PA