Summit calls for increased security

by David Anderson

University police started stepping up security over the weekend, more than a week before an international conference on animal genetics.
The International Society for Animal Genetics will meet July 22-26 to discuss animal genomics. The conference, to be held at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, is hosted by the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. It will be the third time ISAG meets in the United States in its 50-year history.
The conference will attract more than 600 government representatives and researchers from the United States and abroad, including scientists working on the mouse and human genome project.
Concern about potential troubles reminiscent of recent on-campus acts of vandalism will divert traffic on the St. Paul campus through July.
To monitor the traffic around the labs, all cars now enter the St. Paul campus at the Folwell Avenue entrance on North Cleveland Avenue.
University employees are asked to wear identification. Researchers are advised to change passwords on sensitive database, back up valuable computer data and store it off campus.
“Because of the fact that we’ve been a target in the past, we thought that it would be prudent to become more aware of our security on the campus,” said University Police Capt. Steve Johnson.
The Upper Midwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering started posting protest signs this week, and although the University’s Student Organization for Animal Rights will not sponsor the protests as a group, individual members should be in attendance.
“One of the objectives generally of protesting is not necessarily to change the mind of the people that are attending the conference,” said Stephanie Clausen, a horticulture junior and a SOAR member. “It is to make it more difficult for them to find a place to hold conferences like that.”
The International Society for Animal Genetics is based in Madison, Wis. It sponsors workshops and conferences to compare animal genetics research, according to the society’s Web site.
While the College of Veterinary Medicine holds the conference at the Hyatt, University police want to avoid another act of vandalism on campus.
In April 1999, the Animal Liberation Front ransacked several research labs, destroying research equipment and freeing more than 100 animals. The raid caused an estimated $700,000 in damage to the University.
A year later, activists broke into Green Hall and vandalized genetically altered oat plants, an incident for which the Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility.
Capt. Johnson said protesting in itself is not a problem, as long as the activists remain within the legal boundaries of protest.
“Legal demonstrations are not what we’re out to prevent,” said Richard Bianco, assistant vice president of the Academic Health Center. “We’re out to prevent illegal activities.”

— Wire reports contributed to this article.

David Anderson covers University communities and welcomes comments at [email protected]