Dear Vice President for Research Cusanovich:
I am a faculty member in Department of Entomology, and principal investigator on a USDA competitive grant. It has become clear from recent press reports that there is strong opposition to the University's telescope project on Mt. Graham, from organizations such as the Student Environmental Action Coalition, the Audubon Society, the Apache Survival Coalition and Apaches for Cultural Preservation. In March, the National Council of Churches held hearings on the San Carlos Apache reservation, and subsequently issued a resolution, condemning the telescope project as "a serious violation of Apache traditional religious beliefs" and requesting its closure.
Of course, there are many threats to biodiversity on Arizona's "Sky Islands." The University is unique, however, in having obtained special exemption from federal endangered species and environmental and cultural protection laws in 1988, and in so doing, whether intentionally or not, provided an opening shot in the growing corporate and right-wing assault on environmental protection. This became, therefore, the catalyst for intense opposition by environmental groups. Incredibly, the University proceeded to break these same laws by expanding construction beyond the exempted site in 1993, as has been established by today's ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court. The University had expanded the site as a consequence of a very expensive mistake in site-surveying, and in so doing has broken Federal law, and wasted a lot of money in legal costs and project over-runs, while creating considerable ill-feeling in the community, including astronomers who do not wish their research to be the cause of such offense.
The central concern I wish to express in this letter, as a federal grant recipient, is the diversion of the "indirect costs" portion of grants that have been awarded to University researchers. From my reading of the reports, roughly $2 million has been diverted from the central purpose of creation and maintenance of infrastructure for grant recipients, to assist this ill-starred project, which had lost many sponsors. I do not intend to blame your office for the evident mismanagement of the telescope project, but I do wish to express my objections to the diversion of indirect costs toward the project. I look forward to your reply. Since it is my belief that there are many like-minded grant recipient at the University, I have sent a copy of this letter to the Daily Wildcat for wider circulation and discussion.
Assistant Professor of Entomology
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