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CUCFA Concerns re: Rescission of 1989 Guidelines on University-Industry Relations

On July 6, CUCFA sent the following letter to UC President Janet Napolitano in response to the June 26, 2014 announcement that she has rescinded a policy that barred the university from investing directly in companies that commercialize technology that has emerged through UC research:


President Janet Napolitano
Office of the President
University of California
1111 Franklin Street, 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

Dear President Napolitano,

The Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) is concerned by both the substance and the process associated with your recent announcement that you have rescinded the 1989 Guidelines on University-Industry Relations.

The policy you rescinded contained restrictions on direct UC investment in companies commercializing technology based on UC research. These provisions in Sec. 13 of the 1989 Guidelines are thoughtful and prudent. Sec. 13 includes the following statement: “If the University were to be an equity participant in the work of one or more faculty members, it could be seen as favoring those faculty members, and could be in conflict with the University’s role to support scholarship and allocate institutional resources in an even-handed manner.” In our view, this rationale for the restriction in the guideline remains valid. We support the full statement of the Sec. 13 justification and the guideline itself, which are quoted at the end of this letter. They should not be rescinded without a compelling justification.

In your announcement, you did not mention consultation with the Academic Senate, and we have not been able to find evidence that such consultation took place. Since your stated policy change affects faculty research, faculty involvement in relations with industry, and the investment of University funds, it clearly falls within the established scope of topics appropriate for consultation with the Senate.

Thus we request that you provide CUCFA and the larger University community with an account of your reasons for rescinding the Guidelines and with a description of the process that led to your decision. We also strongly encourage you to engage with the Senate in consultation on the desirability of reinstating the 1989 Guidelines or on the structure of a replacement policy that will also contain appropriate safeguards such as those in Sec. 13 of the 1989 Guidelines.

We will welcome an opportunity for further discussion of these issues with you.

Sincerely,
Joe Kiskis
Vice President for External Relations
on behalf of the Board of the Council of UC Faculty Associations

enclosure: Excerpt from Sec. 13 of the 1989 Guidelines on University-Industry Relations

cc: Academic Senate Chair William Jacob, Provost Dorr, CIO Bachher, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance and Audit Officer Sheryl Vacca, and Vice President Steven Beckwith.


From Sec. 13 of the 1989 Guidelines on University-Industry Relations:

“Primarily because of its need to be even handed in its support of faculty members and in its openness to competing commercial enterprises, the University has not arranged for investment in firms whose products derive from University research, when the principal purpose is to promote faculty inventions. If the University were to be an equity participant in the work of one or more faculty members, it could be seen as favoring those faculty members, and could be in conflict with the University’s role to support scholarship and allocate institutional resources in an even-handed manner. Moreover, this kind of relationship with certain companies could preclude or inhibit research sponsorship by other competing companies.

“Guideline: In general, it is not appropriate for the University to invest directly in enterprises when such investment is tied to the commercial development of new ideas created or advanced through University research.”

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