New Policy on Military Research at Ryerson

The academic council of Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto has approved a new policy on military research:

Ryerson shall not engage in secret military research, whatever the source of the funding. The only exception to this rule would be if international circumstances warrant research concerned with the defence of Canada, sponsored, co-sponsored, or approved by the Government of Canada. Should the Institute be approached to do such research, the president will make a recommendation to council, without revealing classified details, and council will vote on the appropriateness of Ryerson’s participation in the project.

During the debate, Dr. Ron Stagg told the council that military research is a broad category. A good deal of military research has significant civilian application,’ he said, “Council should consider very carefully what it wants to put restrictions on, if anything. If you put restrictions on open research you have to be very careful about what you are restricting. You may be putting restrictions on very worthwhile projects? He noted that Ryerson is something of a maverick in adopting such a policy. “The committee,” he said, “has found that the majority of Canadian universities have no policies on military research. Those that have tend to address the matter of secret research of any kind; only a small number put restrictions on military research. Ryerson already has a policy on secret military research, and the committee is suggesting to tighten up the wording a bit.”

The research committee set out four additional restrictions for council’s consideration, only one of which was approved, namely that “academic council urges all faculty members as an act of individual conscience to refuse to participate in any research which might serve to increase militarism and the arms race”.

There was much discussion at the meeting concerning the word “secret” in the policy, with “secret” meaning that the results of the research cannot be published. Some at the meeting argued for the deletion from the policy even though the report said “While there is no unanimity among universities as to the restrictions on military research, there appears to be a growing feeling that research, the results of which cannot be published, should not be permitted except in very limited circumstances, since such research contradicts the principle of openness which underlies university research.”

President Brian Segal told the meeting that he was comfortable with the word “secret”. “I and others in the administration have been extremely careful to ensure that any research with any military funding at this institute is publishable and in the public domain,” he said, “and I think that this amendment continues to recognize that, and places some other constraints that I think are responsible and moral for this institute to take.” Bob Gueniere, director of the Office of Research and Innovation, finished the discussion when he told council that if Ryerson was offered some classified research “the procedures we would have to go through to live up to the classification requirements of the government are so horrendous that we would probably not even get to council with it in the first place.”