Protester’s concerns should be considered

The debate surrounding animal testing is contentious. However, some of the demands of Matt Bullard, the Minneapolis resident who was still hanging from Moos Tower as of Thursday night, are quite reasonable. The University and President Mark Yudof should not be so bullheaded about refusing to even consider his demands.
Bullard has three demands. The first is a call to immediately release all research primates. This demand is unlikely to be considered by the University. His other demands are a debate among the public, animal rights activists and researchers using animal testing, and that laboratories where animal testing occurs be open to investigation.
A debate could be easily arranged. Yudof and the administration should be interested in a proper, democratic dissemination of knowledge. A university that shies away from scrutiny, discussion and analysis betrays the scientific foundation on which it is based — and devalues its use to the public.
Bullard’s final demand should also be granted. These labs should be occasionally available for observation by certain members of the public, animal rights groups or other independent organizations. Because the University is a publicly funded institution, the residents of Minnesota have a right to know the activities they are supporting, even if they might be disturbed by the suffering of animals. Only when all perspectives surrounding an issue are available for consideration can any discussion occur.
Unfortunately, Bullard’s method to attract attention to animal testing is counterproductive. Hanging from the top of Moos Tower perpetuates the public’s opinion of animal rights protesters as extremists who lurk outside the realm of reason. His method also makes it difficult for Yudof and the University to take his concerns seriously. The public might be displeased if it appeared the administration could be persuaded by stunts, which could lead to an instinctual rejection of the often reasonable voices of animal rights activists.
Yudof and the University’s administration must always consider myriad points of view and never attempt to quell an opinion that contradicts their own. The foundation of all universities should be an administration that encourages debate on controversial issues, rather than trying to avoid them because of a misplaced concern about public relations.
Bullard’s demands for a debate and increased openness in labs that employ animal testing should be granted. Bullard’s protest aside, Yudof and the Board of Regents do not have a legitimate reason to deny these reasonable demands. The potential offense to the public cannot be a defense for stonewalling prudent requests for increased openness about the issue of animal testing. By refusing to even consider Bullard’s requests, Yudof and the regents reveal their fear of the truth.